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George W. Bush's Former Spokesperson Shaded Trump For His "Mission Accomplished" Tweet On Syria

Ari Fleischer thinks Trump might want to choose his words more carefully after bombing Syria.

Posted on April 14, 2018, at 11:57 a.m. ET

President Trump announced late Friday that the US, UK, and France had bombed regime targets in Syria in response to last week's apparent chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.

Pool / Getty Images

The Pentagon said the missile strikes against three facilities will "set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years," but acknowledged there was a "residual element" that remained.

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Trey Fowler

Reacting on Saturday morning, Trump tweeted that the strikes had been "perfectly executed" and thanked his Western allies. "Mission Accomplished!" he wrote.

A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!

Those two words soon caught a lot of people's attention.

Mission accomplished One of those tweets that might not age well...

It was a phrase that sounded very familiar...

Mission Accomplished! What happens when history repeats but it was farce the first time?

Saying "mission accomplished" always works out well for presidents ...

Ah, yes. That's it. In May 2003, former President George W. Bush famously stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln and delivered a speech on Iraq in front of a banner that read "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."

Larry Downing / Reuters

"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," said Bush. "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and her allies have prevailed."

J. Scott Applewhite / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Of course, that's not at all what happened. Within months, a powerful and violent insurgency emerged, and the Iraq War turned into a years-long nightmare.


So it's perhaps not surprising, then, that Bush's former press secretary at the time of the infamous photo op, Ari Fleischer, on Saturday wrote a shady tweet about Trump's use of the loaded term "Mission Accomplished!"

Writing on Twitter, Fleischer insisted it had been the idea of the crew on the Lincoln to put up the banner to celebrate ending their longest-ever deployment at sea.

"The crew asked the WH staff if it would be ok to hang a banner saying 'Mission Accomplished,'" Fleischer wrote. "We readily agreed. We hung it in an obviously prominent place that also sent a message as Bush spoke to the nation."

"It was the crew’s message from start to finish," he wrote.

However, as the Bush White House acknowledged six months after the speech in 2003, the administration were the ones who manufactured the sign.

J. Scott Applewhite / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bush and his team also later conceded the banner sent a regrettable visual message.

"President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific, and said, 'Mission accomplished for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission,'" said Dana Perino, a subsequent Bush press secretary, in 2008.

In his final press conference as president, Bush described the banner as one of the mistakes of his presidency.


“Clearly, putting a ‘Mission Accomplished’ on an aircraft carrier was a mistake,” he said. “It sent the wrong message."

It wasn't just Fleischer who questioned the use of Trump's words on Saturday. The president's favorite news channel also brought up Bush's 2003 banner: "Do you think using those words — 'Mission Accomplished' — gives Americans a false sense of security, 'this is done'?" asked Neil Cavuto.

Fox News, showing *that* picture of Bush and the banner, is also wondering if Trump's "Mission Accomplished" tweet was wise.

FWIW, this is the second time Trump has bombed Syria in retaliation against the use of chemical weapons during his presidency.

Handout . / Reuters

In April 2017, the US bombed a Syrian airbase in a move Trump said was part of "the vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."

"Congratulations to our great military men and women for representing the United States, and the world, so well in the Syria attack," Trump tweeted the day after that attack.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff director, said Saturday morning that these recent airstrikes had "crippled" the Syrian chemical weapons enterprise, but noted such weapons remained in the country.

"I would say there’s still a residual element of the Syrian program that’s out there,” McKenzie said. "I’m not going to say that they’re going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future. I suspect, however, they’ll think long and hard about it."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.