Bush Proclaims End to
Major Combat Ops in Iraq
By Kathleen T. Rhem, AFPS
George W. Bush walks across the tarmac with NFO Lt. Ryan
Phillips to Navy One, an S-3B Viking jet, at Naval Air Station
North Island in San Diego Thursday, May 1, 2003. Flying
to the USS Abraham Lincoln, the President will address the
nation and spend the night aboard ship.
photo by Susan Sterner / White House
May 1, 2003 – Major combat operations in Iraq are over, and America
and her allies have prevailed, President Bush said this evening
on the flight deck of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
battle we have fought for the cause of liberty and for the peace
of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment,"
Bush said aboard the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln as the sun
set on the Pacific Ocean. "Yet it is you, the members of
the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage, your
willingness to face danger for your country and for each other
made this day possible. President George W. Bush makes his way
to the stage to address the nation and sailors from the flight
deck of USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.
"Because of you our nation is more secure,"
the commander in chief said to cheering sailors. "Because
of you, the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free."
With a huge red, white and blue banner declaring
"Mission Accomplished" hanging in the background, Bush
told the crew that the American military’s precision, speed and
boldness led to "one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms
The Lincoln has been at sea for 10 months. She
was ready to head home after duty in the Afghan theater during
Operation Enduring Freedom, when the ship and her 5,000-member
crew were turned around to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. The
longest deployment in recent memory, Bush called it.
The president had flown out to the carrier at
sea earlier in the day aboard a Navy jet. Emerging from the co-pilot’s
seat in a military flight suit, he gained the admiration of many
of the sailors for his tailhook landing aboard the ship.
He delivered "a special message" to
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Army Gen. Tommy Franks – the
leader of coalition forces in Iraqi Freedom – and for all American
service members: "America is grateful for a job well done."
Bush also thanked coalition countries, particularly
Britain, Australia and Poland – who all contributed military forces
– and the Iraqi people who welcomed American troops.
In a stirring speech punctuated by shouts of support
and prolonged ovations, Bush compared the current conflict to
the terrible battles of World War II that destroyed entire cities
while leaving the tyrants who started the fighting unharmed.
"For hundreds of years of war, culminating
in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and employed
to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale. Military power
was used to end a regime by breaking a country," he said.
"Today we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking
a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision
weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing
violence against civilians." President George W. Bush speaks
to sailors on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, during
the President’s address to the nation on May 1, 2003. (U.S. Navy
photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Lewis Hunsaker) (Click
photo for screen-resolution image; high-resolution image available.)
Difficult work remains in Iraq, Bush noted. Coalition
forces are working to bring order to all parts of the country,
pursuing and finding leaders of the former regime, and are searching
for weapons of mass destruction.
Coalition countries are also working to help rebuild
Iraq. "And we will stand by the new leaders of Iraq as they
establish a government of, by and for the Iraqi people,"
the president added.
He linked the "battle of Iraq" to the
broader war on terrorism, calling it part of a larger war begun
on Sept. 11, 2001. "That terrible morning, 19 evil men, the
shock troops of a hateful ideology, gave America and the civilized
world a glimpse of their ambitions," Bush said. "By
seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and
their allies believed they could destroy this nation’s resolve
and force our retreat from the world.
"They have failed," he added.
Operations in Afghanistan, the Philippines and
the Horn of Africa are designed to hunt down al Qaeda operatives.
"Nineteen months ago I pledged that the terrorists would
not escape the patient justice of the United States," Bush
said. "And as of tonight, nearly one half of al Qaeda’s senior
operatives have been captured or killed."
He told the troops the war on terrorism isn’t
over, but it isn’t endless, either. "We do not know the day
of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide,"
he said. "No act of the terrorists will change our purpose
or weaken our resolve or alter their fate. Their cause is lost.
Free nations will press on to victory."
He said American troops never want to occupy foreign
lands, because they just want to go home – just where the Lincoln
is heading. The carrier will pull into port in San Diego early
May 2. "Some of you will see new family members for the first
time," Bush said, noting that 150 men aboard the Lincoln
became new fathers while at sea.
But he did not forget the many service members
who will not be returning to their families after their duty in
Iraq. "Every name, every life is a loss to our military,
to our nation, and to our loved ones who grieve. There’s no homecoming
for these families, yet we pray, in God’s time their reunion will
come," Bush said. "Those we lost were last seen on duty.
Their final act on Earth was to fight a great evil and to bring
liberty to others."