WASHINGTON — It was a phrase that haunted George W. Bush for the the last six years of his presidency, and became a shorthand for a premature declaration of victory.
But President Trump says he wants to bring "Mission Accomplished" back.
Trump used those two words Saturday following what he said was a successful airstrike against targets related to Syria's chemical weapons program.
And he used it again on Sunday, saying it's a "great military term" that should be brought back into common usage.
They were the same two words made infamous by a 2003 speech and photo opportunity aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, in which Bush said "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
Bush never actually said "mission accomplished" that day. In fact, he said, "Our mission continues. Al-Qaeda is wounded, not destroyed."
But as the Iraq war dragged on for years afterward, people remembered the banner, not the speech. And the phrase took on an ironic meaning: Mission not accomplished.
Trump said he wants to strip that historical baggage.
"The Syrian raid was so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term 'Mission Accomplished,'" he tweeted Sunday. "I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!"
That followed a Saturday tweet in which Trump said the Syrian operation was "perfectly executed" and "could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!"
Bush's press secretary at the time, Ari Fleischer, responded on Twitter that "I would have recommended ending this tweet with not those two words."
But Fleischer also said the backstory to the 2003 incident has been largely forgotten: The aircraft carrier was concluding its deployment, and the banner was meant to refer only to the carrier group — not the overall mission.
That's the same point Bush made when questioned about it six months later.
"The 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished," Bush said at a press conference. "I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff — they weren't that ingenious, by the way."