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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part II

Transition to a New Campaign

Chapter 4
Leading the New Campaign: Transitions in Command and Control in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM


President George W. Bush, General Franks, and “Mission Accomplished”

Soon after Saddam’s statue was pulled down in Baghdad, Franks called Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and suggested that President Bush make a public acknowledgment of the success of the Coalition and US troops. Franks wanted to recognize them for their stunning military success, to send a signal that major combat operations or Phase III operations were over, and that it was time for international aid to begin flowing to rebuild Iraq.18 In a display of bravado that has been criticized ever since, the President landed aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, festooned with a “Mission Accomplished” banner, as it prepared to enter the harbor of San Francisco after returning from its tour in the Persian Gulf.

President Bush’s speech on the aircraft carrier that day serves as a useful benchmark for the CENTCOM transition to Phase IV operations:

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our Coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons. We are helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our Coalition will stay until our work is done. And then we will leave—and we will leave behind a free Iraq.19

In his memoirs, Franks claimed that as early as December 2001, as he contemplated operations in Afghanistan, he realized that Phase IV in general “might prove more challenging than major combat operations.”20 That realization seems to have been forgotten in late April 2003 when the CENTCOM commander recommended that the President make an address that sounded to both the US audience and the international community like a victory speech. Franks later lamented the law of unintended consequences for the immense criticism that the President’s speech in front of the “mission accomplished” banner generated. It is important to note that Bush did not use the phrase “mission accomplished” during his 1 May speech, and that he noted the “difficult work” that lay ahead. In fact, Major General Webster and other CFLCC leaders convinced key ORHA and State Department officials in Iraq to replace the “mission accomplished” statement in the president’s draft manuscript with the phrase “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” because they already realized that more fighting lay ahead.21 The president’s cautionary note, however, was lost in the public euphoria over the quick military victory.22

Lieutenant General William Wallace, the commander of V Corps, did not believe the declaration in Bush’s speech had any practical impact on the Soldiers of his Corps: “The term didn’t even resonate much I don’t think, at least with me, because the mission was not accomplished. The regime was gone, certainly. The Iraqi Army was defeated, certainly. But there were still mission requirements with regard to prewar positioning of Coalition forces throughout the width and depth of the country that still had to be done.”23 The announcement did, however, contribute to an unfortunate rush to hand off responsibility for postwar Iraq from CFLCC to CJTF-7.

Chapter 4. Leading the New Campaign: Transitions in Command and Control in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

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