Twenty years ago today, President George W. Bush stood under a banner reading “Mission Accomplished” and told the world that the United States was ending major combat operations in Iraq. His declaration of victory came after less than two months of fighting. He lauded this apparent success and the U.S. military’s shock and awe invasion, declaring that “Iraq is free.”
This optimistic projection was not borne out in the months or years to follow. While the United States and its coalition partners successfully toppled Saddam Hussein’s government, terrorist attacks and an insurgency immediately rose up in its wake. The predictions of a smooth transition to sustained peace were quickly dispelled in the years to follow. Most of the more than 4,500 U.S. servicemembers killed in Iraq were killed after “mission accomplished” was declared. The same is true for the over 126,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the war.
It has been 20 years since “mission accomplished” was declared. We have had ample time to reflect on the painful lessons of the Iraq War. It’s time to truly bring it to an end.
Building and maintaining a stable Iraq proved just as difficult a task. The U.S. government’s backing of polarizing political figures and breaching cultural norms with potential allies, was ham-fisted and alienating to even partners on the ground. U.S. troops would fight to take and retake cities throughout Iraq in the following years of reconstruction, in a cycle necessitated by the failure to account for political realities in the country. This never-ending cycle of violence further deepened the suffering of the Iraqi people.
It has been 20 years since “mission accomplished” was declared, nearly 12 years since the formal end of the Iraq War, and four years since the expulsion of ISIS from the territory it once controlled in Iraq. We have had ample time to reflect on the painful lessons of the Iraq War. It’s time to truly bring it to an end.
It is crucial that Congress fulfill its duty to formally end the Iraq war. The law that authorized the war in Iraq, the 2002 Iraq AUMF, remains on the books, despite the war’s end.
There is agreement across the political spectrum in favor of repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF. A bipartisan bill, S. 316, from Sens. Tim Kaine (VA) and Todd Young (IN) recently passed the Senate 66-30. The identical House companion bill—led by Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Chip Roy (TX-21), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), and Tom Cole (OK-4)—has gained significant bipartisan support. H.R. 932 now has 42 cosponsors, comprised of an equal number from each side of the aisle.
Now is the time to repeal this outdated AUMF, and there are clear majorities in favor of doing so in both chambers. Speaker McCarthy should bring S. 316 up for a formal vote in the House and finally send this overdue repeal to the President’s desk.