Mission accomplished. Those words should be ingrained into the hearts and minds of millennials for the rest of their lives as a painful, yet necessary, reminder that the United States is waging a never-ending war.
When former President George W. Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in 2003 with a massive banner that read “Mission Accomplished” secured to the vessel’s control tower, American’s were given false hope. They were led to believe the war in Iraq was coming to a swift end, freedom would reign and evil was extinguished.
Fifteen years later, more than 500,000 people are dead, $1.7 trillion were spent and there are about 5,000 troops still in Iraq, now fighting the Islamic State. The mission was never accomplished, not least because it remains unclear what the mission was.
When President Donald Trump tweeted “mission accomplished” after a U.S. led missile-strike on Syria, the American people suddenly got flashbacks to Bush and the aircraft carrier.
What was the mission this time? Officially it was to stop Syria from using chemical weapons after its government’s most-recent attack on its people. But as a New York Time’s article points out, there have been many chemical weapon attacks, often deadlier than the latest one, and the U.S. sat idly by. Why did it respond to this one? And why is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley now telling the world America will not pull its troops out of Syria until it accomplishes its goals?
In the blink of an eye, it feels as though history is repeating itself and the U.S. war drum is once again being played to the marching cadence.
Haley said the U.S.’s goals are to stop the Syrian government from using chemical weapons, maintain a watchful eye on Iran and to defeat the Islamic State, according to Reuters. In other words, the U.S. is seeking to maintain its political control and influence in the Middle East. Such a goal is not something that can be accomplished by winning a war. It is something that requires constant and ceaseless effort, just as we have seen in Iraq.
What is happening in the Middle East is also reminiscent of the Vietnam War, a conflict that was not really about Vietnam itself, but was rather about maintaining American superiority around the world. Vietnam was the staging ground for a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, just as is the case with Syria.
Unlike the Vietnam War, there is comparatively little public dissent among young Americans over the war in the Middle East.
This is probably because the death toll of modern wars for American soldiers is significantly lower than with Vietnam. But make no mistake, the costs to American lives and those of the people in the Middle East is very real.
Even if there are fewer folded American flags being handed to widows, that does not mean that people do not suffer. Endless sums of taxpayer money are being poured into a war with no end and no borders, instead of into efforts to improve the lives of the American people and others around the world.
Hopefully, we won’t get fooled again.