Mission Accomplished


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Destruction of a phrase

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Mission Accomplished

  1. 1. As war evolves, so does language 'Mission accomplished' has now become synonymous with miscalculations before? Hardly Payack said the phrase has assumed a new life In political reporting and elsewhere as shorthand for •grabbing defeat from thejaws of vic- tory.' A humor blog last tall read, *Bush dedans "mission accomplished' In New Orleans.* The "mission accompUihed* event has contribut- ed to the president'* plunge In popularity In 1003, Bush's name was linked lo the phrase on the Inter net 30.000 times, Payack said That rose to 50,000 In 2001. 73.000 In 2005 and 60,000 times in the first three months alone of 2006. The president's father, George H.W. Bush, was himself ridiculed after overplaying his hand as president with 'Read my lips: No new taxes ' bu that was before the rise of the commercial Inter net, which sustains and amplifies the missteps, said Nancy Snow, a communicaaons professor at California State University, Pulkrton. • 'Mission accomplished' is so uniquely Ameri- can, the sense of being overconfident,* Snow said 'I can see why they took advantage of that day, but as I watched that play out, I Just had a sinking feet- ing.* Among the most frequent variations of "mission accomplished* that turned up in an electronic li- brary search were words spoken tn 2003 by then- White House press secretary Art Fleischer shortly before the president's declaration: • 'I'm not going to be able to shed any more light Since Pfcj.dcnl Buth'i May X 2003, speech, 'minion iccompliihed* Ku Ukti on when the president will say the mission Is ac- i. icon A»HI wmii IASSOCIAIED mil) complished* — Apnl 13,2003. • 'At the appropriate time, when the president Is communications professor at Baylor University ready, the president will have more thoughts to who previously directed the study of presidential share with the nation about the mission, what was rhetoric at (he George Bush School of Govern- accomplished In ihe mission.*—April 27.2003. ment and Public Service at Texas A&M University: Fleischer, who left the White House Job In Jury W -[:'•> like Nixon's proclamation, 'I'm not a crook,' 2003 and now runs his own corporate communica- ultimately becomes the tagtine for being a crook.' tions consulting firm In Wcstchester County, N.Y, HEN SYNTHIA LAURA MOLINA The term 'mission accomplished* evolved In said in a telephone Interview that Rush's use of the tried to drum up clients for her military use during World War II. usually In the phrase that spring was unavoidable after the stat- health-management consulting contra! of a successful flight operation such as a ue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by Iraqis firm, the reaction often was not strafing run or photo reconnaissance — technical- and U.S. Marines in central Baghdad's Firdos what she anticipated Did you ly a "mission," according to A. Maijoric Taylor's Square. consider changing the nime of TV Language of Hbrlf War S In 1944. Eventually, •Between April 6th. when the statue fell, and May your business, customers Its use became so common — and benign — II 1.1 was pummeied with questions by reporters. In- would ask. could be found on everything from plumbing tips cluding 'Is he trying to stretch this out for political Eventually. Molina and her associates felt they to recipes. reasons/ * Fleischer sakl "One hour after the statue had no choice but to do la But during the past three years, the term has all came down, the press was asking, "Why hasn't Bush Its former name Mission Accomplished. but vanished from non-political use. particularly In declared the war over yet/* •When you told people the rume, their initial rex- the US. media. A search of the electronic library Fleischer, who was with the president on the Uon was 'Oh. realty' It was dear that the company LeXteNexls showed that the phrase b now mostly deck of the t.'ss Abraham Lincoln, maintained that name had been eroded, the company brand had confined to references on sports pages and occa- the sign was hung by someone on the ship, not by be«n eroded.* utd Molina, whose venture is known sionally In news stories unrelated to war and poli- the White House. The Navy disputed that it had now as Central IQ 'My sense was it was so damaged, tics in publications outside the United States. posted the banner in various press accounts. it may take a generation to lose thai association. The top references are jokes, hluo and Insults. Bush also never actually said the words -mission 'Maybe a political group would want to buy It?/ Ninety percent are negative or humorous,* laid accomplished' May i on the aircraft carrier. He actu- she wondered Paul Payack. who runs the Global Language Moni- ally said the opposite. "Our mission continues,' he •Mission accomplished.* a military phrase, long tor In San Dwwo. 'It's a tagiine that evokes not a toW the crew. 'AH^aida ts wounded, not destiuyvd" ago became pan of common jargon to describe a smart thing to do, stepping into a trap, exactly what Afterwards, however, the president could hardly Job well done. Bui the term took a turn for the nM to do at an apparent moment of triumph. Like have said, 'Read my lips. 1 didn't say •mission ac- wone after May i. 2003. •wardrobe malfunction,* II just has become part of complished' * The stagecraft of the event — in- That was the day President Bush declared an end the public consdousneu.* cluding the president's arrival In a green (light to major fighting in Iraq. He did MI in front of a red. Payack analyze* changes in the use of the words Jumpsuit In the co-pilot's seat of a Navy S-3B Viking white and blue banner that proclaimed 'Mission and phrases on the Internet — often, he said, for as It made a dramauc tailhook* landing — was Accomplished* on the deck of the USS Abraham corporate clients and Investors looking to track pmposrIUi, audacious and meant to send the mes- Lincoln off the Southern California coast. trends In the marketplace. With the use of algo- sage that the 'Mission Accomplished* ilgn suc- The power and authority of the phrase, at least rithms, he has concluded among other things, that dnrtty conveyed In civilian usage, has since toppled like a dicta- the English language had 988.968 words as of last Too succinctly. It turned out, for both the presi- tor's statue In Baghdad. week and that *0*T is the most frequently spoken dent and the status of the phrase Itself. On a long list of unintended consequences and word on Earth. •On May i. 2003. It was a powerful and accurate significant costs of the Iraq war, the erosion of But for all the unusual stuff that he comes across, metaphor that played to the president's benefit, "mission accomplished' from a wtdely used term he uld he marveled at what has happened to "mis- and as events grew worse. It was a powerful meta- of affirmation to one of miscalculation isn't terri- sion accomplished* in three years of lu ricocheting phor that played to the detriment of the presi- bly significant. But It illustrates that vocabulary ts around cyberspace. dent.' Fleischer said 'In retrospect, the sign was shifting and organic and that overly declarative In 2003, the year the Iraq war began, the term too declarative, while the president's words were statements are probably best avoided, especially •mission accomplished' appeared 37S,ooo times on accurately subtle. It all got undone because of all by president*. the Internet. In 2004, it appeared 500.000 time*. By the pott-war problems we've had.* •Rhetoric Invites you to be assertive, and some- iocs. It was more than 1 million. time* It's our undoing.* said Martin MedhurU. a Arc missions being accomplished twice as tut as