CALIFORNIA COAST, UNITED STATES
MAY 1, 2003
PHOTO BY J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE
Former President George W. Bush, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, gives a thumbs-up sign to an applauding crowd after declaring an end to major military operations in Iraq. In the background, a banner reads “Mission Accomplished.” The president flew into the aircraft carrier in a fighter jet as the media waited. The initial media reaction was overwhelmingly positive; this image and similar photos were widely distributed, particularly in the American media.
The photo’s setting, including the “Mission Accomplished” banner and the location of individuals in the crowd, was staged by the Bush administration to create a positive image of the war’s progression. The Iraq invasion would instead lead to a protracted war still raging 12 years later. Critics of Bush’s staged photo-op claim that the former president’s premature speech alongside the “Mission Accomplished” banner was misleading to the public. The media was largly complicit in disseminating uncritical images of this staged event.
- Read The New York Time's examination of the Bush administration's "stagecraft"
- The Nation looks back at the event 10 years later
Image copyright J. Scott Applewhite