CALIFORNIA COAST, UNITED STATES
MAY 1, 2003
PHOTO BY J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

REPRESENTATION:
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.

REALITY:
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.


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Image copyright J. Scott Applewhite