Four years ago today combat operations in Iraq ended, marked in a speech by President Bush on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln May 1, 2003. Bush, who rode in the back of an S-3 Viking which landed on the carrier, spoke in front of a large banner which declared "mission accomplished" and began the speech by declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq.
"In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed," Bush declared. He also noted the destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan. "You are homeward bound," Bush said to the men and women aboard the Abraham Lincoln.
And, as if in a dream, it all turned out to be exactly as the President said. The banner was perhaps a premonition. The war, like wars of old, ended with the words of the President. Like World War Two, it ended on the deck of a mighty ship. The symbolism was acute. American marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen returned home and grew old with their families. They watched their children grow old with them. They drove their cars under the haze of beautiful American summers. They spent Christmases decorating trees and gathering family members in front of the fireplace.
Iraq moved from years of oppression and division and became a healthy model of Democracy in the Middle East. Iraq influences the entire region as it once did. The oppressed peoples in neighboring countries see what is happening and the call of freedom resonates in every heart. It rings across the entire Middle East. Iran's days of sponsoring terrorism and seeking nuclear weapons are over. Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side in a two-state solution long advocated by President Bush. The Middle East, long a hotbed for crisis and violence, has become a flowering Democracy ruled by peace.
And I trace this all back to that fateful speech by our stalwart President. His bold vision, enacted at a moments notice, with only the slightest logistical thought, with merely a moment's logical reflection, has changed the world forever. It all started with Iraq. Americans were able to wage war and go shopping at the same time. The Iraqi oil revenues paid for it all.