Shortly after announcing he'd ordered coordinated air strikes in Syria, President Donald Trump declared "mission accomplished." The president used the phrase early Saturday morning in a tweet characterizing Friday's strike as "perfectly executed." The phrase "mission accomplished" has become something of a misnomer in Washington after it was used by former President George W. Bush at a 2003 speech declaring the end to U.S. combat operations in Iraq. Contrary to Bush's declaration, U.S. military involvement continues to this day in Iraq.
"A perfectly executed strike last night," the president tweeted early Saturday. "Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!"
The president went on to applaud the military in a separate tweet published minutes later. "So proud of our great Military which will soon be, after the spending of billions of fully approved dollars, the finest that our Country has ever had," Trump tweeted. "There won't be anything, or anyone, even close!"
Trump announced late Friday that he'd ordered "precision strikes" on government targets in Syria. The attacks were part of a joint response with French and British forces to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reported use of chemical weapons on civilians in Douma. In a televised address from the White House, Trump said he'd ordered attacks on "targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator of Bashar al-Assad." According to ABC News, the Syrian American Medical Society has recorded 10 chemical weapons attacks in Syria this year alone.
But some found Trump's use of the phrase "mission accomplished" surprising given the presidential history behind it. "I didn't think I could be shocked by a tweet anymore but 'mission accomplished' was so surprising I had to double check that it was not a spoof," Sen. Brian Schatz wrote in a tweet Saturday.
In 2003, Bush declared an end to U.S. combat operations in Iraq while standing under a banner that read "mission accomplished." However, military involvement in Iraq continued throughout Bush's presidency — and beyond — and the use of the phrase caused significant trouble for Bush.
While some on Twitter were quick to bemoan Trump's use of the phrase "mission accomplished" in light of Bush's experience, the Pentagon supported the president's use of the phrase in a briefing Saturday. "Operations were very successful. We met our objectives," CBS News reported Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said. "We hit the sites, the heart of the chemical weapons program. So, it was mission accomplished."
Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie announced Saturday the U.S. had deployed 105 missiles against three targets in Syria. Those targets included a scientific research center described by Joint Chiefs of Staff officials as where Assad's regime tested, produced, developed, and researched chemical weapons. Other targets reportedly included a sarin production facility and a chemical weapons storage facility and command post. Both facilities were reportedly located near the Syrian city of Homs.
White said U.S., U.K., and French forces involved in Friday's attack had taken "every measure and precaution" to hit only the planned targets. She said military forces had "successfully hit every target" and that the U.S. believed it had "significantly crippled" Assad's use of chemical weapons. "It was a successful mission," White said, adding that "what happens next depends on what the Assad regime decides to do."
The Pentagon has stressed that Friday's strikes did not signal a change in policy on Syria. "We do not seek conflict in Syria, but we cannot allow such grievous violations of international law," the Hill reported White said Saturday. The Department of Defense has said there are no other strikes against Syrian government forces currently planned.