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The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History May 1 - 7.
On May 1, 2003, the USS Abraham Lincoln sat about 30 miles from the Sand Diego coastline. A monster of a vessel, this aircraft carrier launched on February 13, 1988, and was commissioned for service on November 11, 1989.
Her badge has a picture of the 16th President for whom she is named, with the motto Shall Not Perish written on the bottom in reference to his famous address at Gettysburg in November 1863.
The USS Abraham Lincoln became a part of the Pacific fleet and was thrust into action in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm, which freed the people of Kuwait from the Iraqi Dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Her combat group, which included up to seven battleships, launched tomahawk missiles at terrorist camps in Afghanistan two weeks after terrorists bombed US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
In 2003, she saw a return to the Persian Gulf, and again Iraq was her target in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hussein would be the prize, and it only took thirty days to remove him from power and send him into hiding, where he would be caught in December.
But on this sunny, calm day back in the United States, she waited for the president to arrive grandly.
It was decided that the president would take a jet to the carrier rather than Marine One, the standard helicopter capable of making the same trip. President George W. Bush put on a green aviation outfit with matching boots, boarded a fix wing aircraft, and took the controls for a bit before landing on the short runway. Like a scene from the movie Top Gun, Bush strode off into the ship’s depths with saluting sailors providing the path.
He changed out of his clothes into a deep blue suit with a sharp red tie, approached the podium featuring the presidential seal, and declared Mission Accomplished on May 1, 2003.
Those two words never appeared in the speech but were spelled on a banner hanging atop the Abraham Lincoln. It was an awkward sign not fitting of the moment, that despite the finality of the major combat, the war in Iraq, in fact, had just begun.
Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was the person behind removing the words but failed to notify the person who ran to FedEx Kinkos to have the banner made. Thus, a major public relations gaffe was accomplished.
The war would continue for another eight years, and over 3,000 American servicemen and women died, along with thousands of Iraqis. Mission Accomplished was a moniker for the unpopular war pushed forward with misguided intelligence and fear-mongering bullying.
Not one of our best moments, for sure.
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Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what I got:
1. The Supreme Court ruled that housing covenants were illegal on May 3, 1948. In Shelley vs. Kraemer, the Court unanimously ruled that restrictions on purchases of property based on race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourth Amendment, which I haven’t ranked yet.
2. Ted Kaczynski was punished with four life sentences on May 4, 1998. The former mathematics professor killed three people and injured over twenty more when he shipped sixteen bombs from his home in Montana. Infamously known as the Unabomber, his case was the longest and most expensive in history at the time of his arrest by the FBI, who received a tip from Kaczynski’s brother.
3. Earnest Hemmingway won the Pulitzer Prize on May 4, 1953. The American novelist won $500 for his novella about a fisherman and his struggles with a marlin far off the coast of Cuba. Written in eight weeks, it would be his last major work of fiction. I actually read this book about eight years ago and liked it!
Five years after the announcement aboard the Abraham Lincoln, Bush would admit the banner convened the wrong message, despite the best spin given after the immediate fallout.
Bush called Operation Iraqi Freedom a job well done. He repeated this phrase after the Hurricane Katrina response disaster two years later when the president tapped FEMA Director Michael Brown on the stomach and recognized that he was doing a heck of a job.
Bush has strange standards on what a heck of a job well done is.
What accomplishment are you most proud of, one that you would want to take off on a jet, land on an aircraft carrier, and announce to the world that your mission was over?
What’s your mission right now that you are working on? Please share them below. I’m interested to learn.
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I’ll be back on Friday with an Ask Me Anything, but this time the question will be from me as I explore a topic that has touched our national politics and my home life.
Have a great week, everyone. Thanks for reading Okay History. May you accomplish everything and do a heck of a job.