Major Combat Operations: A Tortured History

From Holden:

All citations from

May 1, 2003

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

Bush, May 2, 2003

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. Our coalition is now engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

May 3, 2003

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: their mission is complete and major combat operations in Iraq have ended. Our coalition is now engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. The United States and our allies have prevailed.

Bush, May 7, 2003

Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.

June 12, 2003

Q In Iraq, there’s what sounds like a major combat operation underway, 4,000 American troops going after what is a very strong pocket of resistance. Is it fair to say that the war isn’t over in Iraq, and that major combat operations continue, despite what the President said?

MR. FLEISCHER: Major combat operations, clearly, are over. But just as the President said, there are dangers in Iraq, and we will face those dangers and confront those dangers. And that’s why the military is still there. And the military will take whatever action is necessary to defeat the remaining elements of the Baathist regime.

July 1, 2003

Q Ari, you talked earlier about the Iraqis who were staging these hit-and-run ambushes and sabotages as having melted back into the civilian populace. Has it moved now from a situation of major combat operations to a guerrilla operation?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, it’s exactly as Secretary Rumsfeld said yesterday at the Pentagon. It remains a military operation outside of major combat operations to go in and to mop up after these irregulars and these people who the Secretary has called dead-enders, who if they had their way, would try to resume power in Iraq.

July 2, 2003

Q Also in Iraq, when he says, “My answer is bring them on,” to people who would be tempted to attack American troops, does that kind of language risk inviting more attacks?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think what the — first of all, I don’t think people in Iraq who are loyal to Saddam Hussein are going to or not going to attack based on a news conference. They’re going to attack because that’s what they do, that’s what they’ve done as long as they were in power, and that’s what they continue to do. I think what the President was expressing there is his confidence in the men and women of the military to handle the military mission that they still remain in the middle of. Major combat operations have ended, but obviously, combat has not for those who are there. And the President has faith and confidence in the men and women of our military who are doing difficult duty.

July 3, 2003

Q And on Iraq, the number of U.S. casualties that we’re seeing since the President declared the end of major combat operations, is this the number of casualties for U.S. troops that you expected to see happening at this time when you launched this war?

DR. RICE: Look, any casualty is one casualty too many, whether we’re in major military operations or what we’re doing now. But the fact of the matter is, when the President declared major military operations over, he talked about the dangers that still were ahead. He’s talked numerous times about the pockets of these Baathists and others who are trying to be determined not to let their fellow Iraqi citizens have a new and better future. And so we knew that it was going to be a dangerous time. I don’t think anybody spent time trying to say, well, how you define dangerous. But that it might be possible that we would take more casualties, I think everybody understood.

Bush, July 23, 2003

We also keep our promise to destroy every remnant of that regime and to help the people of Iraq to govern themselves in freedom. In the 83 days since I announced the end of major combat operations in Iraq, we have made progress, steady progress, in restoring hope in a nation beaten down by decades of tyranny.

July 30, 2003

Q Saddam Hussein’s alleged ties to al Qaeda were a key part of your justification for war. Yet, your own intelligence report, the NIE, defined it as — quote — “low confidence that Saddam would give weapons to al Qaeda.” Were those links exaggerated to justify war? Or can you finally offer us some definitive evidence that Saddam was working with al Qaeda terrorists?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I think, first of all, remember I just said we’ve been there for 90 days since the cessation of major military operations. Now, I know in our world where news comes and goes and there’s this kind of instant — instant news and you must have done this, you must do this yesterday, that there’s a level of frustration by some in the media. I’m not suggesting you’re frustrated. You don’t look frustrated to me at all. But it’s going to take time for us to gather the evidence and analyze the mounds of evidence, literally, the miles of documents that we have uncovered.

August 9, 2003

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Friday of this week was the 100th day since the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

August 18, 2003

Q On May 1st, you flew aboard the Abraham Lincoln and you addressed the nation and you announced the end of combat operations.

THE PRESIDENT: Actually, major military operations.

Q Okay, I stand corrected.

THE PRESIDENT: Because we still have combat operations going on.

Rice, August 25, 2003

We must remain patient. When Americans begin a noble cause, we finish it. We are 117 days from the end of major combat operations in Iraq. That is not very long.

Bush, August 26, 2003

Since the end of major combat operations, we have seized more than 8,200 tons of ammunition, thousands of AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

August 27, 2003

Q Is the President at all surprised by the fact that we’ve now lost more troops in Iraq since he declared an end to major combat operations — granted, not all of those are combat related. And does he feel any obligation to speak out to the American people about expectations and about how much longer we can expect these types of attacks on our troops?

MS. BUCHAN: A couple of things. To that specific question, you might want to look at the President’s interview with the Armed Forces Radio. He was asked that exact question, so you can have it in his words, exactly. But the President appreciates the sacrifices that are being made by the men and women in America’s military, and by their families. And he believes that they are bravely serving a good cause and that it is a battle against terror that we cannot retreat from. And that while major combat operations have concluded, a battle still goes on.

Bush, September 7, 2003

Since the end of major combat operations, we have conducted raids seizing many caches of enemy weapons and massive amounts of ammunition, and we have captured or killed hundreds of Saddam loyalists and terrorists.

Cheney, September 17, 2003

There are still on-going incidents, attacks on coalition forces and on others, either from remnants of the old regime or from terrorists, many of whom were in Iraq before the war, and some of whom have arrived since the conclusion of major combat operations.

October 14, 2003

Q Scott, in terms of violence, there was another car bombing or suicide bombing today. Are you saying that when things like that happen — and they seem to happen all too frequently — you’re not going to talk about that, you’re not going to talk about the fact that there are security issues?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, we have. And we’ve never said that there wouldn’t be difficulties along the way. And keep in mind, when we’re talking about only being five-and-a-half months away from when major combat operations are over, that we have made significant progress on the security front, if you look at the north and south. We’re still focused on the Sunni Triangle area where there are some dangers that exist. There are some dangerous people in Iraq, and we’re continuing to go after those killers.

October 29, 2003

Q The President did not want Americans to see “mission accomplished” and think, great, the war is over?

MR. McCLELLAN: The idea for the banner and the idea for the sign was suggested by those on board ship. And we were pleased to help them with that.

Q And he never knew that would be the interpretation, that the mission — his mission was accomplished?

MR. McCLELLAN: The mission for those people on board the ship was accomplished.

Q But the President didn’t know that this would be interpreted throughout the world that we had — that the combat mission was over, basically?

MR. McCLELLAN: The major combat operations were over. That’s what the President said in his remarks. But he also went on to say that there are difficulties that remain and dangers that continue to exist, and that it’s important that we stay the course and finish our work and continue to work with the Iraqi people to help them realize a better future. And that’s exactly what we are doing right now.

Nov. 4, 2003

Q Thanks, Mr. President. I’ve got a couple questions. One, what’s your evaluation, your assessment of this scene you’ve seen here? And, two, to more and more Americans, the situation in Iraq is looking like a hot war. Are we back to major combat operations?

THE PRESIDENT: No, we’re back to finding these terrorists and bringing them to justice. And we will continue to find the terrorists and bring them to justice. These people want to — “these people” being the terrorists and those who would kill innocent life — want us to retreat, they want us to leave, because they know that a free and peaceful Iraq in their midst will damage their cause. And we will stay the course, we will do our job.

November 5, 2003

Q The stories on the — that are making their way around the Internet are that there are some new protocols in place which makes it hard to get to reach some of the Iraq and September 11th information if you go through a search engine, not if you come straight in through the White House website. The implication, they say, is that you are making some material captive only to your own restrictions and you can go in and change, for instance, the word “major combat” on the headlines of the President’s speech from March 1st — I mean, May 1st.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know who the individuals are that are making some of these allegations, but all subjects available — are available on the White House website, including on Iraq. And they’re completely accessible to all Internet users. And that’s the way we want it to be. All this information is searchable, it’s all available there on our website. And that’s what it will — it will continue to be.

Q It’s not your policy to go back in and change the —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, do you have a specific instance you want me to look into to? I will be glad to. But that’s the bottom line on our website; it’s all there, it’s all searchable, and please come visit it. It’s

November 11, 2003

Q Dr. Rice, F-16 and F-15 Fighter Bombers in action over Iraq for the first time since the war ended. We saw pictures here of major ground fire. Have major combat operations resumed in Iraq?

DR. RICE: Major combat operations have not resumed in Iraq by really any stretch of the imagination. What has happened is that there are some elements of the old regime that are making common cause with some foreign fighters in what, I think, could classically be described as insurgency, or insurgency plus terrorism. This is very different than fighting major marching armies of the kind that we were facing in March and April, with an intact, large-scale command and control structure across the country. No, major combat operations have not begun — have not resumed.

Bush, May 1, 2004

A year ago, I declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, after coalition forces conducted one of the swiftest, most successful and humane campaigns in military history.

August 12, 2004

The sound of heavy gunbattles resonated throughout the holy city of Najaf today as US forces launched a major offensive to crush a militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr.