01/05/2013 08:49 BST | Updated 01/05/2013 11:23 BST

Mission Accomplished? Iraq And US Security, 10 Years After George Bush Infamous Military Banner In 2003

Emblazoned in bold letters across red, white and blue, high a-top the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, a now infamous banner declared 'Mission Accomplished' as President George W Bush proudly asserted that American operations had ended in Iraq, on May 1, 2003.

Ten years after the highly controversial banner flew off the San Diego coast, bombs are still exploding in cafes, bus stops, mosques and residential neighbourhoods across Iraq. This week alone, 200 people have died in the sectarian strife engulfing the nation since the fall of Sadaam Hussein.

In a report published by War Child, called "Mission Unaccomplished", Iraq has gone from being among the most ‘hospitable places’ for children in the Middle East and North Africa, to being one of the most hostile: with 100 infants dying every day, equivalent to 35,000 infants dying before they reach their 5th birthday.

President George W Bush speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later said he had taken care to remove any use of the phrase "Mission Accomplished" in Bush's speech itself. He told journalist Bob Woodward in 2006: "I was in Baghdad, and I was given a draft of that thing to look at. And I just died, and I said my God, it's too conclusive. And I fixed it and sent it back... they fixed the speech, but not the sign."

Professor Anatol Lieven, from Kings College London, said he now feels "nausea" looking at images of the decade-old banner, which hung as Bush announced the end to major combat operations in Iraq.

"Iraq remains a deeply troubled and divided society, at continuous risk of falling into civil war, which has appalling consequences for the whole region," he told HuffPost UK.

David Reeths, director of consulting at IHS Jane's, said that the banner had actually been an attempt to convey a specific military term, "major combat operations", had finished in Iraq. "The failure was giving the impression that the entire mission had ended, that the US could walk away from extensive involvement in Iraq, which was absolutely untrue. It was far from over.

"What was to come would cost a lot more in blood and treasure than the Bush administration had ever conceived at that point."

The speech was given at the end of 'major combat operations' in Iraq, 10 years ago

As well as ongoing violence and political struggles in post-war Iraq, the US even damaged its own military reputation, according to Professor Lieven. "Iran no longer has any reason to fear a US invasion. No-one believes now that the US and Nato can invade and occupy anything, or at least, nothing bigger than a tiny country like Kosovo. That has done appalling damage."

Professor Lieven, the author of Pakistan: A Hard Country, said the Iraq war had had a deep psychological impact on Muslims all over the world. "It is impossible to quantify, but in the 18 months or so since 9/11, I found most Muslims in Pakistan, which I know best, generally accepted Al Qaeda had carried out the attack and had been based in Afghanistan, and that the invasion had some justification.

"Since the invasion of Iraq, I would say with no exaggeration, among Muslim Pakistanis, even in Britain, even among the most educated, around 99% of the population is now convinced that 9/11 is a CIA-Israeli plot. And when you try point out that is poisonous idiocy, they point out Bush lied about weapons in Iraq. And after that, you've already lost the 10 second rule of argument, as you try and explain the different logics."

Donald Rumsfeld said he had taken care to remove the phrase 'Mission Accomplished' in Bush's speech

Lisa Aronsson, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said she believes there was certainly "progress made on counter terrorism" since Iraq. "But the security landscape has been completely transformed, after Iraq and post-Arab Spring, since 2003."

"America is facing a much more difficult security environment now, exacerbated by the failure to understand the resources it needed to get any semblance of success in Iraq," Reeths said.

"The world is a much more complex place, threats in Syria, instability in North Africa, reduced but significant threats from jihadists, but also territorial disputes in East Asia, the growth of China in terms of soft and military power, the nuclear growth of Iran, the potential for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and a potential nuclear North Korea."

One legacy of the infamous banner has been a shift in the bombastic rhetoric which rang forth from the Bush administration.

"The US has made a direct shift in tone, one of the reasons Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize," Reeths said. "The US has to now strike a balance to not be too militaristic but also pose an effective deterrent. Obama has shifted away from the Bush's administration's 'stick' to giving out carrots, as well as carrying a stick."

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