May 1 Anniversary and Carrier Moves
First point: like wedding anniversaries, (which men prototypically forget more often than women), Americans have a penchant for forgetting both the disasters that we make and those of Nature that we intensify and prolong because we can’t remember just what we did to start or add to the momentum toward disaster.
For example, remember the tanker reflagging during the Iraq-Iran War? There was a move to arm civilian shipping other than the oil tankers, thereby freeing U.S. Navy ships to protect the oil tankers. Well, the Iranian Navy mined the Gulf in the hope that tide and current would eventually cause a meeting between tanker and explosive. Instead, Navy ships took a few hits. The Navy also suffered missile strikes from the Iraqi air force.
Now it has come out that ships under U.S. charter are armed with deck cannon, which could up the ante for retaliation by the Iranian Navy should a U.S. charter or flagged vessel open fire again.
Thursday, May 1, 2008, is the fifth anniversary of President Bush’s highly orchestrated landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln as the ship steamed off San Diego, always careful to not show the shoreline. This was the commander-in-chief setting Bush craved. Moreover, the “Mission Accomplished” banner the crew had made and hung from the carrier’s control island was exactly the declaration he was making here and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was announcing in Kabul: major combat operations had concluded.
Given all that has transpired since May 1, 2003, surely even the most flitting “at sea” newsreel, entertainment video, or sound bite from the comments he made to the carrier crew, the country, and to the world must stand as his most embarrassing political-military moment – one that will be a prominent if not the very first words historians will associate with his administration.
(And one must not forget the fatalities since that date five years ago: 3,913 U.S. military and 275 coalition military personnel)
It’s also a coincidence that public television (PBS) started its 10 part, 10 hour made-for-television special “Carrier” that filmed the 2005 deployment of the USS Nimitz carrier battle group to the vicinity of Iraq, filmed operational launch and recovery as well as other aspects of life for the 5,000 men and women who staff the ship and the aircrews. Right now, the Nimitz battle group is in the Pacific, having left Guam over the weekend with no destination announced. It may head east back toward Hawaii, southwest for a port call in Australia, or pass through into the Indian Ocean and west toward the Persian Gulf and Iraq.
By another coincidence, the just-arrived on-station carrier that is relieving the USS Harry Truman is the Lincoln, the same carrier from which Bush made his ill-fated pronouncement 5 years ago. All things being equal, the Truman should depart the Gulf for its home port. If so, even with the Nimitz en route, there would be two carriers.
If the Truman lingers, it might be for psychological reasons – or it could signal something worse.