On May 1, 2003, then-President George W. Bush climbed out of a jet plane, stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, flashed a thumbs-up, and declared that most of the fighting in Iraq was over, just months after it had begun.
The swagger on display in this picture -- a victorious president in front of a cheering crowd -- won over audiences at the time. On CBS's Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer called the photograph one of the "great pictures of all time." The political columnist Joe Klein, a guest on Schieffer's show, said it was the "coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day."
Today, the photo is mainly remembered with bitter irony. More than 4,000 Americans and over 100,000 Iraqi civilians lost their lives in Iraq after that photo was taken. Bush himself later expressed regret: "Clearly, putting a 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake," he said.
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press