2003 invasion of Iraq
Overview
The 2003 invasion of Iraq (March 19–May 1, 2003), was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 in 21 days of major combat operations. The invasion phase consisted of a conventionally fought war which concluded with the capture of the Iraq capital Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 by United States forces.

Four countries participated with troops during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from March 19 to April 9, 2003.
Encyclopedia
The 2003 invasion of Iraq (March 19–May 1, 2003), was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 in 21 days of major combat operations. The invasion phase consisted of a conventionally fought war which concluded with the capture of the Iraq capital Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 by United States forces.

Four countries participated with troops during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from March 19 to April 9, 2003. These were the United States (148,000), United Kingdom (45,000), Australia (2,000), and Poland (194). 36 other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops were assembled in Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 by February 18. The United States supplied the majority of the invading forces, but also received support from Kurdish irregulars
Peshmerga
Peshmerga or Peshmerge is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters. Literally meaning "those who face death" the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been in existence since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman...

 in Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan or Kurdistan Region is an autonomous region of Iraq. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. The regional capital is Arbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr...

.

According to U.S. President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 and British Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

, the reasons for the invasion were "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's alleged support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people." However, former chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council
United States National Security Council
The White House National Security Council in the United States is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the...

 Richard A. Clarke
Richard A. Clarke
Richard Alan Clarke was a U.S. government employee for 30 years, 1973–2003. He worked for the State Department during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed him to chair the Counter-terrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National...

 believes Mr. Bush came into office with a plan to invade Iraq. According to Blair, the trigger was Iraq's failure to take a "final opportunity" to disarm itself of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that U.S. and British officials called an immediate and intolerable threat to world peace. In 2005, the Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 released a report saying that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq.

In a January 2003 CBS poll 64% of U.S. nationals had approved of military action against Iraq, however 63% wanted Bush to find a diplomatic solution rather than go to war, and 62% believed the threat of terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

 directed against the U.S. would increase due to war. The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some traditional U.S. allies, including the governments of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading the country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC's February 12, 2003 report. On February 15, 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq war
Protests against the Iraq War
Beginning in 2002, and continuing after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, protests against the Iraq War were held in many cities worldwide, often coordinated to occur simultaneously around the world...

, including a rally of three million people in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war
Anti-war
An anti-war movement is a social movement, usually in opposition to a particular nation's decision to start or carry on an armed conflict, unconditional of a maybe-existing just cause. The term can also refer to pacifism, which is the opposition to all use of military force during conflicts. Many...

 rally. According to the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 academic Dominique Reynié
Dominique Reynié
Dominique Reynié is a French academic. He is a professor of political science at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris.-References:Article :...

, between January 3 and April 12, 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.

The invasion was preceded by an air strike on the Presidential Palace in Baghdad on March 19, 2003. The following day coalition forces launched an incursion into Basra Province from their massing point close to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. While the special forces launched an amphibious assault from the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 to secure Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

 and the surrounding petroleum fields, the main invasion army moved into southern Iraq, occupying the region and engaging in the Battle of Nasiriyah
Battle of Nasiriyah
The Battle of Nasiriyah was one of the first major battles of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Heavy fighting took place in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah between Iraqi forces and U.S. Marines over control of key bridges over the Euphrates River and the Saddam Canal.The battle began early on 23...

 on March 23. Massive air strikes across the country and against Iraqi command and control threw the defending army into chaos and prevented an effective resistance. On March 26 the 173rd Airborne Brigade was airdropped
Operation Northern Delay
On March 26, 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, C-17s of the 62d Airlift Wing, 315th Airlift Wing, 437th Airlift Wing, and 446th Airlift Wing dropped SETAF's 173rd Airborne Brigade into Northern Iraq. More than 1,000 paratroopers jumped into Bashur Airfield...

 near the northern city of Kirkuk
Kirkuk
Kirkuk is a city in Iraq and the capital of Kirkuk Governorate.It is located in the Iraqi governorate of Kirkuk, north of the capital, Baghdad...

 where they joined forces with Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 rebels and fought several actions against the Iraqi army
Iraqi Army
The Iraqi Army is the land component of the Iraqi military, active in various forms since being formed by the British during their mandate over the country after World War I....

 to secure the northern part of the country.

The main body of coalition forces continued their drive into the heart of Iraq and met with little resistance. Most of the Iraqi military was quickly defeated and Baghdad was occupied on April 9. Other operations occurred against pockets of the Iraqi army including the capture and occupation of Kirkuk on April 10, and the attack and capture of Tikrit
Tikrit
Tikrit is a town in Iraq, located 140 km northwest of Baghdad on the Tigris river . The town, with an estimated population in 2002 of about 260,000 is the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate.-Ancient times:...

 on April 15. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the central leadership went into hiding as the coalition forces completed the occupation of the country. On May 1 an end of major combat operations was declared, ending the invasion period and beginning the military occupation
Military occupation
Military occupation occurs when the control and authority over a territory passes to a hostile army. The territory then becomes occupied territory.-Military occupation and the laws of war:...

 period.

Prelude to the invasion

The Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 ended on February 28, 1991 with a cease-fire negotiated between the UN Coalition and Iraq. The U.S. and its allies tried to keep Saddam in check with military actions such as Operation Southern Watch
Operation Southern Watch
Operation Southern Watch was an operation conducted by Joint Task Force Southwest Asia with the mission of monitoring and controlling airspace south of the 32nd Parallel in Iraq, following the 1991 Gulf War until the 2003 invasion of Iraq.-Summary:Operation Southern Watch began on 27 August 1992...

 which was a conducted by Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) with the mission of monitoring and controlling airspace south of the 32nd Parallel
32nd parallel north
The 32nd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 32 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

 (extended to the 33rd Parallel
33rd parallel north
The 33rd parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 33 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

 in 1996) as well as using economic sanctions. It was revealed the extent of biological weapons (BW) program in Iraq begun in the early 1980s with help from the United States and Britain, in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention
Biological Weapons Convention
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the...

 (BWC) of 1972. Details of the BW program—along with a chemical weapons program—surfaced in the wake of the Gulf War (1990–91) following investigations conducted by the United Nations Special Commission
United Nations Special Commission
United Nations Special Commission was an inspection regime created by the United Nations to ensure Iraq's compliance with policies concerning Iraqi production and use of weapons of mass destruction after the Gulf War...

 (UNSCOM) which had been charged with the post-war disarmament of Saddam's Iraq. The investigation concluded that there was no evidence the program had continued after the war. The U.S. and its allies then maintained a policy of “containment
Containment
Containment was a United States policy using military, economic, and diplomatic strategies to stall the spread of communism, enhance America’s security and influence abroad, and prevent a "domino effect". A component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet...

” towards Iraq. This policy involved numerous economic sanctions
Iraq sanctions
The Iraq sanctions were a near-total financial and trade embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council on the nation of Iraq. They began August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, stayed largely in force until May 2003 , and certain portions including reparations to Kuwait...

 by the UN Security Council, U.S. and UK enforcement of Iraqi no-fly zones
Iraqi no-fly zones
The Iraqi no-fly zones were a set of two separate no-fly zones , and were proclaimed by the United States, United Kingdom and France after the Gulf War of 1991 to protect the Kurdish people in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraqi aircraft were forbidden from flying inside the zones...

 declared by the U.S. and the UK to protect Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and Shias in the south from aerial attacks by Iraqi government during the 1991 uprisings
1991 uprisings in Iraq
The 1991 uprisings in Iraq were a series of anti-governmental rebellions in southern and northern Iraq during the aftermath of the Gulf War. The revolt was fueled by the perception that the power of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was vulnerable at the time; as well as by heavily fueled anger at...

, and ongoing inspections. Iraqi military helicopters and planes regularly contested the no-fly zones.

In October 1998, removing the Hussein regime became official U.S. foreign policy with enactment of the Iraq Liberation Act
Iraq Liberation Act
The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 is a United States Congressional statement of policy calling for regime change in Iraq. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and states that it is the policy of the United States to support democratic movements within Iraq...

. Enacted following the expulsion of UN weapons inspectors
United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission
The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission was created through the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1284 of 17 December 1999....

 the preceding August after some had been accused of spying for the U.S. the act provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" to "establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq." This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687
United Nations Security Council Resolution 687
United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, adopted on April 3, 1991, after reaffirming resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, 677, 678 and 686 , the Council set the terms, in a comprehensive resolution, with which Iraq was to comply after losing the Gulf War.The...

, which focused on weapons and weapons programs and made no mention of regime change. One month after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, the U.S. and UK launched a bombardment campaign of Iraq called Operation Desert Fox
Operation Desert Fox
The December 1998 bombing of Iraq was a major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets from December 16–19, 1998 by the United States and United Kingdom...

. The campaign’s express rationale was to hamper the Hussein government's ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but U.S. intelligence personnel also hoped it would help weaken Hussein’s grip on power.

With the election of George W. Bush as president
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 in 2000
United States presidential election, 2000
The United States presidential election of 2000 was a contest between Republican candidate George W. Bush, then-governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush , and Democratic candidate Al Gore, then-Vice President....

, the U.S. moved towards a more aggressive policy toward Iraq. The Republican Party's
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 campaign platform in the 2000 election called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act and removal of Hussein. Key Bush advisors, including Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

, Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

 Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Henry Rumsfeld is an American politician and businessman. Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and the oldest person to...

, and Deputy Secretary of Defense
United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
The Deputy Secretary of Defense is the second-highest ranking official in the Department of Defense of the United States of America. The Deputy Secretary of Defense is appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate...

 Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Dundes Wolfowitz is a former United States Ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, President of the World Bank, and former dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University...

, had long desired to invade Iraq. After leaving the George W. Bush administration
George W. Bush administration
The presidency of George W. Bush began on January 20, 2001, when he was inaugurated as the 43rd President of the United States of America. The oldest son of former president George H. W. Bush, George W...

, Treasury Secretary
United States Secretary of the Treasury
The Secretary of the Treasury of the United States is the head of the United States Department of the Treasury, which is concerned with financial and monetary matters, and, until 2003, also with some issues of national security and defense. This position in the Federal Government of the United...

 Paul O'Neill said that an attack on Iraq had been planned since Bush's inauguration, and that the first United States National Security Council
United States National Security Council
The White House National Security Council in the United States is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the...

 meeting involved discussion of an invasion. O'Neill later backtracked, saying that these discussions were part of a continuation of foreign policy first put into place by the Clinton administration.

Despite the Bush administration's stated interest in liberating Iraq, little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the September 11, 2001 attacks
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

. For example, the administration prepared Operation Desert Badger
Operation Desert Badger
Operation Desert Badger was a U.S. plan for response if a pilot was shot down while patrolling the Iraqi no-fly zones. It was designed to disrupt the Iraqis' ability to capture the pilot by attacking Saddam's command and control centres in downtown Baghdad. It included an escalating attack if a...

 to respond aggressively if any Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 pilot was shot down while flying over Iraq, but this did not happen. Rumsfeld dismissed National Security Agency
National Security Agency
The National Security Agency/Central Security Service is a cryptologic intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign signals intelligence, as well as protecting U.S...

 (NSA) intercept data available by midday of the 11th. that pointed to al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

's culpability, and by mid-afternoon ordered the Pentagon to prepare plans for attacking Iraq. According to aides who were with him in the National Military Command Center
National Military Command Center
Located in the Pentagon, the National Military Command Center houses the logistical and communications center for the National Command Authority of the United States of America. The facility, which is composed of several war rooms, is the principal command and control center of the Department of...

 on that day, Rumsfeld asked for: "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at same time. Not only Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

." The rationale for invading Iraq as a response to 9/11 has been widely questioned, as there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda link allegations were made by U.S. Government officials who claimed that a highly secretive relationship existed between former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the radical Islamist militant organization Al-Qaeda from 1992 to 2003, specifically through a series of...

.

Shortly after September 11, 2001 (on September 20), Bush addressed a joint session of Congress
Joint session of the United States Congress
Joint sessions of the United States Congress are the gatherings together of both houses of the United States Congress...

 (simulcast live to the world), and announced his new "War on Terrorism
War on Terrorism
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

". This announcement was accompanied by the doctrine of "pre-emptive" military action, later termed the Bush Doctrine
Bush Doctrine
The Bush Doctrine is a phrase used to describe various related foreign policy principles of former United States president George W. Bush. The phrase was first used by Charles Krauthammer in June 2001 to describe the Bush Administration's unilateral withdrawals from the ABM treaty and the Kyoto...

. Allegations of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda were made by some U.S. Government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 officials who asserted that a highly secretive relationship existed between Saddam and the radical Islamist
Islamism
Islamism also , lit., "Political Islam" is set of ideologies holding that Islam is not only a religion but also a political system. Islamism is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary...

 militant
Militant
The word militant, which is both an adjective and a noun, usually is used to mean vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause, as in 'militant reformers'. It comes from the 15th century Latin "militare" meaning "to serve as a soldier"...

 organization al-Qaeda from 1992 to 2003, specifically through a series of meetings reportedly involving the Iraqi Intelligence Service
Iraqi Intelligence Service
The Iraqi Intelligence Service , also known as the Mukhabarat, General Directorate of Intelligence, or Party Intelligence, was the main state intelligence organization in Iraq under Saddam Hussein...

 (IIS). Some Bush advisers favored an immediate invasion of Iraq, while others advocated building an international coalition and obtaining United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 authorization. Bush eventually decided to seek UN authorization, while still reserving the option of invading without it.

Preparations for war

While there had been some earlier talk of action against Iraq, the Bush administration waited until September 2002 to call for action, with White House Chief of Staff
White House Chief of Staff
The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a senior aide to the President.The current White House Chief of Staff is Bill Daley.-History:...

 Andrew Card
Andrew Card
Andrew Hill Card, Jr. is a Republican American politician, former United States Cabinet member, and head of President George W. Bush's White House Iraq Group. Card served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President George H. W. Bush and the White House Chief of Staff under George W. Bush...

 saying, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Bush began formally making his case to the international community for an invasion of Iraq in his September 12, 2002 address to the UN Security Council.

Key U.S. allies in NATO, such as the United Kingdom, agreed with the U.S. actions, while France and Germany were critical of plans to invade Iraq, arguing instead for continued diplomacy and weapons inspections. After considerable debate, the UN Security Council adopted a compromise resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized the resumption of weapons inspections and promised "serious consequences" for non-compliance. Security Council members France and Russia made clear that they did not consider these consequences to include the use of force to overthrow the Iraqi government. Both the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte
John Negroponte
John Dimitri Negroponte is an American diplomat. He is currently a research fellow and lecturer in international affairs at Yale University's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs...

, and the UK ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock
Jeremy Greenstock
Sir Jeremy Q. Greenstock, GCMG is a retired British diplomat, active from 1969-2004.-Life and career:Greenstock was born in Harrow on the Hill, north-west London, the son of Ruth Margaret and John Wilfred Greenstock. He was educated at the Harrow School and Worcester College, University of...

, publicly confirmed this reading of the resolution, assuring that Resolution 1441 provided no "automaticity" or "hidden triggers" for an invasion without further consultation of the Security Council.

Resolution 1441 gave Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" and set up inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission
United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission
The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission was created through the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1284 of 17 December 1999....

 (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

 (IAEA). Hussein accepted the resolution on November 13 and inspectors returned to Iraq under the direction of UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix
Hans Blix
is a Swedish diplomat and politician for the Liberal People's Party. He was Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs . Blix was also the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 2000 to June 2003, when he was succeeded by Dimitris Perrikos...

 and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. As of February 2003, the IAEA "found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq"; the IAEA concluded that certain items which could have been used in nuclear enrichment centrifuges, such as aluminum tubes, were in fact intended for other uses. UNMOVIC "did not find evidence of the continuation or resumption of programs of weapons of mass destruction" or significant quantities of proscribed items. UNMOVIC did supervise the destruction of a small number of empty chemical rocket warheads, 50 liters of mustard gas that had been declared by Iraq and sealed by UNSCOM in 1998, and laboratory quantities of a mustard gas precursor, along with about 50 Al-Samoud missiles of a design that Iraq stated did not exceed the permitted 150 km range, but which had travelled up to 183 km in tests. Shortly before the invasion, UNMOVIC stated that it would take "months" to verify Iraqi compliance with resolution 1441.

In October 2002 the U.S. Congress passed a "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq". The resolution authorized the President to "use any means necessary" against Iraq, Americans polled in January 2003 widely favored further diplomacy over an invasion. Later that year, however, Americans began to agree with Bush's plan. The U.S. government engaged in an elaborate domestic public relations campaign
Public relations preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq
The Rendon Group, a Washington, DC based public relations firm with close ties to the US government, and which has had a prominent role in promoting the Iraqi National Congress, was alleged by some journalists to be planning to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a careful public relations...

 to market the war to its citizens. Americans overwhelmingly believed Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction: 85% said so, even though the inspectors had not uncovered those weapons. Of those who thought Iraq had weapons sequestered somewhere, about half responded that said weapons would not be found in combat. By February 2003, 64% of Americans supported taking military action to remove Hussein from power.

The Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

's Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 (SAD) teams were the first U.S. forces to enter Iraq, in July 2002, before the main invasion. Once on the ground, they prepared for the subsequent arrival of U.S. Army Special Forces
United States Army Special Forces
The United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with six primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, and...

 to organize the Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 Peshmerga
Peshmerga
Peshmerga or Peshmerge is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters. Literally meaning "those who face death" the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been in existence since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman...

. This joint team (called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element (NILE)) combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam is a Sunni Islamist group of Iraqis, promoting a radical interpretation of Islam, close to the official Saudi ideology of Wahhabism with strict application of Sharia. The group was formed in the northern provinces of Iraq near the Iranian border, and previously had established...

, a group with ties to al-Qaeda, in Iraqi Kurdistan. This battle was for control of the territory that was occupied by Ansar al-Islam and took place before the invasion. It was carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers from SAD and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group
10th Special Forces Group (United States)
The 10th Special Forces Group is an Active Duty United States Army Special Forces group. The 10th Special Forces Group is responsible for operations within the EUCOM area of responsibility, as part of the Special Operations Command, Europe , as well as parts of Africa and the Middle East.10th SFG...

. This battle resulted in the defeat of Ansar and the capture of a chemical weapons
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

 facility at Sargat. Sargat was the only facility of its type discovered in the Iraq war.

SAD teams also conducted missions behind enemy lines to identify leadership targets. These missions led to the initial air strikes against Hussein and his generals. Although the strike against Hussein was unsuccessful in killing him, it effectively ended his ability to command and control his forces. Strikes against Iraq's generals were more successful and significantly degraded the Iraqi command's ability to react to, and maneuver against the US-led invasion force. SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi Army officers into surrendering their units once the fighting started.

NATO member Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 refused to allow the U.S. forces across its territory into northern Iraq
Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan or Kurdistan Region is an autonomous region of Iraq. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. The regional capital is Arbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr...

. Therefore, joint SAD and Army Special forces teams and the Pershmerga were the entire Northern force against the Iraqi army. They managed to keep the northern divisions in place rather than allowing them to aid their colleagues against the U.S.-led coalition force coming from the south. Four of these CIA officers were awarded the Intelligence Star
Intelligence Star
The Intelligence Star is an award given by the Central Intelligence Agency for a "voluntary act or acts of courage performed under hazardous conditions or for outstanding achievements or services rendered with distinction under conditions of grave risk." The award citation is from the Director...

 for their actions.

In the 2003 State of the Union address
2003 State of the Union Address
The 2003 State of the Union Address was a speech delivered by U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday, January 28, 2003. It outlined justifications for the 2003 invasion of Iraq...

, President Bush said "we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs". On February 5, 2003, U.S. Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 Colin Powell
Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

 addressed the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

, continuing U.S. efforts to gain UN authorization for an invasion.His presentation to the UN Security Council, which contained a computer generated image of a mobile biological weapons laboratory. However, this information was based on claims of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi codenamed "Curveball"
Curveball (informant)
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi , known by the Central Intelligence Agency cryptonym "Curveball", is an Iraqi citizen who defected from Iraq in 1999, claiming that he had worked as a chemical engineer at a plant that manufactured mobile biological weapon laboratories as part of an Iraqi weapons of mass...

, an Iraqi emigrant living in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 who later admitted that his claims had been false.

Powell also presented evidence alleging had ties to al-Qaeda
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda link allegations were made by U.S. Government officials who claimed that a highly secretive relationship existed between former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the radical Islamist militant organization Al-Qaeda from 1992 to 2003, specifically through a series of...

. As a follow-up to Powell’s presentation, the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and Spain proposed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, but NATO members like Canada, France, and Germany, together with Russia, strongly urged continued diplomacy. Facing a losing vote as well as a likely veto from France and Russia, the US, UK, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Italy, Japan, and Australia eventually withdrew their resolution.

Opposition to the invasion coalesced in the worldwide February 15, 2003 anti-war protest
February 15, 2003 anti-war protest
The February 15, 2003 anti-war protest was a coordinated day of protests across the world expressing opposition to the then-imminent Iraq War. It was part of a series of protests and political events that had begun in 2002 and continued as the war took place....

 that attracted between six and ten million people in more than 800 cities, the largest such protest in human history according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

In March 2003, the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Poland, Denmark, and Italy began preparing for the invasion of Iraq
Preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq began on March 20. On March 18, US President George W. Bush had set a deadline for the ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and his two sons, Uday and Qusay to leave the country, or face military action...

, with a host of public relations
Public relations preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq
The Rendon Group, a Washington, DC based public relations firm with close ties to the US government, and which has had a prominent role in promoting the Iraqi National Congress, was alleged by some journalists to be planning to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a careful public relations...

 and military moves. In his March 17, 2003 address to the nation, Bush demanded that Hussein and his two sons, Uday
Uday Hussein
Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti , was the eldest son of Saddam Hussein from his first wife, Sajida Talfah. He was the brother of Qusay Hussein. Uday was for several years seen as the heir apparent of his father; however, Uday lost his place in the line of succession due to his erratic behavior and...

 and Qusay
Qusay Hussein
Qusay Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti was the second son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He was appointed as his father's heir apparent in 2000.- Family :...

, surrender and leave Iraq, giving them a 48-hour deadline. But the U.S. began the bombing of Iraq on the day before the deadline expired. On March 18, 2003, the bombing of Iraq by the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Poland, Australia, and Denmark began. Unlike the first Gulf War or the war in Afghanistan (2001–present)
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

, this war had no explicit UN authorisation.

The UK Parliament held a debate on going to war on March 18, 2003 where the government motion was approved 412 to 149. The vote was a key moment in the history of the Blair administration, as the number government MPs that rebelled against the vote was the greatest since the repeal of the Corn Laws
Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were trade barriers designed to protect cereal producers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports between 1815 and 1846. The barriers were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 and repealed by the Importation Act 1846...

. Three government ministers resigned in protest at the war, John Denham, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the then Leader of the House of Commons
Leader of the House of Commons
The Leader of the House of Commons is a member of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom who is responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons...

 Robin Cook
Robin Cook
Robert Finlayson Cook was a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Livingston from 1983 until his death, and notably served in the Cabinet as Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2001....

. Speaking in the House of Commons after his resignation he made a passionate speech. He said, "What has come to trouble me is the suspicion that if the 'hanging chads' of Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops to action in Iraq." During the debate it was stated that the Attorney General
Peter Goldsmith, Baron Goldsmith
Peter Henry Goldsmith, Baron Goldsmith, PC, QC , is a former Attorney General for England and Wales and Northern Ireland. On 22 June 2007, Goldsmith announced his resignation which took effect on 27 June 2007, the same day that prime minister, Tony Blair, stepped down. Goldsmith was the longest...

 had advised that the war was legal under previous UN Resolutions.

Attempts to avoid war

In December 2002, a representative of the head of Iraqi Intelligence, General Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti
Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti
Tahir Jalil Habbush al Takriti is a former Iraqi intelligence official who served under the regime of Saddam Hussein. He is currently a fugitive.-Forged 2003 Habbush letter:...

, contacted former Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 Counterterrorism Department head Vincent Cannistraro
Vincent Cannistraro
Vincent Cannistraro was Director of Intelligence Programs for the United States National Security Council from 1984 to 1987; Special assistant for Intelligence in the Office of the Secretary of Defense until 1988; and Chief of Operations and Analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency's ...

 stating that Hussein "knew there was a campaign to link him to September 11 and prove he had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)." Cannistraro further added that "the Iraqis were prepared to satisfy these concerns. I reported the conversation to senior levels of the state department and I was told to stand aside and they would handle it." Cannistraro stated that the offers made were all "killed" by the George W. Bush administration because they allowed Hussein to remain in power, an outcome viewed as unacceptable. It has been suggested that Saddam Hussein was prepared to go into exile if allowed to keep $1 billion USD.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is a former Egyptian politician and military commander. He served as the fourth President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011....

's national security advisor, Osama El-Baz
Osama El-Baz
Osama El-Baz is an Egyptian diplomat and was a Senior Advisor to former President Hosni Mubarak.A graduate from Cairo University, he studied for six years in the United States, where he obtained his master's degree as well as a PhD from Harvard Law School...

, sent a message to the U.S. State Department
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 that the Iraqis wanted to discuss the accusations that the country had weapons of mass destruction and ties with al-Qaeda. Iraq also attempted to reach the U.S. through the Syrian, French, German, and Russian intelligence services. Nothing came of the attempts.

In January 2003, Lebanese-American Imad Hage met with Michael Maloof of the U.S. Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

's Office of Special Plans
Office of Special Plans
The Office of Special Plans , which existed from September 2002 to June 2003, was a Pentagon unit created by Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, and headed by Feith, as charged by then-United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to supply senior George W. Bush administration officials with...

. Hage, a resident of Beirut
Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

, had been recruited by the department to assist in the War on Terrorism
War on Terrorism
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

. He reported that Mohammed Nassif, a close aide to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

, had expressed frustrations about the difficulties of Syria contacting the United States, and had attempted to use him as an intermediary. Maloof arranged for Hage to meet with civilian Richard Perle
Richard Perle
Richard Norman Perle is an American political advisor, consultant, and lobbyist who began his career in government, a senior staff member to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson on the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 1970’s...

, then head of the Defense Policy Board.

In January 2003, Hage met with the chief of Iraqi intelligence's foreign operations, Hassan al-Obeidi. Obeidi told Hage that Baghdad did not understand why they were being targeted, and that they had no WMDs. He then made the offer for Washington to send in 2000 FBI agents to confirm this. He additionally offered petroleum concessions, but stopped short of having Hussein give up power, instead suggesting that elections could be held in two years. Later, Obeidi suggested that Hage travel to Baghdad for talks; he accepted.

Later that month, Hage met with General Habbush and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz and Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and a close advisor of former President Saddam Hussein. Their association began in the 1950s when both were activists for the then-banned Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party...

. He was offered top priority to U.S. firms in oil and mining rights, UN-supervised elections, U.S. inspections (with up to 5,000 inspectors), to have al-Qaeda agent Abdul Rahman Yasin
Abdul Rahman Yasin
Abdul Rahman Yasin helped make the bombs used in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing attack. Yasin is of Iraqi heritage and grew up in Baghdad...

 (in Iraqi custody since 1994) handed over as a sign of good faith, and to give "full support for any U.S. plan" in the Arab-Israeli peace process. They also wished to meet with high-ranking U.S. officials. On February 19, Hage faxed Maloof his report of the trip. Maloof reports having brought the proposal to Jamie Duran. The Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...

 denies that either Wolfowitz or Rumsfeld, Duran's bosses, were aware of the plan.

On February 21, Maloof informed Duran in an email that Richard Perle wished to meet with Hage and the Iraqis if the Pentagon would clear it. Duran responded "Mike, working this. Keep this close hold." On March 7, Perle met with Hage in Knightsbridge
Knightsbridge
Knightsbridge is a road which gives its name to an exclusive district lying to the west of central London. The road runs along the south side of Hyde Park, west from Hyde Park Corner, spanning the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea...

, and stated that he wanted to pursue the matter further with people in Washington (both have acknowledged the meeting). A few days later, he informed Hage that Washington refused to let him meet with Habbush to discuss the offer (Hage stated that Perle's response was "that the consensus in Washington was it was a no-go"). Perle told The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, "The message was 'Tell them that we will see them in Baghdad.' "

Casus belli and rationale

George Bush, speaking in October 2002, said that “The stated policy of the United States is regime change… However, if Hussein were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I have described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed”. Citing reports from certain intelligence sources, Bush stated on March 6, 2003 that he believed that Hussein was not complying with UN Resolution 1441.

In September 2002, Tony Blair stated, in an answer to a parliamentary question, that “Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…” In November of that year, Blair further stated that, “So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not régime change - that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change.”

At a press conference on January 31, 2003, Bush again reiterated that the single trigger for the invasion would be Iraq’s failure to disarm, “Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein.” As late as February 25, 2003, it was still the official line that the only cause of invasion would be a failure to disarm. As Blair made clear in a statement to the House of Commons, “I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.”

Additional justifications used at various times included Iraqi violation of UN resolutions, the Iraqi government's repression of its citizens, and Iraqi violations of the 1991 cease-fire.

The main allegations were that Hussein possessed or was attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction
Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the nation of Iraq used, possessed, and made efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction . Hussein was internationally known for his use of chemical weapons in the 1980s against Iranian and Kurdish civilians during and after the Iran–Iraq War...

 which Saddam Hussein, had used such as in Halabja
Halabja
Halabja , is a Kurdish town in Northern Iraq, located about north-east of Baghdad and 8–10 miles from the Iranian border....

, possessed, and made efforts to acquire. Particularly considering two previous attacks on Baghdad nuclear weapons production facilities by both Iran and Israel which was alleged to have postponed weapons development progress. And that he had ties to terrorists, specifically al-Qaeda.

While it never made an explicit connection between Iraq and the September 11 attacks, the George W. Bush administration repeatedly insinuated a link, thereby creating a false impression for the U.S. public. Grand jury testimony from the 1993 World Trade Center attack trials cited numerous direct linkages from the bombers to Baghdad and Department 13 of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in that initial attack marking the second anniversary to vindicate the surrender of Iraqi armed forces in Operation Desert Storm. For example, The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

has noted that,
Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes
Program on International Policy Attitudes
The Program on International Policy Attitudes is an institution devoted to research on the public opinion of international politics...

 (PIPA) at the University of Maryland
University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Maryland, College Park is a top-ranked public research university located in the city of College Park in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C...

, observed in March 2003 that "The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection [between Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein]". This was following a New York Times/CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

 poll that showed 45% of Americans believing Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in the September 11 atrocities. As the Christian Science Monitor observed at the time, while "Sources knowledgeable about U.S. intelligence say there is no evidence that Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding Al Qaeda... the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Hussein's regime." The CSM went on to report that, while polling data collected "right after Sept. 11, 2001" showed that only 3 percent mentioned Iraq or Saddam Hussein, by January 2003 attitudes "had been transformed" with a Knight Ridder poll showing that 44% of Americans believed "most" or "some" of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens.

The BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 has also noted that while President Bush, "never directly accused the former Iraqi leader of having a hand in the attacks on New York and Washington", he, "repeatedly associated the two in keynote addresses delivered since September 11", adding that, "Senior members of his administration have similarly conflated the two." For instance, the BBC report quotes Colin Powell in February 2003, stating that, "We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September 11, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America." The same BBC report also noted the results of a recent opinion poll, which suggested that "70% of Americans believe the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks."

Also in September 2003, the Boston Globe reported that "Vice President Dick Cheney, anxious to defend the White House foreign policy amid ongoing violence in Iraq, stunned intelligence analysts and even members of his own administration this week by failing to dismiss a widely discredited claim: that Saddam Hussein might have played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks." A year later, presidential candidate John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

 alleged that Cheney was continuing "to intentionally mislead the American public by drawing a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 in an attempt to make the invasion of Iraq part of the global war on terror."

Throughout 2002, the Bush administration insisted that removing Hussein from power to restore international peace and security was a major goal. The principal stated justifications for this policy of "regime change" were that Iraq's continuing production of weapons of mass destruction
Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the nation of Iraq used, possessed, and made efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction . Hussein was internationally known for his use of chemical weapons in the 1980s against Iranian and Kurdish civilians during and after the Iran–Iraq War...

 and known ties to terrorist organizations
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda link allegations were made by U.S. Government officials who claimed that a highly secretive relationship existed between former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the radical Islamist militant organization Al-Qaeda from 1992 to 2003, specifically through a series of...

, as well as Iraq's continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions, amounted to a threat to the U.S. and the world community.

The Bush administration's overall rationale for the invasion of Iraq was presented in detail by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 on February 5, 2003. In summary, he stated,
Since the invasion, the U.S. and British government statements concerning Iraqi weapons programs and links to terrorist organizations have been discredited. While the debate of whether Iraq intended to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons in the future remains open, no WMDs have been found in Iraq since the invasion despite comprehensive inspections lasting more than 18 months. In Cairo, on February 24, 2001, Colin Powell had predicted as much, saying, "[Hussein] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours." Similarly, assertions of significant operational links between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda have largely been discredited by the intelligence community, and Secretary Powell himself eventually admitted he had no incontrovertible proof.

In September 2002, the Bush administration said attempts by Iraq to acquire thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes pointed to a clandestine program to make enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. Powell, in his address to the UN Security Council just before the war, referred to the aluminum tubes. A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security
Institute for Science and International Security
The Institute for Science and International Security is a non-profit institution founded in 1993 to inform "the public about science and policy issues affecting international security"...

 in 2002, however, reported that it was highly unlikely that the tubes could be used to enrich uranium. Powell later admitted he had presented an inaccurate case to the United Nations on Iraqi weapons, based on sourcing that was wrong and in some cases "deliberately misleading."

The Bush administration asserted that the Hussein government had sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. On March 7, 2003, the U.S. submitted intelligence documents as evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

. These documents were dismissed by the IAEA as forgeries, with the concurrence in that judgment of outside experts. At the time, a US official stated that the evidence was submitted to the IAEA without knowledge of its provenance and characterized any mistakes as "more likely due to incompetence not malice".

Unmanned Iraqi drones

In October 2002, a few days before the US Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 vote on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, about 75 senators were told in closed session that the Iraqi government had the means of delivering biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction by unmanned aerial vehicle
Unmanned aerial vehicle
An unmanned aerial vehicle , also known as a unmanned aircraft system , remotely piloted aircraft or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator or pilot or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity...

 (UAV) drones that could be launched from ships off the US' Atlantic coast to attack US eastern seaboard cities
East Coast of the United States
The East Coast of the United States, also known as the Eastern Seaboard, refers to the easternmost coastal states in the United States, which touch the Atlantic Ocean and stretch up to Canada. The term includes the U.S...

. Colin Powell
Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

 suggested in his presentation to the United Nations that UAVs were transported out of Iraq and could be launched against the United States. In fact, Iraq had no offensive UAV fleet or any capability of putting UAVs on ships. Iraq's UAV fleet consisted of less than a handful of outdated Czech training drones. At the time, there was a vigorous dispute within the intelligence community whether the CIA's conclusions about Iraq's UAV fleet were accurate. The US Air Force agency denied outright that Iraq possessed any offensive UAV capability.

Human rights

As evidence supporting U.S. and British charges about Iraqi WMDs and links to terrorism weakened, some supporters of the invasion have increasingly shifted their justification to the human rights violations of the Hussein government
Human rights in Saddam's Iraq
Iraq under Saddam Hussein had high levels of torture and mass murder.Secret police, torture, murders, rape, abductions, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations, chemical weapons, and the destruction of wetlands were some of the methods Saddam Hussein used to maintain control...

. Leading human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo,...

 have argued, however, that they believe human rights concerns were never a central justification for the invasion, nor do they believe that military intervention was justifiable on humanitarian grounds, most significantly because "the killing in Iraq at the time was not of the exceptional nature that would justify such intervention." Many supporters of the war, however, contend that from the start human rights concerns were among the reasons given for the invasion, and that the threat of weapons of mass destruction was emphasized at the United Nations, since this dealt with Iraq flouting UN resolutions. They further argue that human rights groups that oppose the war have no objective standard regarding when to invade a country.

Legality of invasion

The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002
Iraq Resolution
The Iraq Resolution or the Iraq War Resolution is a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress in October 2002 as Public Law No: 107-243, authorizing military action against Iraq.-Contents:The resolution cited many factors to justify the use of military force against...

 was passed by congress with Republicans voting 98% in favor in the Senate, and 97% in favor in the House. Democrats supported the joint resolution
Joint resolution
In the United States Congress, a joint resolution is a legislative measure that requires approval by the Senate and the House and is presented to the President for his/her approval or disapproval, in exactly the same case as a bill....

 58% and 39% in the Senate and House respectively. The resolution asserts the authorization by the Constitution of the United States and the Congress for the President to fight anti-United States terrorism. Citing the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, the resolution reiterated that it should be the policy of the United States to remove the Saddam Hussein regime and promote a democratic replacement.

The resolution "supported" and "encouraged" diplomatic efforts by President George W. Bush to "strictly enforce through the U.N. Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" and "obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion, and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq." The resolution authorized President Bush to use the Armed Forces of the United States "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 Resolutions regarding Iraq."

The legality of the invasion of Iraq has been challenged since its inception on a number of fronts, and several prominent supporters of the invasion in all the invading nations have publicly and privately cast doubt on its legality. It is argued that the invasion was fully legal because authorization was implied by the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

. International legal experts, including the International Commission of Jurists
International Commission of Jurists
The International Commission of Jurists is an international human rights non-governmental organization. The Commission itself is a standing group of 60 eminent jurists , including members of the senior judiciary in Australia, Canada, and South Africa and the former UN High Commissioner for Human...

, a group of 31 leading Canadian law professors, and the U.S.-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, have denounced both of these rationales.

On Thursday November 20, 2003, an article published in the Guardian alleged that Richard Perle
Richard Perle
Richard Norman Perle is an American political advisor, consultant, and lobbyist who began his career in government, a senior staff member to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson on the Senate Armed Services Committee in the 1970’s...

, a senior member of the administration's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee
Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee
The Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, also referred to as the Defense Policy Board is a federal advisory committee to the United States Department of Defense. Their charter is available online through the office of the Director of Administration and Management of the Department of Defense...

, conceded that the invasion was illegal but still justified.

The United Nations Security Council has passed nearly 60 resolutions on Iraq and Kuwait since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The most relevant to this issue is Resolution 678
United Nations Security Council Resolution 678
United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, adopted on November 29, 1990, after reaffirming resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674 and 677 , the Council noted that despite all the United Nations efforts, Iraq continued to defy the Security Council.-Details:The Council,...

, passed on November 29, 1990. It authorizes "member states co-operating with the Government of Kuwait... to use all necessary means" to (1) implement Security Council Resolution 660
United Nations Security Council Resolution 660
United Nations Security Council Resolution 660, adopted on August 2, 1990, after noting its alarm of the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the Council condemned the invasion and demanded Iraq withdraw immediately and unconditionally to positions as they were on August 1, 1990.Yemen called upon Iraq and...

 and other resolutions calling for the end of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwaiti territory and (2) "restore international peace and security in the area." Resolution 678
United Nations Security Council Resolution 678
United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, adopted on November 29, 1990, after reaffirming resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674 and 677 , the Council noted that despite all the United Nations efforts, Iraq continued to defy the Security Council.-Details:The Council,...

 has not been rescinded or nullified by succeeding resolutions and Iraq was not alleged after 1991 to invade Kuwait or to threaten do so.

Resolution 1441
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 is a United Nations Security Council resolution adopted unanimously by the United Nations Security Council on November 8, 2002, offering Iraq under Saddam Hussein "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" that had been set out...

 was most prominent during the run up to the war and formed the main backdrop for Secretary of State Colin Powell
Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

's address to the Security Council one month before the invasion. According to an independent commission of inquiry set up by the government of the Netherlands, UN resolution 1441 "cannot reasonably be interpreted (as the Dutch government did) as authorising individual member states to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with the Security Council's resolutions." Accordingly, the Dutch commission concluded that the 2003 invasion violated international law.

At the same time, Bush Administration officials advanced a parallel legal argument using the earlier resolutions, which authorized force in response to Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait
Invasion of Kuwait
The Invasion of Kuwait, also known as the Iraq-Kuwait War, was a major conflict between the Republic of Iraq and the State of Kuwait, which resulted in the seven-month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, which subsequently led to direct military intervention by United States-led forces in the Gulf...

. Under this reasoning, by failing to disarm and submit to weapons inspections, Iraq was in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 660 and 678, and the U.S. could legally compel Iraq's compliance through military means.

Critics and proponents of the legal rationale based on the U.N. resolutions argue that the legal right to determine how to enforce its resolutions lies with the Security Council alone, not with individual nations.

In February 2006, Luis Moreno Ocampo
Luis Moreno Ocampo
José Luis Moreno OcampoMoreno Ocampo's surnames are often hyphenated in English-language media to distinguish Moreno as a surname, rather than a given name. is an Argentine lawyer who has been the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court since June 16, 2003...

, the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court
International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression .It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the...

, reported that he had received 240 separate communications regarding the legality of the war, many of which concerned British participation in the invasion. In a letter addressed to the complainants, Mr. Moreno Ocampo explained that he could only consider issues related to conduct during the war and not to its underlying legality as a possible crime of aggression because no provision had yet been adopted which "defines the crime and sets out the conditions under which the Court may exercise jurisdiction with respect to it." In a March 2007 interview with the Sunday Telegraph
Sunday Telegraph
The Sunday Telegraph is a British broadsheet newspaper, founded in February 1961. It is the sister paper of The Daily Telegraph, but is run separately with a different editorial staff, although there is some cross-usage of stories...

, Moreno Ocampo encouraged Iraq to sign up with the court so that it could bring cases related to alleged war crimes.

United States Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Dennis Kucinich
Dennis John Kucinich is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1997. He was furthermore a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections....

 held a press conference on the evening of April 24, 2007, revealing US House Resolution 333 and the three articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney
Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney served as the 46th Vice President of the United States , under George W. Bush....

. He charges Cheney with manipulating the evidence of Iraq's weapons program, deceiving the nation about Iraq's connection to al-Qaeda, and threatening aggression against Iran in violation of the United Nations Charter
United Nations Charter
The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization called the United Nations. It was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries...

.

Military aspects

United States military operations were conducted under the codename Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL). The codename was later changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, due to the unfortunate acronym. The United Kingdom military operation was named Operation Telic
Operation Telic
Operation TELIC was the codename under which all British military operations in Iraq were conducted between the start of the Invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003 and the withdrawal of the last remaining British forces on 22 May 2011...

.

Multilateral support

In November 2002, President George W. Bush, visiting Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 for a NATO summit, declared that, "should Iraqi President Saddam Hussein choose not to disarm, the United States will lead a coalition of the willing
Coalition of the willing
The term coalition of the willing is a post-1990 political phrase used to collectively describe participants in military or military-humanitarian interventions for which the United Nations Security Council cannot agree to mount a full UN peacekeeping operation...

 to disarm him."

Thereafter, the Bush administration briefly used the term Coalition of the Willing to refer to the countries who supported, militarily or verbally, the military action in Iraq and subsequent military presence in post-invasion Iraq since 2003. The original list prepared in March 2003 included 49 members. Of those 49, only six besides the U.S. contributed troops to the invasion force (the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, and Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

), 33 provided some number of troops to support the occupation after the invasion was complete. Six members have no military.

Invasion force

Approximately 148,000 soldiers from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from the special forces unit GROM
GROM
GROM is one of five special forces units of the Polish Armed Forces. It was officially activated on July 8, 1990...

 were sent to Kuwait for the invasion. The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurd
Kürd
Kürd or Kyurd or Kyurt may refer to:*Kürd Eldarbəyli, Azerbaijan*Kürd Mahrızlı, Azerbaijan*Kürd, Goychay, Azerbaijan*Kürd, Jalilabad, Azerbaijan*Kürd, Qabala, Azerbaijan*Qurdbayram, Azerbaijan...

ish militia troops
Peshmerga
Peshmerga or Peshmerge is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters. Literally meaning "those who face death" the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been in existence since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman...

, estimated to number upwards of 70,000. In the latter stages of the invasion 620 troops of the Iraqi National Congress opposition group were deployed to southern Iraq.

A U.S. Central Command, Combined Forces Air Component Commander report, indicated that as of April 30, 2003, there were a total of 466,985 U.S. personnel deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This included USAF, 54,955; USAF Reserve, 2,084; Air National Guard
Air National Guard
The Air National Guard , often referred to as the Air Guard, is the air force militia organized by each of the fifty U.S. states, the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the territories of Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia of the United States. Established under Title 10 and...

, 7,207; USMC, 74,405; USMC Reserve, 9,501; USN, 61,296 (681 are members of the U.S. Coast Guard); USN Reserve, 2,056; and US Army, 233,342; US Army Reserve, 10,683; and Army National Guard
Army National Guard
Established under Title 10 and Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the Army National Guard is part of the National Guard and is divided up into subordinate units stationed in each of the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia operating under their respective governors...

, 8,866.

Plans for opening a second front in the north were severely hampered when Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 refused the use of its territory for such purposes. In response to Turkey's decision, the United States dropped several thousand paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade into northern Iraq, a number significantly less than the 15,000-strong 4th Infantry Division that the U.S. originally planned to use for opening the northern front.

Preparation

CIA Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 (SAD) Paramilitary teams entered Iraq in July 2002 before the 2003 invasion. Once on the ground they prepared for the subsequent arrival of US military forces. SAD teams then combined with US Army Special Forces to organize the Kurdish
Kurdish people
The Kurdish people, or Kurds , are an Iranian people native to the Middle East, mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey...

 Peshmerga
Peshmerga
Peshmerga or Peshmerge is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters. Literally meaning "those who face death" the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been in existence since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman...

. This joint team combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam is a Sunni Islamist group of Iraqis, promoting a radical interpretation of Islam, close to the official Saudi ideology of Wahhabism with strict application of Sharia. The group was formed in the northern provinces of Iraq near the Iranian border, and previously had established...

, an ally of Al Qaida, in a battle in the northeast corner of Iraq. The US side was carried out by Paramilitary Officers from SAD and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group
10th Special Forces Group (United States)
The 10th Special Forces Group is an Active Duty United States Army Special Forces group. The 10th Special Forces Group is responsible for operations within the EUCOM area of responsibility, as part of the Special Operations Command, Europe , as well as parts of Africa and the Middle East.10th SFG...

.

SAD teams also conducted high risk special reconnaissance missions behind Iraqi lines to identify senior leadership targets. These missions led to the initial strikes against Saddam Hussein and his key generals. Although the initial strike against Hussein was unsuccessful in killing the dictator, it was successful in effectively ending his ability to command and control his forces. Other strikes against key generals were successful and significantly degraded the command's ability to react to and maneuver against the US-led invasion force coming from the south.

SAD operations officers were also successful in convincing key Iraqi army officers to surrender their units once the fighting started and/or not to oppose the invasion force. NATO member Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 refused to allow its territory to be used for the invasion. As a result, the SAD/SOG and US Army Special Forces joint teams and the Kurdish Peshmerga were the entire northern force against government forces during the invasion. Their efforts kept the 5th Corps of the Iraqi army in place to defend against the Kurds rather than their moving to contest the coalition force.

According to General Tommy Franks
Tommy Franks
Tommy Ray Franks is a retired general in the United States Army. His last Army post was as the Commander of the United States Central Command, overseeing United States Armed Forces operations in a 25-country region, including the Middle East...

, April Fool, an American officer working undercover
Undercover
Being undercover is disguising one's own identity or using an assumed identity for the purposes of gaining the trust of an individual or organization to learn secret information or to gain the trust of targeted individuals in order to gain information or evidence...

 as a diplomat
Diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

, was approached by an Iraqi intelligence agent. April Fool then sold to the Iraqi false "top secret" invasion plans provided by Franks' team. This decoy
Decoy
A decoy is usually a person, device or event meant as a distraction, to conceal what an individual or a group might be looking for. Decoys have been used for centuries most notably in game hunting, but also in wartime and in the committing or resolving of crimes.-Duck decoy:The term duck decoy may...

 deception successfully misled the Iraqi military into deploying major forces in Northern and Western Iraq in anticipation of attacks by way of Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 or Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, which never took place. This greatly reduced the defensive capacity in the rest of Iraq and significantly facilitated the actual attacks via Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 and the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 in the southeast.

Defending force

The number of personnel in the Iraqi military prior to the war was uncertain, but it was believed to have been poorly equipped. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated the Iraqi armed forces to number 538,000 (Iraqi Army
Iraqi Army
The Iraqi Army is the land component of the Iraqi military, active in various forms since being formed by the British during their mandate over the country after World War I....

 375,000, Iraqi Navy
Iraqi Navy
The Iraqi Navy is one of the components of the military of Iraq currently being reconstructed by UK-US Coalition forces in Iraq. Its primary responsibilities are the protection of Iraq's coastline and offshore assets...

 2,000, Iraqi Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
The Iraqi Air Force or IQAF is the military branch in Iraq responsible for the policing of international borders, surveillance of national assets and aerial operations...

 20,000 and air defense 17,000), the paramilitary
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 Fedayeen Saddam
Fedayeen Saddam
Fedayeen Saddam was a paramilitary organization loyal to the former Ba'athist government of Saddam Hussein. The name was chosen to mean "Saddam's Men of Sacrifice". At its height, the group had 30,000-40,000 members.-Irregular forces:...

 44,000, Republican Guard 80,000 and reserves 650,000.

Another estimate numbers the Army and Republican Guard at between 280,000 to 350,000 and 50,000 to 80,000, respectively, and the paramilitary between 20,000 and 40,000. There were an estimated thirteen infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 divisions, ten mechanized
Mechanized infantry
Mechanized infantry are infantry equipped with armored personnel carriers , or infantry fighting vehicles for transport and combat ....

 and armored divisions, as well as some special forces
Special forces
Special forces, or special operations forces are terms used to describe elite military tactical teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform...

 units. The Iraqi Air Force and Navy played a negligible role in the conflict.

During the invasion, foreign volunteers traveled to Iraq from Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and took part in the fighting, usually under the command of the Fedayeen Saddam. It is not known for certain how many foreign fighters fought in Iraq in 2003, however, intelligence officers of the U.S. First Marine Division estimated that 50% of all Iraqi combatants in central Iraq were foreigners.

In addition, the Kurdish Islamist militant group Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam is a Sunni Islamist group of Iraqis, promoting a radical interpretation of Islam, close to the official Saudi ideology of Wahhabism with strict application of Sharia. The group was formed in the northern provinces of Iraq near the Iranian border, and previously had established...

 controlled a small section of northern Iraq in an area outside of Saddam Hussein's control. Ansar al-Islam had been fighting against secular Kurdish forces since 2001. At the time of the invasion they fielded approximately 600 to 800 fighters. Ansar al-Islam was led by the Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ; October 30, 1966 – June 7, 2006), born Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh was a Jordanian militant Islamist who ran a paramilitary training camp in Afghanistan...

, who would later become an important leader in the Iraqi insurgency
Iraqi insurgency
The Iraqi Resistance is composed of a diverse mix of militias, foreign fighters, all-Iraqi units or mixtures opposing the United States-led multinational force in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government...

. Ansar al-Islam was driven out of Iraq in late March by a joint American-Kurdish force during Operation Viking Hammer
Operation Viking Hammer
Operation Viking Hammer was a military operation of the Iraq War which took place in northern Iraq. The goal of the operation was to eliminate the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization which was occupying part of Iraqi Kurdistan.-Background:...

.

Invasion

Since the 1991 Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, the U.S. and UK had been engaged in low-level attacks on Iraqi air defenses which targeted them while enforcing Iraqi no-fly zones
Iraqi no-fly zones
The Iraqi no-fly zones were a set of two separate no-fly zones , and were proclaimed by the United States, United Kingdom and France after the Gulf War of 1991 to protect the Kurdish people in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south. Iraqi aircraft were forbidden from flying inside the zones...

. These zones, and the attacks to enforce them, were described as illegal by the former UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Boutros Boutros-Ghali is an Egyptian politician and diplomat who was the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996...

, and the French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine
Hubert Védrine
Hubert Védrine is a French Socialist politician.Diplomatic adviser of President Mitterrand, he served as secretary-general of the presidency from 1991 to 1995, then as Foreign Minister in the government of Lionel Jospin from 1997 to 2002.After the reelection of Jacques Chirac in May 2002, Védrine...

. Other countries, notably Russia and China, also condemned the zones as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. In mid-2002, the U.S. began more carefully selecting targets in the southern part of the country to disrupt the military command structure in Iraq. A change in enforcement tactics was acknowledged at the time, but it was not made public that this was part of a plan known as Operation Southern Focus
Operation Southern Focus
Operation Southern Focus was a period in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq in which the military responses to violations of the southern Iraqi no-fly zones were increased, with more intensive bombing of air defense artillery installations and other military complexes...

.

The amount of ordnance
Aircraft ordnance
Aircraft ordnance or ordnance is weapons used by aircraft. The term is often used when describing the weight of air-to-ground weaponry that can be carried by an aircraft or the weight that has been dropped...

 dropped on Iraqi positions by Coalition aircraft in 2001 and 2002 was less than in 1999 and 2000 which was during the Clinton administration. This information has been used to attempt to refute the theory that the Bush administration had already decided to go to war against Iraq before coming to office and that the bombing during 2001 and 2002 was laying the groundwork for the eventual invasion in 2003. However, information obtained by the UK Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

 showed that the UK dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001. The tonnage of UK bombs dropped increased from 0 in March 2002 and 0.3 in April 2002 to between 7 and 14 tons per month in May–August, reaching a pre-war peak of 54.6 tons in September – before Congress' October 11 authorization of the invasion.

The September 5 attacks included a 100+ aircraft attack on the main air defense site in western Iraq. According to an editorial in New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

this was "Located at the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shias, it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected."

Tommy Franks, who commanded the invasion of Iraq, has since admitted that the bombing was designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defences in the same way as the air attacks that began the 1991 Gulf War. These "spikes of activity" were, in the words of then British Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon
Geoffrey "Geoff" William Hoon is a British politician who served as the Member of Parliament for Ashfield from 1992 to 2010...

, designed to 'put pressure on the Iraqi regime' or, as The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

reported, to "provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war". In this respect, as provocations designed to start a war, leaked British Foreign Office legal advice concluded that such attacks were illegal under international law.

Another attempt at provoking the war was mentioned in a leaked memo from a meeting between George W. Bush and Tony Blair on January 31, 2003 at which Bush allegedly told Blair that "The US was thinking of flying U2
U2
U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin. Formed in 1976, the group consists of Bono , The Edge , Adam Clayton , and Larry Mullen, Jr. . U2's early sound was rooted in post-punk but eventually grew to incorporate influences from many genres of popular music...

 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach." On March 17, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave the country, along with his sons Uday and Qusay, or face war.

Opening salvo: the Dora Farms strike

On the early morning of March 19, 2003, U.S. forces abandoned the plan for initial, non-nuclear decapitation strike
Decapitation strike
In the theory of nuclear warfare, a decapitation strike is a first strike attack that aims to remove the command and control mechanisms of the opponent, in the hope that it will severely degrade or destroy its capacity for nuclear retaliation....

s against fifty-five top Iraqi officials, in light of reports that Saddam Hussein was visiting his daughters and sons, Uday and Qusay at Dora Farms, within the al-Dora
Dora (Baghdad)
Dora is a neighborhood in Al Rashid administrative district, southern Baghdad, Iraq. Although this was a majority Christian neighborhood, it became controlled by Sunni Muslim Extremists during the Iraq War...

 farming community on the outskirts of Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

. At approximately 05:30 UTC two F-117 Nighthawk
F-117 Nighthawk
The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was a single-seat, twin-engine stealth ground-attack aircraft formerly operated by the United States Air Force . The F-117A's first flight was in 1981, and it achieved initial operating capability status in October 1983...

s from the 8th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron dropped four enhanced, satellite-guided 2,000-pound GBU-27 'Bunker Buster
Bunker buster
A bunker buster is a bomb designed to penetrate hardened targets or targets buried deep underground.-Germany:Röchling shells were bunker-busting artillery shells, developed by German engineer August Cönders, based on the theory of increasing sectional density to improve penetration.They were tested...

s' on the compound. Complementing the aerial bombardment were nearly 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from at least four ships, including the Arleigh Burke class destroyer
Arleigh Burke class destroyer
The Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers is the United States Navy's first class of destroyer built around the Aegis combat system and the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar. The class is named for Admiral Arleigh "31-Knot" Burke, the most famous American destroyer officer of...

 USS Donald Cook, and two submarines in the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 and Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

.

One bomb missed the compound entirely and the other three missed their target, landing on the other side of the wall of the palace compound. Saddam Hussein was not present nor were any members of the Iraqi leadership. The attack killed one civilian and injured fourteen others, including four men, nine women and one child. Later investigation revealed that Saddam Hussein had not visited the farm since 1995.

Opening attack

On March 20, 2003 at approximately 02:30 UTC or about 90 minutes after the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, at 05:33 local time, explosions were heard in Baghdad. Special operations commandos from the CIA's Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 from the Northern Iraq Liaison Element infiltrated throughout Iraq and called in the early air strikes. At 03:15 UTC, or 10:15 p.m. EST, George W. Bush announced that he had ordered an "attack of opportunity" against targets in Iraq. When this word was given, the troops on standby crossed the border into Iraq.

Before the invasion, many observers had expected a lengthy campaign of aerial bombing before any ground action, taking as examples the 1991 Persian Gulf War or the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

. In practice, U.S. plans envisioned simultaneous air and ground assaults to decapitate the Iraqi forces quickly (see Shock and Awe), attempting to bypass Iraqi military units and cities in most cases. The assumption was that superior mobility and coordination of Coalition forces would allow them to attack the heart of the Iraqi command structure and destroy it in a short time, and that this would minimize civilian deaths and damage to infrastructure. It was expected that the elimination of the leadership would lead to the collapse of the Iraqi Forces and the government, and that much of the population would support the invaders once the government had been weakened. Occupation of cities and attacks on peripheral military units were viewed as undesirable distractions.

Following Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

's decision to deny any official use of its territory, the Coalition was forced to modify the planned simultaneous attack from north and south. Special Operations forces from the CIA and US Army managed to build and lead the Kurdish Peshmerga into an effective force and assault for the North. The primary bases for the invasion were in Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 and other Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 nations. One result of this was that one of the divisions intended for the invasion was forced to relocate and was unable to take part in the invasion until well into the war. Many observers felt that the Coalition devoted sufficient numbers of troops to the invasion, but too many were withdrawn after it ended, and that the failure to occupy cities put them at a major disadvantage in achieving security and order throughout the country when local support failed to meet expectations.

The invasion was swift, leading to the collapse of the Iraqi government and the military of Iraq in about three weeks. The oil infrastructure of Iraq was rapidly seized and secured with limited damage in that time. Securing the oil infrastructure was considered of great importance. In the Gulf War, while retreating from Kuwait, the Iraqi army had set many oil wells on fire
Kuwaiti oil fires
The Kuwaiti oil fires were caused by Iraqi military forces setting fire to 700 oil wells as part of a scorched earth policy while retreating from Kuwait in 1991 after invading the country but being driven out by Coalition military forces...

 in an attempt to disguise troop movements and to distract Coalition forces. Before the 2003 invasion, Iraqi forces had mined some 400 oil wells around Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

 and the Al-Faw peninsula
Al-Faw Peninsula
The Faw peninsula is a marshy region adjoining the Persian Gulf in the extreme south-east of Iraq, between and to the south-east of the cities of Basra and Abadan ....

 with explosives. Coalition troops launched an air and amphibious assault on the Al-Faw peninsula
Al-Faw Peninsula
The Faw peninsula is a marshy region adjoining the Persian Gulf in the extreme south-east of Iraq, between and to the south-east of the cities of Basra and Abadan ....

 during the closing hours of March 19 to secure the oil fields there; the amphibious assault was supported by warships of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, Polish Navy
Polish Navy
The Marynarka Wojenna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - MW RP Polish Navy, is the branch of Republic of Poland Armed Forces responsible for naval operations...

, and Royal Australian Navy
Royal Australian Navy
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces...

.

British 3 Commando Brigade
3 Commando Brigade
3 Commando Brigade is a commando formation of the British Armed Forces and the main manoeuvre formation of the Royal Marines. Its personnel are predominantly Royal Marines, supported by units of Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, The Rifles, and the Fleet Air Arm, together with other Commando...

, with the United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

' 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel...

 and the Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 Special Forces unit GROM
GROM
GROM is one of five special forces units of the Polish Armed Forces. It was officially activated on July 8, 1990...

 attached, attacked the port of Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr , is a port city in southern Iraq. It stands on the canalised Khawr az-Zubayr, part of the Khawr Abd Allah estuary which leads to the Persian Gulf. It is separated from the border of Kuwait by a small inlet...

. There they met with heavy resistance by Iraqi troops. A total of 14 Coalition troops and 30-40 Iraqi troops were killed, and 450 Iraqis taken prisoner. The British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

's 16 Air Assault Brigade also secured the oil fields in southern Iraq in places like Rumaila
Rumaila Field
The Rumaila oil field is a giant oil field located in southern Iraq, approximately from the Kuwaiti border. The dispute between Iraq and Kuwait over allegedly slant-drilling in the field was one of reasons for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. This field was discovered by British Petroleum in...

 while the Polish commandos captured offshore oil platforms near the port, preventing their destruction. Despite the rapid advance of the invasion forces, some 44 oil wells were destroyed and set ablaze by Iraqi explosives or by incidental fire. However, the wells were quickly capped and the fires put out, preventing the ecological damage and loss of oil production capacity that had occurred at the end of the Gulf War.

In keeping with the rapid advance plan, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division moved westward and then northward through the western desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force
1st Marine Expeditionary Force
The I Marine Expeditionary Force is a Marine Air Ground Task Force of the United States Marine Corps primarily composed of the 1st Marine Division, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and 1st Marine Logistics Group...

 moved along Highway 1 through the center of the country, and 1 (UK) Armoured Division moved northward through the eastern marshland.

During the first week of the war, Iraqi forces fired a Scud
Scud
Scud is a series of tactical ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and exported widely to other countries. The term comes from the NATO reporting name SS-1 Scud which was attached to the missile by Western intelligence agencies...

 missile at the American Battlefield Update Assessment center in Camp Doha
Camp Doha
Camp Doha was the main US Army base in Kuwait, and played a pivotal role in the US military presence in the Middle East since the 1991 Gulf War and in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The complex is located on a small peninsula on Kuwait Bay, west of Kuwait City...

, Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

. The missile was intercepted and shot down by a Patriot missile seconds before hitting the complex. Subsequently, two A-10 Warthogs bombed the missile launcher.

Battle of Nasiriyah

Initially, the U.S. 1st Marine Division fought through the Rumaila oil fields, and moved north to Nasiriyah
Nasiriyah
Nasiriyah is a city in Iraq. It is on the Euphrates about 225 miles southeast of Baghdad, near the ruins of the ancient city of Ur. It is the capital of the province of Dhi Qar...

—a moderate-sized, Shi'ite dominated city with important strategic significance as a major road junction and its proximity to nearby Talil Airfield
Ali Air Base
Ali Air Base is a military airbase located near Nasiriyah, Iraq. It is also known as Tallil Air Base. At present, the base is being used by United States Armed Forces. It is called Camp Adder by the U.S. Army; the name "Ali Air Base" is used chiefly by the U.S...

. It was also situated near a number of strategically important bridges over the Euphrates River
Euphrates
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia...

. The city was defended by a mix of regular Iraqi army units, Ba'ath loyalists, and Fedayeen from both Iraq and abroad. The United States Army 3rd Infantry Division defeated Iraqi forces entrenched in and around the airfield and bypassed the city to the west.
On March 23, a convoy from the 3rd Infantry Division, including the female American soldiers Jessica Lynch
Jessica Lynch
Jessica Dawn Lynch is a former Private First Class in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps. Lynch served in Iraq during the 2003 invasion by U.S. and allied forces. On March 23, 2003 she was injured and captured by Iraqi forces but was recovered on April 1 by U.S...

 and Lori Piestewa
Lori Piestewa
SPC Lori Ann Piestewa was a U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps soldier killed during the same Iraqi Army attack in which fellow soldiers Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch sustained injuries. A member of the Hopi tribe, Piestewa was the first Native American woman in history to die in combat while...

, was ambushed after taking a wrong turn into the city. Eleven U.S. soldiers were killed, and seven, including Lynch and Piestewa, were captured. Piestewa died of wounds shortly after capture, while the remaining five prisoners of war were later rescued. Piestewa, who was from Tuba City, Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

, and an enrolled member of the Hopi
Hopi
The Hopi are a federally recognized tribe of indigenous Native American people, who primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi area according to the 2000 census has a population of 6,946 people. Their Hopi language is one of the 30 of the Uto-Aztecan language...

 Tribe, was believed to have been the first Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 woman killed in combat in a foreign war. On the same day, U.S Marines from the Second Marine Division entered Nasiriyah in force, facing heavy resistance as they moved to secure two major bridges in the city. Several Marines were killed during a firefight with Fedayeen
Fedayeen
Fedayeen is a term used to describe several distinct militant groups and individuals in West Asia at different times in history. It is sometimes used colloquially to refer to suicide squads, especially those who are not bombers.-Overview:...

 in the urban fighting. At the Saddam Canal, another 18 Marines were killed in heavy fighting with Iraqi soldiers. An Air Force A-10
A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s. The A-10 was designed for a United States Air Force requirement to provide close air support for ground forces by attacking tanks,...

 was involved in a case of friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

 that resulted in the death of six Marines when it accidentally attacked an American amphibious vehicle. Two other vehicles were destroyed when a barrage of RPG and small arms fire killed most of the Marines inside. A Marine from Marine Air Control Group 28
Marine Air Control Group 28
Marine Air Control Group 28 is a United States Marine Corps aviation command and control unit based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point that is currently composed of 5 squadrons and a battalion that provide the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing with airspace coordination, air control, immediate air...

 was killed by enemy fire, and two Marine engineers drowned in the Saddam Canal. The bridges were secured and the Second Marine division set up an perimeter around the city.

On the evening of March 24, a battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment pushed through Nasiriyah and established a perimeter 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of the city. Iraqi reinforcements from Kut
Kut
Al-Kūt is a city in eastern Iraq, on the left bank of the Tigris River, about 160 kilometres south east of Baghdad. the estimated population is about 374,000 people...

 launched several counterattacks. The Marines managed to repel them using indirect fire and close air support. The last Iraqi attack was beaten off at dawn. The battalion estimated that 200-300 Iraqi soldiers were killed, without a single U.S. casualty. Nasiriyah was declared secure, but attacks by Iraqi Fedayeen continued. These attacks were uncoordinated, and resulted in firefights in which large numbers of Fedayeen were killed. Because of Nasiriyah's strategic position as a road junction, a significant gridlock occurred as U.S. forces moving north converged on the city's surrounding highways.

With the Nasiriyah and Talil Airfields secured, Coalition forces gained an important logistical center in southern Iraq and established FOB/EAF Jalibah, some 10 miles (16.1 km) outside of Nasiriyah. Additional troops and supplies were soon brought through this forward operating base. The 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

 continued its attack north in support of the 3rd Infantry Division.

By March 28, a severe sand storm slowed the Coalition advance as the 3rd Infantry Division halted its northward drive half way between Najaf and Karbala. As a result of heavy rains that occurred along with the sand storm, orange-colored mud fell on some parts of the invasion force in the area. Air operations by helicopters, poised to bring reinforcements from the 101st Airborne, were blocked for three days. There was particularly heavy fighting in and around the bridge near the town of Kufl.

Battle of Najaf

Another fierce battle was at Najaf
Najaf
Najaf is a city in Iraq about 160 km south of Baghdad. Its estimated population in 2008 is 560,000 people. It is the capital of Najaf Governorate...

, where U.S. airborne and armored units with British air support fought a fierce battle with Iraqi Regulars, Republican Guard units, and paramilitary forces. It started with U.S. AH-64 Apache
AH-64 Apache
The Boeing AH-64 Apache is a four-blade, twin-engine attack helicopter with a tailwheel-type landing gear arrangement, and a tandem cockpit for a two-man crew. The Apache was developed as Model 77 by Hughes Helicopters for the United States Army's Advanced Attack Helicopter program to replace the...

 helicopter gunships setting out on a mission to attack Republican Guard armored units, and while flying low, came under heavy anti-aircraft, small arms, and RPG fire which disrupted the attack and led to one of the gunships down and many heavily damaged. They attacked again successfully on March 26, this time after a pre-mission artillery barrage and with support from F/A-18 Hornet
F/A-18 Hornet
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets . Designed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter's YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and...

 jets, with no gunships lost.

The 1st Brigade Combat Team's air defense battery moved in and after heavy fighting with entrenched Iraqi Fedayeen seized a strategic bridge in Najaf, known as "Objective Jenkins". They then came under fierce counter attacks by Iraqi forces and Fedayeen, but they failed to dislodge U.S. forces from their positions. After 36 hours of combat at the bridge at Najaf, the Iraqis were defeated, and the key bridge was secured, isolating Najaf from the north.

The 101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
The 101st Airborne Division—the "Screaming Eagles"—is a U.S. Army modular light infantry division trained for air assault operations. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France, Operation Market Garden, the...

 on March 29, supported by a battalion from the 1st Armored Division
1st Armored Division (United States)
The 1st Armored Division—nicknamed "Old Ironsides"—is a standing armored division of the United States Army with base of operations in Fort Bliss, Texas. It was the first armored division of the U.S...

 attacked Iraqi forces in the southern part of the city, near the Imam Ali Mosque
Imam Ali Mosque
The Imām ‘Alī Holy Shrine , also known as Masjid Ali or the Mosque of ‘Alī, located in Najaf, Iraq, is the third holiest site for some of the estimated 200 million followers of the Shia branch of Islam. ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib, the cousin of Muhammad, the fourth caliph , the first Imam is buried here...

 and captured Najaf's airfield. However, four Americans were killed by a suicide bomber. Then on March 31, the 101st launched an attack with a reconnaissance-in-force into Najaf and on April 1, elements of the 70th Armored Regiment
70th Armor Regiment (United States)
The 70th Armor is an armored regiment of the United States Army. The regiment exists only as separate battalions with no regimental headquarters. 2nd Battalion is part of the 1st Armored Division out of Fort Riley, Kansas...

 launched a "Thunder Run", an armored thrust through Najaf's city center and after several days of heavy fighting and with air support was able to defeat the Iraqi forces, slowly securing the city by April 4.

Basra

The Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr , is a port city in southern Iraq. It stands on the canalised Khawr az-Zubayr, part of the Khawr Abd Allah estuary which leads to the Persian Gulf. It is separated from the border of Kuwait by a small inlet...

 was the first British obstacle. A joint Polish-British-American force ran into unexpectedly stiff resistance, and it took several days to clear the Iraqi forces out. Farther north, the British 7 Armoured Brigade ("The Desert Rats"), fought their way into Iraq's second-largest city, Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

, on April 6, coming under constant attack by regulars and Fedayeen, while 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (the British Red Devils) cleared the 'old quarter' of the city that was inaccessible to vehicles. Entering Basra was achieved after two weeks of fierce fighting, which included the biggest tank battle by British forces since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 when the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards is a cavalry regiment of the British Army, and the senior Scottish regiment. It was formed on 2 July 1971 at Holyrood, Edinburgh, by the amalgamation of the 3rd Carabiniers The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) (SCOTS DG) is a cavalry regiment of...

 destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks on 27 March.

Elements of 1 (UK) Armoured Division began to advance north towards U.S. positions around Al Amarah
Amarah
Amarah , is a city in southeastern Iraq, located on a low ridge next to the Tigris River waterway south of Baghdad about 50 km from the border with Iran. It lies at the northern tip of the marshlands between the Tigris and Euphrates....

 on April 9. Pre-existing electrical and water shortages continued throughout the conflict and looting began as Iraqi forces collapsed. While Coalition forces began working with local Iraqi Police to enforce order, a joint team composed of Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

 and the Royal Logistics Corps of the British Army rapidly set up and repaired dockyard facilities to allow humanitarian aid to begin to arrive from ships arriving in the port city of Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr
Umm Qasr , is a port city in southern Iraq. It stands on the canalised Khawr az-Zubayr, part of the Khawr Abd Allah estuary which leads to the Persian Gulf. It is separated from the border of Kuwait by a small inlet...

.

After a rapid initial advance, the first major pause occurred near Karbala
Karbala
Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about southwest of Baghdad. Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 572,300 people ....

. There, U.S. Army elements met resistance from Iraqi troops defending cities and key bridges along the Euphrates River. These forces threatened to interdict supply routes as American forces moved north. Eventually, troops from the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S Army secured the cities of Najaf and Karbala to prevent any Iraqi counterattacks on the 3rd Infantry Division's lines of communication as the division pressed its advance toward Baghdad.

A total of 11 British soldiers were killed, while 395-515 Iraqi soldiers, irregulars, and Fedayeen were killed.

Battle of Karbala

The Karbala Gap was a 20-25-mile wide strip of land with the Euphrates River to the east and Lake Razazah to the west. This strip of land was recognized by Iraqi commanders as a key approach to Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, and was defended by some of the best units of the Iraqi Republican Guard
Iraqi Republican Guard
The Iraqi Republican Guard was a branch of the Iraqi military during the presidency of Saddam Hussein. It later became the Republican Guard Corps, and then the Republican Guard Forces Command with its expansion into two corps....

. The Iraqi high command had originally positioned two Republican Guard divisions blocking the Karbala Gap. Here these forces suffered heavy Coalition air attacks. However, the Coalition had since the beginning of March been conducting a strategic deception operation to convince the Iraqis that the U.S. 4th Infantry Division would be mounting a major assault into northern Iraq from Turkey.

This deception plan worked, and on April 2 Saddam's son Qusay Hussein
Qusay Hussein
Qusay Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti was the second son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He was appointed as his father's heir apparent in 2000.- Family :...

 declared that the American invasion from the south was a feint and ordered troops to be re-deployed from the Karbala front to the north of Baghdad. Lt. Gen. Raad al-Hamdani, who was in command of the Karbala region, protested this and argued that unless reinforcements were rushed to the Karbala gap immediately to prevent a breach, U.S. forces would reach Baghdad within 48 hours, but his suggestions fell on deaf ears. American troops rushed through the gap and reached the Euphrates River at the town of Musayib. At Musayib, U.S. troops crossed the Euphrates in boats and seized the vital al-Kaed bridge across the Euphrates after Iraqi demolitions teams had failed to destroy it in time.

The 10th Armored Brigade from the Medina Division and the 22nd Armored Brigade from the Nebuchadnezzar Division, supported by artillery, launched night attacks against the U.S. bridgehead at Musayib. The attack was repulsed using tank fire and massed artillery rockets, destroying or disabling every Iraqi tank in the assault. The next morning, Coalition aircraft and helicopters fired on the Republican Guard units, destroying many more vehicles as well as communications infrastructure. The Republican Guard units broke under the massed firepower and lost any sense of command and cohesion and the U.S. forces poured through gap on to Baghdad.

Special operations

The 2nd Battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

 of the U.S. 5th Special Forces Group, United States Army Special Forces
United States Army Special Forces
The United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with six primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, and...

 (Green Berets) conducted reconnaissance in the cities of Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

, Karbala
Karbala
Karbala is a city in Iraq, located about southwest of Baghdad. Karbala is the capital of Karbala Governorate, and has an estimated population of 572,300 people ....

 and various other locations.

In the North, the 10th Special Forces Group (10th SFG) and CIA paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 had the mission of aiding the Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is a Kurdish political party in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan was founded on June 1, 1975, by coordinations between Jalal Talabani and Nawshirwan Mustafa...

 and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, de facto rulers of Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraqi Kurdistan or Kurdistan Region is an autonomous region of Iraq. It borders Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and the rest of Iraq to the south. The regional capital is Arbil, known in Kurdish as Hewlêr...

 since 1991, and employing them against the 13 Iraqi Divisions located near Kirkuk and Mosul. Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 had officially prohibited any Coalition troops from using their bases or airspace, so lead elements of the 10th SFG had to make a detour infiltration; their flight was supposed to take four hours but instead took ten.

Hours after the first of such flights, Turkey did allow the use of its air space and the rest of the 10th SFG infiltrated in. The preliminary mission was to destroy the base of the Kurdish terrorist group Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam
Ansar al-Islam is a Sunni Islamist group of Iraqis, promoting a radical interpretation of Islam, close to the official Saudi ideology of Wahhabism with strict application of Sharia. The group was formed in the northern provinces of Iraq near the Iranian border, and previously had established...

, believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. Concurrent and follow-on missions involved attacking and fixing Iraqi forces in the north, thus preventing their deployment to the southern front and the main effort of the invasion.

On March 26, 2003, the 173rd Airborne Brigade augmented the invasion's northern front by parachuting into northern Iraq onto Bashur Airfield, controlled at the time by elements of 10th SFG and Kurdish peshmerga. The fall of Kirkuk on April 10, 2003 to the 10th SFG, CIA Paramilitary Teams and Kurdish peshmerga precipitated the 173rd's planned assault, preventing the unit's involvement in combat against Iraqi forces during the invasion.

The successful occupation of Kirkuk came as a result of approximately two weeks of fighting that included the Battle of the Green Line (the unofficial border of the Kurdish autonomous zone) and the subsequent Battle of Kani Domlan Ridge (the ridgeline running northwest to southeast of Kirkuk), the latter fought exclusively by 3rd Battalion, 10th SFG and Kurdish peshmerga against the Iraqi I Corps. The 173rd Brigade would eventually take responsibility for Kirkuk days later, becoming involved in the counterinsurgency fight and remain there until redeploying a year later.

Further reinforcing operations in Northern Iraq, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel. The MEU consists of four major parts: a command element,...

 (Special Operations Capable), serving as Landing Force Sixth Fleet, deployed in April to Erbil and subsequently Mosul via Marine KC-130 flights. The 26 MEU (SOC) maintained security of the Mosul airfield and surrounding area until relief by the 101st Airborne Division.

After Sargat was taken, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th SFG and CIA paramilitary officers along with their Kurdish allies pushed south towards Tikrit
Tikrit
Tikrit is a town in Iraq, located 140 km northwest of Baghdad on the Tigris river . The town, with an estimated population in 2002 of about 260,000 is the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate.-Ancient times:...

 and the surrounding towns of Northern Iraq. Previously, during the Battle of the Green Line, Bravo Company, 3/10 with their Kurdish allies pushed back, destroyed, or routed the 13th Iraqi Infantry Division. The same company took Tikrit. Iraq was the largest deployment of the U.S. Special Forces since Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

.

Fall of Baghdad (April 2003)

Three weeks into the invasion, US-led Coalition forces
Multinational force in Iraq
The Multi-National Force – Iraq was a military command, led by the United States, which was responsible for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Multi-National Force – Iraq replaced the previous force, Combined Joint Task Force 7, on 15 May 2004, and was later itself reorganized into its successor, United...

 moved into Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

. Units of the Iraqi Special Republican Guard led the defence of the city. The rest of the defenders were a mixture of Republican Guard units, regular army units, Fedayeen Saddam, and non-Iraqi Arab volunteers. Initial plans were for Coalition units to surround the city and gradually move in, forcing Iraqi armor and ground units to cluster into a central pocket in the city, and then attack with air and artillery forces.

This plan soon became unnecessary, as an initial engagement of armored units south of the city saw most of the Republican Guard's assets destroyed and routes in the southern outskirts of the city occupied. On April 5, Task Force 1-64 Armor of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division executed a raid, later called the "Thunder Run", to test remaining Iraqi defenses, with 29 tanks and 14 Bradley armored fighting vehicles advancing to the Baghdad airport. They met heavy resistance, but were successful in reaching the airport. U.S. troops faced heavy fighting in the airport, and were even temporarily pushed out, but eventually secured the airport.

The next day, another brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division attacked into downtown Baghdad and occupied one of the palaces of Saddam Hussein in fierce fighting. U.S. Marines also faced heavy shelling from Iraqi artillery as they attempted to cross a river bridge, but the river crossing was successful. The Iraqis managed to inflict some casualties on the U.S. forces near the airport from defensive positions but suffered severe casualties from air bombardment. Within hours of the palace seizure and with television coverage of this spreading through Iraq, U.S. forces ordered Iraqi forces within Baghdad to surrender, or the city would face a full-scale assault. Iraqi government officials had either disappeared or had conceded defeat, and on April 9, 2003, Baghdad was formally occupied by Coalition forces. Much of Baghdad remained unsecured however, and fighting continued within the city and its outskirts well into the period of occupation. Saddam had vanished, and his whereabouts were unknown.

On April 10, a rumor emerged that Saddam Hussein and his top aides were in a mosque complex in the Al Az'Amiyah District of Baghdad. Three companies of Marines were sent to capture him and came under heavy fire from rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and assault rifles. One Marine was killed and 20 were wounded, but neither Saddam or any of his top aides were found. U.S. forces supported by mortars, artillery, and aircraft continued to attack Iraqi forces still loyal to Saddam Hussein and non-Iraqi Arab volunteers. U.S. aircraft flying in support were met with Iraqi anti-aircraft fire. On April 12, by late afternoon, all fighting had ceased. A total of 34 American soldiers and 2,320 Iraqi fighters were killed.

Many Iraqis celebrated the downfall of Saddam by vandalizing the many portraits and statues of him together with other pieces of his cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

. One widely publicized event was the dramatic toppling of a large statue of Saddam in Baghdad's Firdos Square
Firdos Square
Firdaus Square, or Firdos Square , is a public open space in Baghdad, Iraq. It is named after the Arabic word Firdows, which literally means "paradise". It is the location of two of the best-known hotels, the Palestine Hotel and the Sheraton Ishtar, which are the two tallest buildings in Baghdad...

. This attracted considerable media coverage at the time. As the British Daily Mirror reported,
"For an oppressed people this final act in the fading daylight, the wrenching down of this ghastly symbol of the regime, is their Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 moment. Big Moustache has had his day."


As Staff Sergeant Brian Plesich reported in On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom,

"The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down. Since we were right there, we chimed in with some loudspeaker support to let the Iraqis know what it was we were attempting to do..."

"Somehow along the way, somebody had gotten the idea to put a bunch of Iraqi kids onto the wrecker that was to pull the statue down. While the wrecker was pulling the statue down, there were Iraqi children crawling all over it. Finally they brought the statue down"


The fall of Baghdad saw the outbreak of regional, sectarian violence throughout the country, as Iraqi tribes and cities began to fight each other over old grudges. The Iraqi cities of Al-Kut and Nasiriyah
Nasiriyah
Nasiriyah is a city in Iraq. It is on the Euphrates about 225 miles southeast of Baghdad, near the ruins of the ancient city of Ur. It is the capital of the province of Dhi Qar...

 launched attacks on each other immediately following the fall of Baghdad to establish dominance in the new country, and the U.S.-led Coalition quickly found themselves embroiled in a potential civil war. U.S.-led Coalition forces ordered the cities to cease hostilities immediately, explaining that Baghdad would remain the capital of the new Iraqi government. Nasiriyah responded favorably and quickly backed down; however, Al-Kut placed snipers on the main roadways into town, with orders that invading forces were not to enter the city. After several minor skirmishes, the snipers were removed, but tensions and violence between regional, city, tribal, and familial groups continued.

U.S. General Tommy Franks
Tommy Franks
Tommy Ray Franks is a retired general in the United States Army. His last Army post was as the Commander of the United States Central Command, overseeing United States Armed Forces operations in a 25-country region, including the Middle East...

 assumed control of Iraq as the supreme commander of the coalition occupation forces. Shortly after the sudden collapse of the defense of Baghdad, rumors were circulating in Iraq and elsewhere that there had been a deal struck (a "safqua") wherein the U.S.-led Coalition had bribed key members of the Iraqi military elite and/or the Ba'ath party itself to stand down. In May 2003, General Franks retired, and confirmed in an interview with Defense Week that the U.S.-led Coalition had paid Iraqi military leaders to defect. The extent of the defections and their effect on the war are unclear.

U.S.-led Coalition troops promptly began searching for the key members of Saddam Hussein's government. These individuals were identified by a variety of means, most famously through sets of most-wanted Iraqi playing cards
Most-wanted Iraqi playing cards
In the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition, the U.S. military developed a set of playing cards to help troops identify the most-wanted members of President Saddam Hussein's government, mostly high-ranking Baath Party members or members of the Revolutionary Command Council...

. Later during the military occupation
Military occupation
Military occupation occurs when the control and authority over a territory passes to a hostile army. The territory then becomes occupied territory.-Military occupation and the laws of war:...

 period after the invasion, on July 22, 2003 during a raid by the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 101st Airborne Division and men from Task Force 20
Task Force 20
Task Force 20 is a designation that has been used by at least two United States Department of Defense units.-United States Navy:Task Force 20 is one of the task force designators assigned to the United States Fleet Forces Command in the Atlantic, and was previously one of the task force designators...

, Saddam Hussein's sons Uday
Uday Hussein
Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti , was the eldest son of Saddam Hussein from his first wife, Sajida Talfah. He was the brother of Qusay Hussein. Uday was for several years seen as the heir apparent of his father; however, Uday lost his place in the line of succession due to his erratic behavior and...

 and Qusay
Qusay Hussein
Qusay Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti was the second son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He was appointed as his father's heir apparent in 2000.- Family :...

, and one of his grandsons were killed in a massive fire-fight. Saddam Hussein himself was captured on December 13, 2003 by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121
Task Force 121
Task Force 121 is an example of the United States' 'Joint Task Force' concept of conducting special operations. TF121 is a multi-service force commanded by U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Gregory L. Trebon. The spearhead of the force is a forty-man team made up of operators from the U.S. Army's...

 during Operation Red Dawn
Operation Red Dawn
Operation Red Dawn was the U.S. military operation conducted on 13 December 2003 in the town of ad-Dawr, Iraq, near Tikrit, that captured Iraq President Saddam Hussein, ending rumours of his death. The operation was named after the 1984 film Red Dawn. The mission was assigned to the 1st Brigade...

.

Other areas

In the north, Kurdish forces opposed to Saddam Hussein had already occupied for years an autonomous area in northern Iraq. With the assistance of U.S. Special Forces and air strikes, they were able to rout the Iraqi units near them and to occupy oil-rich Kirkuk
Kirkuk
Kirkuk is a city in Iraq and the capital of Kirkuk Governorate.It is located in the Iraqi governorate of Kirkuk, north of the capital, Baghdad...

 on April 10.

U.S. special forces had also been involved in the extreme south of Iraq, attempting to occupy key roads to Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and airbases. In one case two armored platoons were used to convince Iraqi leadership that an entire armored battalion was entrenched in the west of Iraq.

On April 15, U.S. forces took control of Tikrit
Tikrit
Tikrit is a town in Iraq, located 140 km northwest of Baghdad on the Tigris river . The town, with an estimated population in 2002 of about 260,000 is the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate.-Ancient times:...

, the last major outpost in central Iraq, with an attack led by the Marines' Task Force Tripoli
Task Force Tripoli
Task Force Tripoli was a United States Marine Corps air ground task force formed after the fall of Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. They were commanded by Brigadier General John F. Kelly, then Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Marine Division, and its mission was to continue the...

. About a week later the Marines were relieved in place by the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

Bush declares "End of major combat operations" (May 2003)

On May 1, 2003, Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)
USS Abraham Lincoln , is the fifth Nimitz-class supercarrier in the United States Navy. She is the second Navy ship named after former president Abraham Lincoln. Her home port is Everett, Washington.-Construction:...

, in a Lockheed
Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995. It is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington Metropolitan Area....

 S-3 Viking
S-3 Viking
The Lockheed S-3 Viking is a four-seat twin-engine jet aircraft that was used by the U.S. Navy to identify, track, and destroy enemy submarines. In the late 1990s, the S-3B's mission focus shifted to surface warfare and aerial refueling. The Viking also provided electronic warfare and surface...

, where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq war. Bush's landing was criticized by opponents as an unnecessarily theatrical and expensive stunt. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating "Mission Accomplished." The banner, made by White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 staff and supplied by request of the United States Navy, was criticized as premature. The White House subsequently released a statement that the sign and Bush's visit referred to the initial invasion of Iraq and disputing the charge of theatrics. The speech itself noted: "We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous." Post-invasion Iraq has been marked by a long and violent conflict between U.S.-led forces and Iraqi insurgents
Iraqi insurgency
The Iraqi Resistance is composed of a diverse mix of militias, foreign fighters, all-Iraqi units or mixtures opposing the United States-led multinational force in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government...

.

Coalition and Allied contingent involvement

Members of the Coalition included Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

: 2,000 invasion, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

: 200 invasion—2,500 peak, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

: 46,000 invasion, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

: 150,000 to 250,000 invasion. Other members of the coalition were Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Tonga, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Australia

Australia contributed approximately 2,000 Australian Defence Force
Australian Defence Force
The Australian Defence Force is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy , Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and a number of 'tri-service' units...

 personnel, including a special forces task group, three warships and 14 F/A-18 Hornet
F/A-18 Hornet
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets . Designed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter's YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and...

 aircraft.

Poland

The Battle of Umm Qasr
Battle of Umm Qasr
The Battle of Umm Qasr was the first military confrontation in the Iraq War. At the start of the war one of the first objectives was the port of Umm Qasr. On March 21, 2003, allied forces advanced across Southern Iraq and after an amphibious landing forces captured the new port area of Umm Qasr...

 was the first military confrontation in the Iraq War, with its objective the capture of the port.Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 GROM
GROM
GROM is one of five special forces units of the Polish Armed Forces. It was officially activated on July 8, 1990...

 troops supported the amphibious assault on Umm Qasrby with the British 3 Commando Brigade
3 Commando Brigade
3 Commando Brigade is a commando formation of the British Armed Forces and the main manoeuvre formation of the Royal Marines. Its personnel are predominantly Royal Marines, supported by units of Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, The Rifles, and the Fleet Air Arm, together with other Commando...

 of the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

, and the US 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is one of seven Marine Expeditionary Units currently in existence in the United States Marine Corps. The Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force with a strength of about 2,200 personnel...

. After the waterway was de-mined by a Detachment from HM-14
HM-14
Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron FOURTEEN is a United States Navy helicopter squadron based at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Nicknamed the "Vanguard" and flying the MH-53E Sea Dragon, it comprises both active duty and reserve personnel...

 and Naval Special Clearance Team ONE of the U.S. Navy and reopened, Umm Qasr played an important role in the shipment of humanitarian supplies to Iraqi civilians.

United Kingdom

British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 troops, in what was codenamed Operation (or Op) TELIC participated in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. The 1st Armoured Division was deployed to the Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 and commanded British forces in the area, securing areas in southern Iraq, including the city of Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

 during the invasion. A total of 46,000 troops of all the British services were committed to the operation at its start, including some 5,000 Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Royal Fleet Auxiliary
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the British Ministry of Defence. The RFA enables ships of the United Kingdom Royal Navy to maintain operations around the world. Its primary role is to supply the Royal Navy with fuel, ammunition and supplies, normally by replenishment...

 sailors and 4,000 Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

, 26,000 British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 soldiers, and 8,100 Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 airmen.

Summary of the invasion

The U.S.-led Coalition forces toppled the government and captured the key cities of a large nation in only 21 days. The invasion did require a large army build-up like the 1991 Gulf War, but many did not see combat and many were withdrawn after the invasion ended. This proved to be short-sighted, however, due to the requirement for a much larger force to combat the irregular Iraqi forces in the aftermath of the war. General Eric Shinseki
Eric Shinseki
Eric Ken Shinseki is a retired United States Army four-star general who is currently serving as the 7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. His final U.S. Army post was as the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army...

, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, recommended "several hundred thousand" troops be used to maintain post-war order, but then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Rumsfeld
Donald Henry Rumsfeld is an American politician and businessman. Rumsfeld served as the 13th Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford, and as the 21st Secretary of Defense from 2001 to 2006 under President George W. Bush. He is both the youngest and the oldest person to...

—and especially his deputy, civilian Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Dundes Wolfowitz is a former United States Ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, President of the World Bank, and former dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University...

—strongly disagreed. General Abizaid later said General Shinseki had been right.

The Iraqi army, armed mainly with Soviet-built equipment, was overall ill-equipped in comparison to the American and British forces. Attacks on U.S. supply routes
Main Supply Route
A Main Supply Route is the route or routes designated within an area of operations upon which the bulk of traffic flows in support of military operations....

 by Fedayeen militiamen were repulsed. The Iraqis' artillery proved largely ineffective, and they were unable to mobilize their air force to attempt a defense. The Iraqi T-72
T-72
The T-72 is a Soviet-designed main battle tank that entered production in 1970. It is developed directly from Obyekt-172, and shares parallel features with the T-64A...

 tanks, the most powerful armored vehicles in the Iraqi army, were both outdated and ill-maintained, and when they were mobilized they were rapidly destroyed, thanks in part to the Coalition air supremacy
Air supremacy
Air supremacy is the complete dominance of the air power of one side's air forces over the other side's, during a military campaign. It is the most favorable state of control of the air...

. The U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Naval Aviation, and British Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 operated with impunity throughout the country, pinpointing heavily defended resistance targets and destroying them before ground troops arrived. The main battle tank
Main battle tank
A main battle tank , also known as a battle tank or universal tank, is a tank that fills the heavy direct fire role of many modern armies. They were originally conceived to replace the light, medium, heavy and super-heavy tanks. Development was spurred onwards in the Cold War with the development...

s of the U.S. and UK forces, the U.S. M1 Abrams
M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. It is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. The M1 is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for...

 and British Challenger 2, proved worthy in the rapid advance across the country. With the large number of RPG
Rocket propelled grenade
A rocket-propelled grenade is a shoulder-fired, anti-tank weapon system which fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor and stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable while others are single-use. RPGs, with the exception of...

 attacks by irregular Iraqi forces, few U.S. and UK tanks were lost and no tank crew were killed by hostile fire. The only tank loss sustained by the British Army was a Challenger 2 of the Queen's Royal Lancers that was hit by another Challenger 2, killing two crew members.

The Iraqi army suffered from poor morale
Morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

, even amongst the elite Republican Guard. Entire units disbanded into the crowds upon the approach of invading troops, or actually sought out U.S. and UK forces out to surrender. Many Iraqi commanding officers were bribed by the CIA or coerced into surrendering. Worse, the Iraqi army had incompetent leadership – reports state that Qusay Hussein
Qusay Hussein
Qusay Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti was the second son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He was appointed as his father's heir apparent in 2000.- Family :...

, charged with the defense of Baghdad, dramatically shifted the positions of the two main divisions protecting Baghdad several times in the days before the arrival of U.S. forces, and as a result the units within were both confused and further demoralized when U.S. forces attacked. The invasion force did not see the entire Iraqi military thrown against it; U.S. and UK units had orders to move to and seize objective target-points rather than seek engagements with Iraqi units. This resulted in most regular Iraqi military units emerging from the war fully intact and without ever having been engaged by U.S. forces, especially in southern Iraq. It is assumed that most units disintegrated to return to their homes.

According to the declassified Pentagon
The Pentagon
The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia. As a symbol of the U.S. military, "the Pentagon" is often used metonymically to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.Designed by the American architect...

 report, "The largest contributing factor to the complete defeat of Iraq's military forces was the continued interference by Saddam." The report, designed to help U.S. officials understand in hindsight how Saddam and his military commanders prepared for and fought the invasion, paints a picture of an Iraqi government blind to the threat it faced, hampered by Saddam's inept military leadership and deceived by its own propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 and inability to believe the United States would invade a sovereign country without provocation. According to the BBC, the report portrays Saddam Hussein as "chronically out of touch with reality - preoccupied with the prevention of domestic unrest and with the threat posed by Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

."

Death toll

While estimates on the number of casualties during the invasion in Iraq vary widely, the majority of deaths and injuries have occurred after U.S. President Bush declared the end of "major combat operations" on May 1, 2003. According to CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

, the U.S. government reported that 139 U.S. military personnel were killed before May 1, 2003, while over 4,000 have been killed since 2003. Estimates on civilian casualties are more variable than those for military personnel. According to Iraq Body Count, a group that relies on press reports, NGO-based reports and official figures to measure civilian casualties, approximately 7,500 civilians were killed during the invasion phase, while more than 60,000 civilians have been killed as of April 2007. At the other end of the scale, the Lancet Survey estimated 654,965 "excess deaths" to June 2006; and the Opinion Research Business Survey estimated 1,033,000 "deaths as a result of the conflict", to April 2009.

War crimes and allegations

Fedayeen Saddam militia, Republican Guard and Iraqi security forces were reported to have executed Iraqi soldiers who tried to surrender on multiple occasions, as well as threatening the families of those who refused to fight. One such incident was directly observed during the Battle of Debecka Pass
Battle of Debecka Pass
The Battle of Debecka Pass, sometimes known as the Battle of Debecka Ridge or Debecka Crossroads, or otherwise referred to as the Alamo of the Iraq War , was a successful operation launched by U.S. Special Forces to secure a major crossroads near the village of Debecka , between Mosul and Kirkuk...

.

Many incidents of Fedayeen fighters using human shield
Human shield
Human shield is a military and political term describing the deliberate placement of civilians in or around combat targets to deter an enemy from attacking those targets. It may also refer to the use of civilians to literally shield combatants during attacks, by forcing the civilians to march in...

s were reported from various towns in Iraq. Iraqi Republican Guard units were also reported to be using human shields. Some reports indicate that the Fedayeen used ambulances to deliver messages and transport fighters into combat. On March 31, Fedayeen in a Red Crescent-marked ambulance attacked American soldiers outside of Nasiriyah, wounding three. During the Battle of Basra
Battle of Basra (2003)
The Battle of Basra was one of the first battles of the invasion of Iraq. The British 7 Armoured Brigade fought their way into Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, on 6 April coming under constant attack by regulars and Fedayeen. While elements of the Parachute Regiment cleared the 'old quarter' of...

, British forces of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
It all began in 1725 when General Wade, as leader of the King's Army in Scotland, and involved in his great project of building the military roads there, set up six companies of the Highland "Watch". These were formed to stop fighting among the clans; controlling the roads was an important part of...

 reported that on March 28, Fedayeen forces opened fire on thousands of civilian refugees fleeing the city.

After the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company
507th Maintenance Company
The 507th Maintenance Company was a unit of the U.S. Army which provided maintenance support to 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery , based at Fort Bliss, Texas...

 during the Battle of Nasiriyah
Battle of Nasiriyah
The Battle of Nasiriyah was one of the first major battles of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Heavy fighting took place in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah between Iraqi forces and U.S. Marines over control of key bridges over the Euphrates River and the Saddam Canal.The battle began early on 23...

 on March 23, the bodies of several U.S. soldiers who had been killed in the ambush were shown on Iraqi television. Some of these soldiers had visible gunshot wounds to head, leading to speculation that they had been executed. Except for Sgt. Donald Walters
Donald Walters
Donald Ralph Walters was a United States Army Quartermaster Corps Sergeant, officially listed as killed in action in southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003 in the same ambush in which Jessica Lynch was captured...

, no evidence has since surfaced to support this scenario and it is generally accepted that the soldiers were killed in action. Five live prisoners of war were also interviewed on the air, a violation of the Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

. Sergean Walters was initially reported to have been killed in the ambush after killing several Fedayeen before running out of ammunition. However, an eyewitness later reported that he had seen Walters being guarded by several Fedayeen in front of a building. Forensics work later found Walters' blood in front of the building and blood spatter suggesting he died from two gunshot wounds to the back at close range. This led the Army to conclude that Walters had been executed after being captured, and he was posthumously awarded the Prisoner of War Medal
Prisoner of War Medal
The Prisoner of War Medal is a military award of the United States armed forces which was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on 8 November 1985...

 in 2004. It was alleged in the authorized biography of Pfc. Jessica Lynch
Jessica Lynch
Jessica Dawn Lynch is a former Private First Class in the United States Army Quartermaster Corps. Lynch served in Iraq during the 2003 invasion by U.S. and allied forces. On March 23, 2003 she was injured and captured by Iraqi forces but was recovered on April 1 by U.S...

 that she was raped by her captors after her capture, based on medical reports and the pattern of her injuries, though this is not supported by Ms Lynch. Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief
Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief
Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief is an Iraqi attorney who helped the United States armed forces rescue prisoner of war Jessica Lynch from a hospital in Nasiriyah. As reward for his assistance, the U.S. government granted him humanitarian asylum on April 28, 2003...

, who later helped American forces rescue Lynch, stated that he saw an Iraqi Colonel slap Lynch while she was in her hospital bed. The staff at the hospital where Lynch was held later denied both stories, saying that Lynch was well cared for. While Lynch suffers from amnesia
Amnesia
Amnesia is a condition in which one's memory is lost. The causes of amnesia have traditionally been divided into categories. Memory appears to be stored in several parts of the limbic system of the brain, and any condition that interferes with the function of this system can cause amnesia...

 due to her injuries, Lynch herself has denied any mistreatment whilst in captivity.

Also on March 23, a British Army engineering unit made a wrong turn near the town of Az Zubayr
Az Zubayr
Az Zubayr is a town in Basra Governorate in Iraq. It has a population of around 90,000.The name is also sometimes written Az Zubair, Zubair, Zoubair, El Zubair, or Zobier.-Early history:...

, which was still held by Iraqi forces. The unit was ambushed and Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth became separated from the rest. Both were captured and executed by Iraqi irregular forces. In 2006, a video of Allsopp lying on the ground surrounded by Iraqi irregular forces was discovered.

During the Battle of Nasiriyah, there was an incident where Iraqi irregulars feigned surrender to approach an American Marine unit securing a bridge. After getting close to the Marines, the Iraqis suddenly opened fire, killing 10 Marines and wounding 40. In response, American forces reinforced security procedures for dealing with prisoners of war.

Marine Sergeant Fernando Padilla-Ramirez was reported missing from his supply unit after an ambush north of Nasiriyah on March 28. His body was later dragged through the streets of Ash-Shatrah
Ash-Shatrah
Ash Shatrah is a town in the Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq, located on the Gharraf Canal at the intersection with Highway 7. It is 22.35 km west of the ancient city of Lagash. It has a 2009 population estimated between 65 and 90 thousand.-History:...

 and hung in the town square, and later taken down and buried by sympathetic locals. The corpse was discovered by U.S. forces on April 10.

Security, looting and war damage

Massive looting
Looting
Looting —also referred to as sacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging—is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as during war, natural disaster, or rioting...

 took place in the days following the 2003 invasion. According to U.S. officials, the "reality of the situation on the ground" was that hospitals, water plants, and ministries with vital intelligence needed security more than other sites. There were only enough U.S. troops on the ground to guard a certain number of the many sites that ideally needed protection, and so, apparently, some "hard choices" were made.

It was reported that the National Museum of Iraq
National Museum of Iraq
The National Museum of Iraq is a museum located in Baghdad, Iraq. It contains precious relics from Mesopotamian civilization.-Foundation:...

 was among the looted sites. The FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 was soon called into Iraq to track down the stolen items. It was found that the initial allegations of looting of substantial portions of the collection were heavily exaggerated. Initial reports asserted a near-total looting of the museum, estimated at upwards of 170,000 inventory lots, or about 501,000 pieces. The more recent estimate places the number of stolen pieces at around 15,000, and about 10,000 of them probably were taken in an "inside job" before U.S. troops arrived, according to Bogdanos. Over 5,000 looted items have since been recovered. An assertion that U.S. forces did not guard the museum because they were guarding the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Interior is disputed by investigator Colonel Matthew Bogdanos
Matthew Bogdanos
*Thieves of Baghdad is his first-hand account of his journey to recover Iraq’s lost treasures. His royalties from the sale of the book go to the Iraq Museum.-Awards:...

 in his 2005 book Thieves of Baghdad. Bogdanos notes that the Ministry of Oil building was bombed, but the museum complex, which took some fire, was not bombed. He also writes that Saddam Hussein's troops set up sniper's nests inside and on top of the museum, and nevertheless U.S. Marines and soldiers stayed close enough to prevent wholesale looting.

More serious for the post-war state of Iraq was the looting of cached weaponry and ordnance which fueled the subsequent insurgency. As many as 250,000 tons of explosives were unaccounted for by October 2004. Disputes within the US Defense Department led to delays in the post-invasion assessment and protection of Iraqi nuclear facilities. Tuwaitha
Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility
The Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility adjacent to the Tuwaitha "Yellow Cake Factory" contains the remains of nuclear reactors bombed by Israel in 1981 and the United States in 1991. It was used as a storage facility for spent reactor fuel and industrial and medical wastes. The radioactive material...

, the Iraqi site most scrutinized by UN inspectors since 1991, was left unguarded and was looted.

Zainab Bahrani
Zainab Bahrani
Zainab Bahrani is an Iraqi professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology at Columbia University.-Career:A native of Baghdad, Iraq, she was educated in Europe and the United States. She received her Master of Arts and doctoral degrees Zainab Bahrani (born 1962) is an Iraqi professor of...

, professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, reported that a helicopter landing pad was constructed in the heart of the ancient city of Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, and "removed layers of archeological earth from the site. The daily flights of the helicopters rattle the ancient walls and the winds created by their rotors blast sand against the fragile bricks. When my colleague at the site, Maryam Moussa, and I asked military personnel in charge that the helipad be shut down, the response was that it had to remain open for security reasons, for the safety of the troops." Bahrani also reported that in the summer of 2004, "the wall of the Temple of Nabu and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah, both sixth century BC, collapsed as a result of the movement of helicopters." Electrical power is scarce in post-war Iraq, Bahrani reported, and some fragile artifacts, including the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Archive, would not survive the loss of refrigeration.

U.S. media coverage

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was the most widely and closely reported war in military history. Television network coverage was largely pro-war and viewers were six times more likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war. The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

ran a number of articles describing Saddam Hussein's attempts to build weapons of mass destruction. The September 8, 2002 article titled "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts" would be discredited, leading The New York Times to issue a public statement admitting it was not as rigorous as it should have been.

At the start of the war in March 2003, as many as 775 reporters and photographers were traveling as embedded journalists. These reporters signed contracts with the military that limited what they were allowed to report on. When asked why the military decided to embed journalists with the troops, Lt. Col. Rick Long of the U.S. Marine Corps replied, “Frankly, our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare
Information warfare
The term Information Warfare is primarily an American concept involving the use and management of information technology in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent...

. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment.”

In 2003, a study released by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting is a progressive media criticism organization based in New York City, founded in 1986.FAIR describes itself on its website as "the national media watch group" and defines its mission as working to "invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity...

 stated the network news disproportionately focused on pro-war sources and left out many anti-war
Anti-war
An anti-war movement is a social movement, usually in opposition to a particular nation's decision to start or carry on an armed conflict, unconditional of a maybe-existing just cause. The term can also refer to pacifism, which is the opposition to all use of military force during conflicts. Many...

 sources. According to the study, 64% of total sources were in favor of the Iraq War while total anti-war sources made up 10% of the media (only 3% of US sources were anti-war). The study stated that "viewers were more than six times as likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war; with U.S. guests alone, the ratio increases to 25 to 1."

A September 2003 poll revealed that seventy percent of Americans believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9/11. 80% of Fox News viewers were found to hold at least one such belief about the invasion, compared to 23% of PBS
Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

 viewers. Ted Turner
Ted Turner
Robert Edward "Ted" Turner III is an American media mogul and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the cable news network CNN, the first dedicated 24-hour cable news channel. In addition, he founded WTBS, which pioneered the superstation concept in cable television...

, founder of CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

, charged that Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC, KSG is an Australian-American business magnate. He is the founder and Chairman and CEO of , the world's second-largest media conglomerate....

 was using Fox News to advocate an invasion. Critics have argued that this statistic is indicative of misleading coverage by the U.S. media since viewers in other countries were less likely to have these beliefs. A post-2008 election poll by FactCheck.org found that 48% of Americans believe Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks, the group concluded that "voters, once deceived, tend to stay that way despite all evidence."

Independent media coverage

Independent media
Independent media
Independent media refers to any form of media, such as radio, television, newspapers or the Internet, that is free of influence by government or corporate interests. The term has varied applications...

 also played a prominent role in covering the invasion. The Indymedia network, among many other independent networks including many journalists from the invading countries, provided reports in a way difficult to control by any government, corporation or political party. In the United States Democracy Now, hosted by Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is an American progressive broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter and author. Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, an independent global news program broadcast daily on radio, television and the internet.-Early life:Goodman was born in Bay Shore, New York...

 has been critical of the reasons for the 2003 invasion and the alleged crimes committed by the U.S. authorities in Iraq.

On the other side, among media not opposing to the invasion, The Economist
The Economist
The Economist is an English-language weekly news and international affairs publication owned by The Economist Newspaper Ltd. and edited in offices in the City of Westminster, London, England. Continuous publication began under founder James Wilson in September 1843...

stated in an article on the matter that "the normal diplomatic tools—sanctions, persuasion, pressure, UN resolutions—have all been tried, during 12 deadly but failed years" then giving a mild conditional support to the war stating that "if Mr Hussein refuses to disarm, it would be right to go to war".

Australian war artist
War artist
A war artist depicts some aspect of war through art; this might be a pictorial record or it might commemorate how "war shapes lives." War artists have explored a visual and sensory dimension of war which is often absent in written histories or other accounts of warfare.- Definition and context:A...

 George Gittoes
George Gittoes
- Subject matter :With global vision, George Gittoes has set up mobile studios for three decades, creating works in regions of conflict and upheaval around the world...

 collected independent interviews with soldiers while producing his documentary Soundtrack To War
Soundtrack to War
Soundtrack to War is a 90 minute documentary by Australian war artist George Gittoes. Filmed throughout 2003-2004, Gittoes bypassed the U.S. military's media lockdown on the war in Iraq to capture an authentic account of the human experience of the war. Gittoes interviewed American soldiers...

. The war in Iraq provided the first time in history that military on the front lines were able to provide direct, uncensored reportage themselves, thanks to blog
Blog
A blog is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in...

ging software and the reach of the internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

. Dozens of such reporting sites, known as soldier blogs
Warblog
A warblog or milblog is a weblog devoted mostly or wholly to covering news events concerning an ongoing war. Sometimes the use of the term "warblog" implies that the blog concerned has a pro-war slant. The use of the term "milblog" implies that the author is with the military.-Description and...

 or milblogs, were started during the war. These blogs were more often than not largely pro-war and stated various reasons why the soldiers and Marines felt they were doing the right thing.

International media coverage

International coverage of the war differed from coverage in the U.S. in a number of ways.
The Arab-language news channel Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 and the German satellite channel Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle or DW, is Germany's international broadcaster. The service is aimed at the overseas market. It broadcasts news and information on shortwave, Internet and satellite radio on 98.7 DZFE in 30 languages . It has a satellite television service , that is available in four languages, and...

 featured almost twice as much information on the political background of the war. Al Jazeera also showed scenes of civilian casualties which were rarely seen in the U.S. media.

Criticism

Opponents of military intervention in Iraq have attacked the decision to invade Iraq along a number of lines, including calling into question the evidence used to justify the war, arguing for continued diplomacy, challenging the war’s legality, suggesting that the U.S. had other more pressing security priorities, (i.e. Afghanistan and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

) and predicting that the war would destabilize the Middle East region. The breadth and depth of the criticism was particularly notable in comparison with the first Gulf War, which met with considerably less domestic and international opposition, although the geopolitical situation had evolved since the last decade.

Rationale based on faulty evidence

The central U.S. justification for launching the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein's alleged development of nuclear and biological weapons and purported ties to al-Qaeda made his regime a "grave and growing" threat to the United States and the world community. During the lead-up to the war and the aftermath of the invasion, critics cast doubt on the evidence supporting this rationale. Concerning Iraq’s weapons programs, prominent critics included Scott Ritter
Scott Ritter
William Scott Ritter, Jr. was an important United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, and later a critic of United States foreign policy in the Middle East. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Ritter stated that Iraq possessed no significant weapons of mass...

, a former U.N. weapons inspector who argued in 2002 that inspections had eliminated the nuclear and chemical weapons programs, and that evidence of their reconstitution would “have been eminently detectable by intelligence services ….” Although it is popularly believed that Saddam Hussein had forced the IAEA weapons inspectors to leave Iraq, they were in fact withdrawn at the request of US Ambassador Peter Burleigh in advance of Operation Desert Fox
Operation Desert Fox
The December 1998 bombing of Iraq was a major four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets from December 16–19, 1998 by the United States and United Kingdom...

, the 1998 American bombing campaign. After the build-up of U.S. troops in neighboring states, Hussein welcomed them back and promised complete cooperation with their demands. Experienced IAEA inspection teams were already back in Iraq and had made some interim reports on its search for various forms of WMD. Joseph C. Wilson
Joseph C. Wilson
Joseph Charles Wilson IV is a former United States diplomat best known for his 2002 trip to Niger to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium; his New York Times op-ed piece, "What I Didn't Find in Africa"; and the subsequent "outing" of his wife...

, an American diplomat investigated the contention that Iraq had sought uranium for nuclear weapons in Niger and reported that the contention had no substance.

Similarly, alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda were called into question during the lead up to the war, and were discredited by an October 21, 2004 report from U.S. Senator Carl Levin
Carl Levin
Carl Milton Levin is a Jewish-American United States Senator from Michigan, serving since 1979. He is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He is a member of the Democratic Party....

, which was later corroborated by an April 2006 report from the Defense Department’s inspector general. These reports further alleged that Bush Administration officials, particularly former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith, manipulated evidence to support links between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Lack of a U.N. mandate

One of the main questions in the lead-up to the war was whether the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 would authorize military intervention in Iraq. When it became increasingly clear that U.N. authorization would require significant further weapons inspections, and that the U.S. and the UK planned to invade Iraq regardless, many criticized their effort as unwise, immoral, and illegal. Robin Cook
Robin Cook
Robert Finlayson Cook was a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament for Livingston from 1983 until his death, and notably served in the Cabinet as Foreign Secretary from 1997 to 2001....

, then the leader of the United Kingdom House of Commons and a former foreign secretary, resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet in protest over the UK’s decision to invade without the authorization of a U.N. resolution. Cook said at the time that: "In principle I believe it is wrong to embark on military action without broad international support. In practice I believe it is against Britain's interests to create a precedent for unilateral military action.”
In addition, senior government legal advisor Elizabeth Wilmshurst
Elizabeth Wilmshurst
Elizabeth Wilmshurst CMG, fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House and Professor of International Law at University College London, is best known for her role as Deputy Legal Adviser at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom on the eve of the...

 resigned, stating her legal opinion that an invasion would be illegal.

United Nations Secretary-General
United Nations Secretary-General
The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the Secretariat of the United Nations, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General also acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations....

 Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

 said in an interview with the BBC in September 2004, "[F]rom our point of view and from the Charter point of view [the war] was illegal." This drew immediate criticism from the United States and was immediately played down." His annual report to the General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

 for 2003 included no more than the statement: "Following the end of major hostilities which resulted in the occupation of Iraq..." A similar report from the Security Council was similarly terse in its reference to the event: "Following the cessation of hostilities in Iraq in April 2003..." However, some argue that Kofi Annan was simply picking sides and playing politics. The United Nations Security Council has passed nearly 60 resolutions on Iraq and Kuwait since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The most relevant to this issue is Resolution 678
United Nations Security Council Resolution 678
United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, adopted on November 29, 1990, after reaffirming resolutions 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674 and 677 , the Council noted that despite all the United Nations efforts, Iraq continued to defy the Security Council.-Details:The Council,...

, passed on November 29, 1990. It authorizes "member states co-operating with the Government of Kuwait...to use all necessary means" to (1) implement Security Council Resolution 660
United Nations Security Council Resolution 660
United Nations Security Council Resolution 660, adopted on August 2, 1990, after noting its alarm of the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the Council condemned the invasion and demanded Iraq withdraw immediately and unconditionally to positions as they were on August 1, 1990.Yemen called upon Iraq and...

 and other resolutions calling for the end of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwaiti territory and (2) "restore international peace and security in the area." However, the phrase "restore international peace and security in the area" was widely understood to refer to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and was not a blank check for future military aggression against Iraq.

Military intervention vs diplomatic solution

Criticisms about the evidence used to justify the war notwithstanding, many opponents of military intervention objected, saying that a diplomatic solution would be preferable, and that war should be reserved as a truly last resort. This position was exemplified by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin
Dominique de Villepin
Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin is a French politician who served as the Prime Minister of France from 31 May 2005 to 17 May 2007....

, who responded to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's
Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military...

 February 5, 2003 presentation to the U.N Security Council by saying that: "Given the choice between military intervention and an inspections regime that is inadequate because of a failure to cooperate on Iraq's part, we must choose the decisive reinforcement of the means of inspections."

The direct opposition between diplomatic solution and military intervention involving France and the United States which was impersonated by Chirac versus Bush and later Powell versus de Villepin, became a milestone in the Franco-American relations
Franco-American relations
Franco-American relations refers to the international relations between France and the United States. Its groundwork was laid by the colonization of parts of the Americas by the European powers France and Great Britain...

. Anti-French propangada
Francophobia
Francophobia or Gallophobia are terms that refer to a dislike or hatred toward France, the People of France, the Government of France, or the Francophonie...

 exploiting the classic Francophobic clichés immediately ensued in the United States
Anti-French sentiment in the United States
Anti-French sentiment in the United States is the manifestation of Francophobia by Americans. It signifies a consistent hostility toward the government, culture, and people of France that employs stereotypes.-Understanding anti-French sentiments:...

 and the United Kingdom. A call for a boycott on French wine was launched in the United States and the New York Post
New York Post
The New York Post is the 13th-oldest newspaper published in the United States and is generally acknowledged as the oldest to have been published continuously as a daily, although – as is the case with most other papers – its publication has been periodically interrupted by labor actions...

covered on the 1944 "Sacrifice" of the GIs France would had forgotten. It was followed a week later, on February 20, by the British newspaper The Sun
The Sun (newspaper)
The Sun is a daily national tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and owned by News Corporation. Sister editions are published in Glasgow and Dublin...

publishing a special issue entitled "Chirac is a worm" and including ad hominem
Ad hominem
An ad hominem , short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it...

attacks such as "Jacques Chirac has become the shame of Europe". Actually both newspapers expressed the opinion of their owner, U.S. billionaire Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC, KSG is an Australian-American business magnate. He is the founder and Chairman and CEO of , the world's second-largest media conglomerate....

, a military intervention supporter and a George W. Bush partisan as argued by Roy Greenslade
Roy Greenslade
Roy Greenslade is Professor of Journalism at City University London and has been a media commentator since 1992, most notably for The Guardian....

 in The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

published on February 17.

Distraction from the war on terrorism and other priorities

Both supporters and opponents of the Iraq War widely viewed it within the context of a post–September 11
September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...

 world, where the U.S. has sought to make terrorism the defining international security paradigm. Bush often describes the Iraq War as a “central front in the war on terror
War on Terror
The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

”. Some critics of the war, particularly within the U.S. military community, argued pointedly against the conflation of Iraq and the war on terror, and criticized Bush for losing focus on the more important objective of fighting al-Qaeda. As Marine Lieut. General Greg Newbold, the Pentagon's former top operations officer, wrote in a 2006 TIME
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

article, “I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat—al-Qaeda.”

Critics within this vein have further argued that containment would have been an effective strategy for the Hussein government, and that the top U.S. priorities in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 should be encouraging a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is also used in reference to the earlier phases of the same conflict, between Jewish and Zionist yishuv and the Arab population living in Palestine under Ottoman or...

, working for the moderation of Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, and solidifying gains made in Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

 and Central Asia. In an October 2002 speech, Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni
Anthony Zinni
Anthony Charles Zinni is a retired four-star General in the United States Marine Corps and a former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command...

, former head of Central Command
United States Central Command
The United States Central Command is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command unit of the U.S. armed forces, established in 1983 under the operational control of the U.S. Secretary of Defense...

 for U.S. forces in the Middle East and State Department's envoy to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, called Iraq “maybe six or seven,” in terms of U.S. Middle East priorities, adding that “the affordability line may be drawn around five.” However, while commander of CENTCOM, Zinni held a very different opinion concerning the threat posed by Iraq. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2000, Zinni said: “Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf region. This is primarily due to its large conventional military force, pursuit of WMD, oppressive treatment of Iraqi citizens, refusal to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR), persistent threats to enforcement of the No Fly Zones (NFZ), and continued efforts to violate UN Security Council sanctions through oil smuggling.” However, it is important to note that Zinni specifically referred to "the Persian Gulf region" in his Senate testimony, which is a significantly smaller region of the world than the "Middle East", which he referred to in 2007.

Potential to destabilize the region

Besides arguing that Iraq was not the top strategic priority in the war on terrorism or in the Middle East, critics of the war also suggested that it could potentially destabilize the surrounding region. Prominent among such critics was Brent Scowcroft
Brent Scowcroft
Brent Scowcroft, KBE was the United States National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush and a Lieutenant General in the United States Air Force. He also served as Military Assistant to President Richard Nixon and as Deputy Assistant to the President for National...

, who served as National Security Advisor
National Security Advisor (United States)
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor , serves as the chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues...

 to George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

. In an August 15, 2002 Wall Street Journal editorial entitled "Don't attack Saddam
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

," Scowcroft wrote that, “Possibly the most dire consequences would be the effect in the region... there would be an explosion of outrage against us... the results could well destabilize Arab regimes”, and, “could even swell the ranks of the terrorists.”

Related phrases

This campaign featured a variety of new terminology, much of it initially coined by the U.S. government or military. The military official name for the invasion was Operation Iraqi Liberation (White House Press Release). However this was quickly changed to "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Also notable was the usage "death squad
Death squad
A death squad is an armed military, police, insurgent, or terrorist squad that conducts extrajudicial killings, assassinations, and forced disappearances of persons as part of a war, insurgency or terror campaign...

s" to refer to Fedayeen paramilitary forces. Members of the Saddam Hussein government were called by disparaging nickname
Nickname
A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

s – e.g., "Chemical Ali" (Ali Hassan al-Majid
Ali Hassan al-Majid
Ali Hassan Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti , , was a Ba'athist Iraqi Defense Minister, Interior Minister, military commander and chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service...

), "Baghdad Bob" or "Comical Ali" (Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf), and "Mrs. Anthrax" or "Chemical Sally" (Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash
Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash
Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash is an American-educated Iraqi scientist, dubbed Mrs. Anthrax and Chemical Sally. Ammash was number 53 on the Pentagon's list of the 55 most wanted, the five of hearts in the deck of Most wanted Iraqi playing cards, and the only woman to be featured.U.S. officials allege...

).

Terminology introduced or popularized during the war include:
  • "Axis of evil
    Axis of evil
    "Axis of evil" is a term initially used by the former United States President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002 and often repeated throughout his presidency, describing governments that he accused of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction...

    ", originally used by Bush during a State of the Union
    State Of The Union
    "State Of The Union" is the debut single from British singer-songwriter David Ford. It had previously been featured as a demo on his official website, before appearing as a track on a CD entitled "Apology Demos EP," only on sale at live shows....

     address on January 29, 2002 to describe the countries of Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
  • "Coalition of the willing
    Coalition of the willing
    The term coalition of the willing is a post-1990 political phrase used to collectively describe participants in military or military-humanitarian interventions for which the United Nations Security Council cannot agree to mount a full UN peacekeeping operation...

    ", a term that originated in the Clinton
    Bill Clinton
    William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

     era (e.g., interview, Clinton, ABC
    American Broadcasting Company
    The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

    , June 8, 1994), and used by the Bush Administration to describe the countries contributing troops in the invasion, of which the U.S. and UK were the primary members.
  • "Decapitating
    Decapitation
    Decapitation is the separation of the head from the body. Beheading typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation, e.g., as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished, for example, with an axe, sword, knife, wire, or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine...

     the regime", a euphemism for killing Saddam Hussein.
  • "Embedding
    Embedded journalist
    Embedded journalism refers to news reporters being attached to military units involved in armed conflicts. While the term could be applied to many historical interactions between journalists and military personnel, it first came to be used in the media coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq...

    ", United States practice of assigning civilian journalists to U.S. military units.
  • "Mother of all bombs", a bomb developed and produced to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Its name echoes Saddam's phrase "Mother of all battles" to describe the first Gulf War
    Gulf War
    The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

    .
  • "Old Europe
    Old Europe
    Old Europe is a term that was first used by then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in January 2003 to refer to European countries that did not support the 2003 invasion of Iraq, specifically France and Germany...

    ", Rumsfeld's term used to describe European governments not supporting the war: "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe."
  • "Regime change
    Regime change
    "Regime change" is the replacement of one regime with another. Use of the term dates to at least 1925.Regime change can occur through conquest by a foreign power, revolution, coup d'état or reconstruction following the failure of a state...

    ", a euphemism for overthrowing a government.
  • "Shock and Awe", the strategy of reducing an enemy's will to fight through displays of overwhelming force.


Many slogans and terms coined came to be used by Bush's political opponents, or those opposed to the war. For example, in April 2003 John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

, the Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 candidate in the presidential election, said at a campaign rally: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." Other war critics use the name "Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)" to subtly point out their opinion as to the cause of the war, such as the song "Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)" by David Rovics
David Rovics
David Rovics is an American indie singer/songwriter. His music concerns topical subjects such as the 2003 Iraq war, anti-globalization and social justice issues. Rovics has been an outspoken critic of former President George W...

, a popular folk protest singer.

See also

  • American popular opinion of invasion of Iraq
  • Australian contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq
    Australian contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq
    The Howard Government supported the disarmament of Iraq during the Iraq disarmament crisis. Australia later provided one of the four most substantial combat force contingents during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, under the operational codename Operation Falconer. Part of its contingent were among the...

  • Governments' pre-war positions on invasion of Iraq
  • Occupation of Iraq timeline
    Occupation of Iraq timeline
    The following is a timeline of major events during the Multinational Force's Occupation of Iraq, following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.-March:...

  • Reconstruction of Iraq
    Reconstruction of Iraq
    Investment in post-2003 Iraq refers to international efforts to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq since the Iraq War in 2003.Along with the economic reform of Iraq, international projects have been implemented to repair and upgrade Iraqi water and sewage treatment plants, electricity production,...

  • Views on the 2003 invasion of Iraq
    Views on the 2003 invasion of Iraq
    The events surrounding the 2003 invasion of Iraq have led to numerous expressions of opinion with respect to the war. This page contains links to several topics relating to views on the invasion, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq.American views...

  • Weapons of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq


Criticism:
  • Popular opposition to the 2003 Iraq War
  • Protests against the 2003 Iraq war


Intrigues:
  • Iraq disarmament crisis
    Iraq disarmament crisis
    The issue of Iraq's disarmament reached a crisis in 2002-2003, when U.S. President George W. Bush demanded a complete end to what he alleged was Iraqi production of weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq comply with UN Resolutions requiring UN weapons inspectors unfettered access to areas those...

  • The UN Security Council and the Iraq war
    The UN Security Council and the Iraq war
    In March 2003 the United States government announced that "diplomacy has failed" and that it would proceed with a "coalition of the willing" to rid Iraq under Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction the US insisted it possessed...

  • Legitimacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq
    Legitimacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq
    A dispute exists over the "legitimacy" of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The debate centers around the question whether the invasion was an unprovoked assault on an independent country that may have breached international law, or if the United Nations Security Council authorized the invasion A dispute...



Lists:

General:
  • Carter Doctrine
    Carter Doctrine
    The Carter Doctrine was a policy proclaimed by President of the United States Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980, which stated that the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf region...

  • Democracy in the Middle East
    Democracy in the Middle East
    According to the "Democracy Index" , the country in the Middle East with the highest Democracy Index score is Israel, with a score of 7.48, corresponding to the status of "flawed democracy"; the only one in the region.The next highest scores of countries of in the region are held by Lebanon and...

  • Foreign policy of the United States
  • Jus ad bellum
    Jus ad bellum
    Jus ad bellum is a set of criteria that are to be consulted before engaging in war, in order to determine whether entering into war is permissible; that is, whether it is a just war....

  • Petrodollar warfare
    Petrodollar warfare
    The phrase petrodollar warfare refers to a hypothesis that one of the unknown, driving forces of United States foreign policy over recent decades has been the status of the United States dollar as the world's dominant reserve currency and as the currency in which oil is priced. The term was coined...

  • United Nations Charter
    United Nations Charter
    The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization called the United Nations. It was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries...

  • War on Terrorism
    War on Terrorism
    The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...


Further reading

  • "The Three Trillion Dollar War
    The Three Trillion Dollar War
    The Three Trillion Dollar War is a 2008 book by Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes, both of whom are American economists.The book examines the full cost of the Iraq War, including many hidden costs...

    " by Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes
  • "Shadow Warriors" by Kenneth R. Timmerman. Three Rivers Press. 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-35209-5 (Paperback edition)
  • Spring 2007 Dissent
    Dissent (magazine)
    Dissent is a quarterly magazine focusing on politics and culture edited by Michael Walzer and Michael Kazin. The magazine is published for the Foundation for the Study of Independent Social Ideas, Inc by the University of Pennsylvania Press....

    , "Exporting Democracy: Lessons from Iraq," a symposium featuring Paul Berman
    Paul Berman
    Paul Berman is an American writer. His articles have been published in numerous periodicals, such as: The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review and Slate...

    , Mitchell Cohen, Seyla Benhabib
    Seyla Benhabib
    Seyla Benhabib is Eugene Mayer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University, and director of the program in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, and a well-known contemporary philosopher. She is the author of several books, most notably about the philosophers Hannah Arendt and...

     and others. Read
  • Google Print*Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces by Linda Robinson
  • Heavy Metal a Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad by Captain Jason Conroy and Ron Martz
  • Cobra II : The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
    Cobra II
    Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq is a 2006 book written by Michael R. Gordon, chief military correspondent for The New York Times, and Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, which details the behind-the-scenes decision-making leading to the...

    by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor
    Bernard E. Trainor
    Bernard E. Trainor is journalist and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general. He served in the Marine Corps for 39 years in both staff and command capacities. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he began working as the chief military correspondent for the New York Times. He is currently a...

  • Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy by Steven Metz
    Steven Metz
    Steven Kent Metz is an American author, Chairman of the Regional Strategy Department, and Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S...

    . ISBN 978-1-59797-196-6
  • The Iraq War by Williamson Murray and Robert H. Scales, Jr.
  • The Iraq War by John Keegan
    John Keegan
    Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

  • Hans Köchler
    Hans Köchler
    Hans Köchler is a professor of philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and president of the International Progress Organization, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations...

    , The Iraq Crisis and the United Nations. Power Politics vs. the International Rule of Law. Studies in International Relations, XXVIII. Vienna: I.P.O., 2004, ISBN 978-3-900704-22-3, Google Print
  • Bibliography: The Second U.S. - Iraq War (2003- ) by Edwin Moise

External links

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