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2003 invasion of Iraq

For other uses, see Iraq war (disambiguation)

The 2003 invasion of Iraq, also called simply the Iraq War or Operation: Iraqi Freedom, was a war that began March 20, 2003, fought between a group of troops consisting primarily of American and British, but also Polish, Australian and several other nations' forces, and Iraq.

2003 Invasion of Iraq

Map of Iraq

Date

02:30 UTC March 20, 2003–April 15, 2003

Location

Prelude

Targets

  • Alleged weapons of mass destruction.
  • Opponents of the Kurdish allies of the USA in the North.
  • Eliminate Human Rights abuses.
  • Deter terrorist support being gained from Iraq.

Results

The invasion began without the explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council, and most legal authorities take the view that the action violated the U.N. Charter. The Bush Administration has cited Security Council resolutions from early 1990s as legal justification, though there is no clear support in any of them for military action against Iraq.

After approximately three weeks of fighting, Iraq was occupied by coalition forces and the rule of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party came to an end. Subsequently, the period known as post-invasion Iraq began. Approximately 250,000 United States troops, with support from 45,000 British, and smaller forces from other nations, collectively called the "Coalition of the Willing", entered Iraq primarily through a staging area in Kuwait. Plans for opening a second front in the north were abandoned when Turkey officially refused the use of its territory for such purposes. Forces also supported Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 50,000.

Facing them was a large but poorly equipped military force. The regular Iraqi army was estimated at 280,000–350,000 troops, with four Republican Guard divisions with 50,000–80,000 troops, and the Fedayeen Saddam, a 20,000–40,000 strong militia, who used guerrilla tactics during the war. There were an estimated thirteen infantry divisions, ten mechanized and armored divisions, as well as some special forces units. The Iraqi Air Force and Navy played a negligible role in the conflict.

On 17 March 2003, in his Address to the Nation, U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his two sons Uday and Qusay leave Iraq, and gave them a 48-hour deadline; Iraqi President Saddam Hussein refused to leave.[1] The next day Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer announced that the U.S. would invade Iraq whether Saddam Hussein left or not, stating that "the bottom line is, a coalition of the willing will disarm Saddam Hussein's Iraq, no matter what." [2]

United States military operations were conducted first under the name Operation Infinite Justice, but was then changed to Operation Iraqi Freedom after protests from Muslim leaders. "The infinite is reserved for the divine", they claimed. United Kingdom military operations as Operation Telic, and Australian operations as Operation Falconer.

Table of contents

Prelude

Since the end of the Gulf War of 1991, relations between the UN, the US and the UK and Iraq remained poor. In the absence of a Security Council consensus that Iraq had fully complied with the terms of the Persian Gulf War ceasefire, both the UN and the US enforced numerous economic sanctions against Iraq throughout the Clinton administration, and patrolled Iraqi airspace to enforce U.N. approved Iraqi no-fly zones. The United States Congress also passed the "Iraq Liberation Act" in October 1998, which provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" in order to "remove the sovereign regime headed by Saddam Hussein and support a transition to democracy". This contrasted with the terms set out in U.N. Resolution 687 [3], all of which related to weapons and weapons programs, not to what regime was in place. Weapons inspectors had also been used to gather intelligence on Iraq's WMD program, information that was then used in targeting decisions during Operation Desert Fox [4], [5]. At the same time Tony Blair's Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, could not guarantee that an invasion in the circumstances would not be challenged on legal grounds[6].

The United States Republican Party's campaign platform in the U.S. presidential election, 2000 called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act and removal of Saddam Hussein with a focus on rebuilding a coalition, tougher sanctions, reinstating inspections, and support for the pro-democracy, opposition exile group, Iraqi National Congress.

In September 2000, in the Rebuilding America's Defenses (pg. 17) report, Project for the New American Century, a largely Republican think tank, advocated that the United States shift to more ground-based air forces to help contain the forces of Saddam Hussein so that "the demand for carrier presence in the region can be relaxed." Upon the election of George W. Bush as president, many concerned advocates of such a policy (including some of those who wrote the 2000 report) were included in the new administration's foreign policy circle. According to former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, an attack was planned since the inauguration, and the first security council meeting discussed plans on invasion of the country. One year later, on the day of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is reported to have written in his notes, "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]." Shortly thereafter, the George W. Bush administration announced a War on Terrorism, accompanied by the doctrine of 'preemptive' military action dubbed the Bush doctrine. At some point after September 11th, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States that Iraq was planning terrorist attacks in the US. Later, "the September 11 commission in June, 2004 released a staff report that said it found 'no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.'" [7]

In 2002 the Iraq disarmament crisis arose primarily as a diplomatic situation. In October 2002, with the "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq" (Adopted 296–133 by the House of Representatives and 77–23 by the Senate), the United States Congress granted President Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq. The Joint Resolution was worded so as to encourage, but not require, UN Security Council approval for military action, although as a matter of international law the US required explicit Security Council approval for an invasion unless an attack by Iraq had been imminent — the US administration argued that there was a "growing" or "gathering", rather than imminent, threat. The joint resolution allowed the President of the United States to, "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq".

In November 2002, United Nations actions regarding Iraq culminated in the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and the resumption of weapons inspections. However, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan later stated that the subsequent invasion was a violation of the UN Charter. Force was not authorized by resolution 1441 itself, as the language of the resolution mentioned "serious consequences", which is generally not understood by Security Council members to include the use of force to depose the government; however the threat of force, as cultivated by the Bush administration, was prominent at the time of the vote. Both the U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, and the UK ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, in promoting Resolution 1441 on 8 November, 2002, had given assurances that it provided no "automaticity," no "hidden triggers", no step to invasion without consultation of the Security Council; in the event such consultation was forestalled by the US and UK's abandonment of the Security Council procedure and their invasion of Iraq. Richard Perle, a senior member of the administration's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, has expressed an opinion in November, 2003, that the invasion was against international law, but argued that it was justified. There is still much disagreement among international lawyers on whether prior resolutions, relating to the 1991 war and later inspections, permitted the invasion.

The United States also began preparations for an invasion of Iraq, with a host of diplomatic, public relations, and military preparations.

Rationale

See The UN Security Council and the Iraq war and Public relations preparations for 2003 invasion of Iraq for more details

In the wake of the September 11th attacks and the relative success of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush administration felt that it had sufficient military justification and public support in the United States for further operations against perceived threats in the Middle East. The relations between some coalition members and Iraq had never improved since 1991, and the nations remained in a state of low-level conflict marked by American and British air-strikes, sanctions, and threats against Iraq. Iraqi radar had also locked onto coalition airplanes enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones, which had been implemented after the Gulf War in 1991.

Throughout 2002, the U.S. administration made it clear that removing Saddam Hussein from power was a major goal, although it offered to accept major changes in Iraqi military and foreign policy in lieu of this. Specifically, the stated justification for the invasion included Iraqi production and use of weapons of mass destruction, links with terrorist organizations and human rights violations in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein government, issues that are detailed below.

To that end, the stated goals of the invasion, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were to:

  • Self defence
    • find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, weapons programs, and terrorists
    • collect intelligence on networks of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists
  • Humanitarian
    • end sanctions and to deliver humanitarian support (According to Madeline Albright, half a million Iraqi children had died because of sanctions.)
  • UNSC Resolution
    • Resolution 1205, made in 1999.
  • Regime Change
    • end the Saddam Hussein government
    • help Iraq's transition to democratic self-rule
  • Other
    • secure Iraq's oil fields and resources

Many staff and supporters within the Bush administration had other, more ambitious goals for the war as well. Many propagated the claim that the war could act as a catalyst for democracy and peace in the Middle East, and that once Iraq became democratic and prosperous other nations would quickly follow suit, and thus the social environment that allowed terrorism to flourish would be eliminated. However, for diplomatic, bureaucratic reasons these goals were played down in favor of justifications that Iraq represented a specific threat to the United States and to international law. Little evidence was presented actually linking the government of Iraq to al-Qaeda (see below).

Opponents of the Iraq war disagreed with many of the arguments presented by the administration, attacking them variously as being untrue, inadequate to justify a pre-emptive war, or likely to have results different from the administration's intentions. Further, they asserted various alternate reasons for the invasion. Different groups asserted that the war was fought primarily

  • Energy economics
    • to gain control over Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market (since 2000, Iraq had used the Euro as its oil export currency)
    • to ensure the US had military control over the region's hydrocarbon reserves as a lever to control other countries that depend on it
    • to assure that the revenue from Iraqi oil would go primarily to American interests
    • to lower the price of oil for American consumers
  • Defense and construction special interests
    • to channel money to defense and construction interests
    • in pursuance of the PNAC's stated strategic goal of "unquestionable [American] geopolitical preeminence"
  • Public perception
    • to maintain the wartime popularity that the President enjoyed due to his response to the September 11 attacks (in contrast to his father whose wartime popularity faded when the electorate began to focus on the economy)

Weapons of Mass Destruction

See Iraq disarmament crisis for more details.

Computer-generated image of an alleged mobile production facility for chemical weapons, presented by Colin Powell at the UN Security Council. Absence of more substantial proofs undermined the credibility of the speech on the international scene. Russian experts questioned the likelihood of such mobile facilities, which are extremely dangerous and difficult to manage.

Ultimately, the Iraq war was presented as largely being a case of removing banned weapons from Iraq. Administration officials, especially with the United States Department of State led by Colin Powell were eager to make the cause for war as universally acceptable to as many nations as possible. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense stated in an interview on May 28, 2003 in Vanity Fair that 'For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction'.

Before the attack, the head UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, clearly stated that his teams had been unable to find any evidence of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons in Iraq, but that there were issues that had not yet been resolved. Retrospectively, some time after the attack, he doubts they existed [8], [9]. Former top American weapons inspector to Iraq, Scott Ritter, a long time advocate of more thorough weapons inspections previously and considered an anti-Iraq hardliner, said that he was now absolutely convinced Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction [10]. In fact, most of the international community, including the US/UK intelligence community, came to some form of this conclusion or at least were ambivalent. The Bush administration, though, said they had additional, secret intelligence they could not yet make public which proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Iraq had such weapons.

President Bush and members of his cabinet and staff relied heavily on intelligence reports of which the C.I.A.'s 2002 report [11] on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was one of the more prominent.

No weapons of mass destruction were found by the Iraq Survey Group, headed by inspector David Kay. Kay, who resigned as the Bush administration's top weapons inspector in Iraq, said U.S. intelligence services owed President Bush an explanation for having concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. [12] However, the team claims to have found evidence of low-level WMD programs — a claim hotly disputed by many, with the Biosecurity Journal referring to the Biological Warfare (BW) claims as a "worst case analysis" [13].

On May 29, 2003, Pres. Bush said during an interview with Polish network TVP that "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories." [14]

Also included in the list of postwar justifications is Libya's agreement to abandon its WMD programs, but Flynt Leverett (former senior director for Middle Eastern Affairs at the NSC) and Martin S. Indyk (former Clinton administration official) argue that the agreement was a result of good-faith negotiations. Libya had agreed to surrender its programs in 1999.

The Iraq Survey Group under Bush-appointed inspector David Kay reported in the 'Interim Progress Report' on 2003 October 3 the following key points: "We have not yet found stocks of weapons", difficulty in explaining why, clandestine laboratories suitable for "preserving BW expertise" which contained equipment subject to UN monitoring, a prison laboratory complex which Kay describes as "possibly used in human testing of BW agents", strains of bacteria kept in one scientists home (including a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B), twelve-year-old documents and small parts concerning uranium enrichment kept found in a scientist's home [15], partially declared UAVs, capability to produce a type of fuel useful for Scud missiles, a scientist who had drawn plans for how to make longer-range missiles [16], and attempts to acquire missile technology from North Korea, and destroyed documents of unknown significance. [17]. The report categorized most biological agents as "BW-applicable" or "BW-capable"; the report mentions nothing that was being used in such a context. Chemical weapons are referred to in a similar fashion. The nuclear program, according to the report, had not done any work since 1991, but had attempted to retain scientists and documentation from it in case sanctions were ever dropped.

However, Kay himself has since stated (concerning Iraqi WMDs): "We were almost all wrong – and I certainly include myself here", and has since been in the media trying to explain why the US believed Iraq was a threat when it actually had minimal to no programs concerning mass destruction. He has stated that many intelligence analysts have come to him "in apology that the world we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed" [18]. He has also directly contradicted since then much of the October report. David Kay is a Republican who donated money to both the RNC and the campaign of president George W. Bush. Before David Kay came out about this, many of his scientists had already done so. [19].

Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his oral report the following though: "Based on the intelligence that existed, I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat. Now that you know reality on the ground as opposed to what you estimated before, you may reach a different conclusion — although I must say I actually think what we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than, in fact, we thought it was even before the war."

Dr. Kay's team concluded that Iraq had the production capacity and know-how to produce a great deal more chemical and biological weaponry when international economic sanctions were lifted, a policy change which was actively being sought by France, Germany and Russia. Kay also believes that a large but undetermined amount of the former Iraqi government's WMD program had been moved to Syria shortly before the 2003 invasion. [20] However, in April 2005, the Iraq Survey Group's final report "found no senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD," and ruled out any government-sanctioned movement of banned weapons to Syria. [21]

The current situation concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction seems similar to that portrayed by Hussein Kamel in 1995 and that of Imad Khadduri [22], that Iraq had almost completely destroyed its programs, but sought to retain as much knowledge and information that, should sanctions ever end, the programs would not have to start over from scratch.

After the fall of Baghdad, U.S. officials claimed that Iraqi officials were being harbored in Syria, and several high-ranking Iraqis have since been detained after being expelled from Syria.

When the debate about the justification resumed given that no weapons of mass destruction were found, it was argued that the invasion was however justified because of human rights abuses committed by Saddam Hussein. Critics raise the question why the US government did not do much to prevent or to punish those crimes when they happened but use them years later for a war initially explained with different reasons. The use of chemical weapons against Kurds in 1983 was known by US intelligence, Donald Rumsfeld, at the time presidential envoy of Ronald Reagan, however spoke of "his close relationship" with Saddam Hussein at that time and visited him. After the Persian Gulf War the US government encouraged rebellions by the Shiites but did not intervene when Saddam crushed the rebels. [23] [24]

As of May 2005, small quantities of chemically degraded mustard gas had been found in old munitions. However, these are generally regarded as left-overs from the pre-sanction era before the 1991 Gulf War, and in November 2005 David Kay, the head of the Iraq Suvery Group charged with finding Saddam Hussein's WMDs stated that there probably were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the invasion and that the likelihood of any WMDs having been sent to neighboring nations like Syria was so small that it was not a viable explanation for what happened to the weapons. The general consesus is that the intelligence community, including the CIA and other foreign services, failed to provide an accurate picture of the WMD program in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The U.S. government and the Bush administration have not yet taken official stances on the intelligence failures, but Congressional investigations, primarily under Democratic leadership, were either underway or forming in the spring of 2005.

Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch has argued that the justification of "human rights" for the war in Iraq does not meet appropriate standards for the level of suffering that it causes.[25]

The United Nations announced a report on March 2, 2004 from the weapons inspection teams stating that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction of any significance after 1994. [26]

On August 2, 2004 Pres. Bush stated "Knowing what I know today we still would have gone on into Iraq. He had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction. He had terrorists ties … the decision I made is the right decision. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power."[27]

On October 6, 2004 Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, appearing before the United States Senate Armed Services Committee announced that the group found no evidence that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had produced any weapons of mass destruction since 1991, when UN sanctions were imposed and, furthermore, were incapable of doing so. Though the report noted that Saddam had made it his primary goal to have sanctions lifted by whatever means necessary, Saddam was effectively contained by these sanctions when they were in place. From the report: "[Saddam] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted."[28]

On January 12, 2005, US military forces, having located no weapons of mass destruction, formally abandoned the search.

Sanctions

However effective, UN sanctions fostered a growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. International popular opinion seemed to shift in favour of lifting the sanctions and finding diplomatic alternatives such as targeted sanctions that might be as effective, but which would not inadvertently affect the Iraqi populace. Temporary solutions, such as the Oil for Food program, an easing of the sanctions on a controlled basis, had limited success in the face of corruption in the Iraqi government and UN officials involved in the program [29]. Essentially, harsh sanctions originally intended to be temporary could not be kept in place indefinitely. In addition, Saddam's persistent efforts to sway certain UN Security Council members with money diverted from the Oil for Food program meant that sanctions may have reached the limit of their usefulness.[30][31]

Purported links between the government of Iraq and terrorist organizations

See also Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda

An alleged link between al Qaeda and Iraq was often mentioned in the run-up to war. Before the invasion, journalists were generally skeptical; for example, one January 2003 article in the San Jose Mercury News said the claim "stretches the analysis of U.S. intelligence agencies to, and perhaps beyond, the limit." [32] After the invasion, in January of 2004, Secretary Powell stated "I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I think the possibility of such connections did exist, and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did."

Some of the evidence for a connection between the two turns out to have been misinformation coming from several sources, most notably an associate of Ahmed Chalabi who was given the code name "Curveball" and captured al Qaeda leader Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. The Chalabi source has been thoroughly discredited, and the al Qaeda source has since recanted his story. Other al Qaeda leaders have claimed that there was no operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, and indeed that Osama bin Laden had forbidden such a relationship with the Iraqi leader, whom he considered an infidel.

There are, however, some alleged al Qaeda operatives who have bolstered the current US administration's claims of collaboration between al Qaeda and the now deposed Iraqi government, as well as charges of cooperation made by the Clinton administration. Weapons smuggler Mohamed Mansour Shahab said in an interview in the New Yorker magazine that he had been directed by the Iraqi intelligence community to organize, plan, and carry out up to nine terrorist attacks against American targets in the Middle East, including an attack similar to the one carried out on the USS Cole. [33]. The only member of the original plot to destroy the World Trade Center to escape US law enforcement officials, Abdul Rahman Yasin, fled to Baghdad shortly after the attacks in 1993.

Abbas al-Janabi, who served for fifteen years as personal assistant to Uday Hussein before defecting to Britain, has often claimed that he knew of collaboration between the former Iraqi government and al Qaeda. Al-Janabi said that he had learnt that Iraqi officials had visited Afghanistan and Sudan to strengthen ties with Al-Qaeda and he also claimed he knew of a facility near Baghdad where foreign fighters were trained and instructed by members of the Republican Guard and Mukhabarat. [34]. A facility matching al-Janabi’s description was captured by US Marines in Mid April of 2003 [35]

Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only alleged member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large after the investigation into the bombing where he fled to Iraq. After major fighting ceased U.S. forces discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, that purport to show that the Iraqi government gave Yasin a house and monthly salary. [36]

It was eventually shown that, while representatives of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda had indeed met, an operational relationship was never realized and there was a deep sense of mistrust and dislike of one another. Osama Bin Laden was shown to view Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party as running contrary to his religion, calling it an "apostate regime". A British intelligence report [37] went so far as to say of Bin Laden "His aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq."

In 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, concluded that there was no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein had assisted al-Qaeda in preparing for or carrying out the 9/11 attacks.

Aside from the contentious allegations of Iraq's relationship with al Qaeda, the former government did have relationships with other militant organizations in the Middle East including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It is known that some $10–15M total was paid to the families of suicide bombers, presented as compensation for the demolition of their homes in Israeli collective punishment operations. Abu Abbas (associate with the PLO and the Achille Lauro hijacking) was found in Iraq, and had been wanted for quite some time. In August 2002, Abu Nidal (attacks in Italy and elsewhere) died in Baghdad from gunshot wounds while facing treason charges under Saddam's government.

Some documents indicate that the leadership was attempting to distance itself from Islamist militants fighters instead of working with them [38], and that any connection between al Qaeda and Iraq is new. This was in relation to the rising insurgency in Iraq: Saddam was fearful that the foreign fighters might use this as an opportunity for themselves, rather than fight for Saddam to take control again. Many international jihadists have in fact begun operating in Iraq since the U.S. occupation began.

The Bush Administration also has cited links between Saddam Hussein's government and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose organization Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad (Monotheism and Holy War) has taken credit for kidnappings and beheadings directed against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Zarqawi is rumored to have been treated in an Iraqi hospital after being wounded in Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi had settled in Kurdish northern Iraq (an area not controlled by Saddam Hussein's government) where he joined, and may have led, the terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam, which was an enemy of the Ba'athist government. Nevertheless, U.S. officials continued to assert that Zarqawi constitutes an important link between Saddam's government and al Qaeda. A CIA report in early October 2004 "found no clear evidence of Iraq harbouring Abu Musab al-Zarqawi". [39] Also, Zarqawi does not seem to have ever been, as some have asserted, an al Qaeda leader, and only pledged his allegiance to the al Qaeda organization in October 2004.[40] This pledge came two days after his insurgent organization in Iraq was officially declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

On October 19, 2004, the International Institute for Strategic Studies published its annual report stating that the war in Iraq had actually increased the risk of terrorism against westerners in Arab countries[41].

Invasion

See 2003–2004 occupation of Iraq timeline for the White House statements and 2003 Iraq war timeline for a more detailed account of the invasion.

Prior to invasion, the United States and other coalition forces involved in the 1991 Persian Gulf War had been engaged in a low-level conflict with Iraq, enforcing the U.N. approved Iraqi no-fly zones. Iraqi air-defense installations were engaged on a fairly regular basis after repeatedly targeting American and British air patrols. In mid-2002, the U.S. began to change its response strategy, more carefully selecting targets in the southern part of the country in order 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.

Opening attack

At approximately 02:30 UTC or about 90 minutes after the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, at 05:30 local time, explosions were heard in Baghdad. At 03:15 UTC, or 10:15 pm EST, U.S. President George W. Bush announced that he had ordered the coalition to launch an "attack of opportunity" against targets in Iraq.

Before the invasion, many observers had expected a lengthy campaign of aerial bombing in advance of any ground action, taking as examples the Persian Gulf War or the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. In practice, U.S. plans envisioned simultaneous air and ground assaults to decapitate the Iraqi forces as fast as possible (see Shock and Awe), attempting to bypass Iraqi military units and cities in most cases. The assumption was that superior U.S. mobility and coordination would allow the U.S. 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 army 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's decision to deny any official use of its territory, the U.S. was forced to abandon a planned simultaneous attack from north and south, so the primary bases for the invasion were in Kuwait and other Persian Gulf 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 U.S. devoted insufficient troops to the invasion, and that this (combined with 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, with the collapse of the Iraq government and the military of Iraq in about three weeks. The oil infrastructure of Iraq was rapidly secured with limited damage in that time. Securing the oil infrastructure was considered important. In the first Persian Gulf War, while retreating from Kuwait, the Iraqi army had set many oil wells on fire, in an attempt to disguise troop movements and to distract Coalition forces--a side effect of these actions were many environmental problems. Presumably, oil infrastructure was secured for financial reasons as well as strategic. The British Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade launched an air and amphibious assault on the Al-Faw peninsula during the closing hours of 20 March to secure the oil fields there; the amphibious assault was supported by frigates of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, attached to 3 Commando Brigade, attacked the port of Umm Qasr. The British 16 Air Assault Brigade also secured the oilfields in southern Iraq in places like Rumaila.

In keeping with the rapid advance plan, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division moved westward and then northward through the desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and 1 (UK) Armoured Division moved northward through marshland. All forces avoided major cities except when necessary to capture river crossings over the Tigris and Euphrates. The British 7 Armoured Brigade ('The Desert Rats') fought their way into Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, on 6 April, coming under constant attack by regulars and Fedayeen, while the 3rd Parachute Regiment cleared the 'old quarter' of the city that was inaccessible to vehicles. The entering of Basra had only been achieved after two weeks of conflict, which included the biggest tank battle by British forces since World War II when the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks on 27 March. The UK's control of the city was, however, limited. Element's of 1 (UK) Armoured Division began to advance north towards U.S. positions around Al Amarah on 9 April. Pre-existing electrical and water shortages continued through the conflict and looting began as Iraqi forces collapsed. While British forces began working with local Iraqi Police to enforce order, humanitarian aid began to arrive from ships landing in the port city of Umm Qasr and trucks entering the country through Kuwait.

After a rapid initial advance, the first major pause occurred in the vicinity of Hillah and Karbala, where U.S. leading elements, hampered by dust storms, met resistance from Iraqi troops and paused for some days for re-supply before continuing toward Baghdad.

U.S. 2nd battalion 5th SFG conducted reconnaissance in the cities of Basra, Karbala and various other locations. In the North 10th SFG had the mission of aiding the Kurdish factions such as the Union of Kurdistan and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. Turkey had officially forbidden any US troops from using their bases So led elements of the 10th had to make detours, there trip was supposed to take 4 hours but instead it took 10, Turkey allowed the use of its air space and the rest of the 10th flew in via Turkey, on the ground . ODA 081 took part in Operation Viking Hammer or Ugly Baby dubbed by the soldiers, the mission was to destroy Ansar al-Islam and a rogue faction of Kurdish troops, it is said that Ansar al-Islam and the Kurdish faction slipped into Iraq via Iran. The target was Sargat and after heavy fighting with both groups the SF finally took Sargat and pushed the remaining units out of Northern Iraq, after Sargat is taken, Bravo Company along with their Kurdish Allies pushed south towards Tikrit and the surrounding towns of Northern Iraq, During the Battle of the Green Line Bravo Company with their kurdish allies pushed back, destroyed, mauled or routed 13 Iraqi Armoured and Infantry Division, Bravo took Tikrit. SFOD-D, SAS, SASR, Navy SEALs and Combat Controllers played vital roles--their missions however were never documented in any way. Army Rangers parachuted into H3, an Iraqi Airfield, and secured it for future use. Iraq was the largest deployment of Special Forces since Vietnam. 10% of all soldiers were Special Forces. Sources have said that Special Forces operators had infiltrated Baghdad before the invasion began, during the inital air attacks these men planted explosives on key Iraqi installations.

Fall of Baghdad (April 2003)

Three weeks into the invasion, U.S. forces moved into Baghdad. Initial plans were for armor units to surround the city and a street-to-street battle to commence using Airborne units. However, within days a "Thunder Run" of US tanks was launched to test Iraqi defenses, with about 30 tanks rushing from a staging base to the Baghdad airport. They met heavy resistance, including many suicide attacks, but launched another run two days later into the Palaces of Saddam Hussein, where they established a base. Within hours of the palace seizure, and television coverage of this spreading through Iraq, Iraqi resistance crumbled around the city. Iraqi government officials had either disappeared or had conceded defeat. On April 9 2003, Baghdad was formally secured by US forces and the power of Saddam Hussein was declared ended. Saddam had vanished, and his whereabouts were unknown. Many Iraqis celebrated the downfall of Saddam by vandalizing the many portraits and statues of him together with other pieces of his personality cult. One widely publicized event was the dramatic toppling of a large statue of Saddam in central Baghdad by a US tank, while a crowd of Iraqis apparently cheered the soldiers on. This event has been hotly disputed, with evidence that it was staged by US forces. More detail is available under media coverage.

General Tommy Franks assumed control of Iraq as the supreme commander of 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 US 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. had paid Iraqi military leaders to defect. The extent of the defections and their effect on the war are unclear.

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.

Saddam Hussein shortly after his capture

Saddam Hussein was captured on December 13 2003 by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division during Operation Red Dawn. His sons Uday and Qusay and grandson were killed earlier on 22 July 2003 during a raid by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division.

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 airstrikes, they were able to rout the Iraqi units near them and to occupy oil-rich Kirkuk on April 10.

U.S. special forces had also been involved in the extreme west of Iraq, attempting to occupy key roads to Syria 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 mostly took control of Tikrit, the last major outpost in central Iraq.

Summary of the invasion

Coalition forces managed to topple the government and capture the key cities of a large nation in only 28 days, taking minimal losses while also trying to avoid large civilian deaths and even high numbers of dead Iraqi military forces. The invasion was, in a military context, a complete success, and did not require the huge army built up for the 1991 Gulf War, which numbered half a million Allied troops. This did prove short-sighted, however, due to requirement for a much larger force to combat the irregular Iraqi forces in the aftermath of the war.

The Saddam-built army had no weapons that could stand up to Coalition forces, and managed only to stage a few ambushes that gained a great deal of media attention but in reality did nothing to slow the Coalition advance. The Iraqi T-72 tanks, the heaviest armored vehicles in the Iraqi Army, were both outdated and ill-maintained, and when they did stand up to Coalition forces were destroyed quickly, thanks in part due to the Coalition's control of the air. The U.S. Air Force and British Royal Air Force operated with impunity throughout the country, pinpointing heavily defended enemy targets and destroying them before ground troops arrived.

The main battle tanks (MBT) of the Coalition forces, the U.S. M1 Abrams and British Challenger 2, proved their worth in the rapid advance across the country. Even with the large number of RPG attacks by irregular Iraqi forces, few Coalition tanks were lost and no tank crewmen was killed by hostile fire. All three British tank crew fatalities were a result of friendly fire. The only tank loss sustained by the British Army was a Challener 2 of the Queen's Royal Lancers that was hit by another Challenger 2, killing two crewmen.

The Iraqi Army suffered from poor morale, even amongst the supposedly elite Republican Guard, and entire units simply melted away into the crowds upon the approach of Coalition troops. Other Iraqi Army officers were bribed by the CIA or coecered into surrendering to coalition forces. Worse, the Iraqi Army had incompetent leadership – reports state that Qusay Hussein, 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 the U.S. Army attacked. By no means did the Coalition invasion force see the entire Iraqi military thrown against it, and it is assumed that most units disintegrated to either join the growing Iraqi insurgency or return to their homes.

Security, Looting and War Damage

Looting took place in the days following. It was reported that the National Museum of Iraq was among the looted sites. The assertion that US forces did not guard the museum because they were guarding the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Interior is apparently true. 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 US 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.

U.S. troops topple a giant statue of Saddam in Baghdad, following the capture of the city in April.

The FBI was soon called into Iraq to track down the stolen items. It was found that the initial claims of looting of substantial portions of the collection were somewhat exaggerated and for months people have been returning objects to the museum. Yet, as some of the dust has settled, thousands of antiquities are still missing, including dozens from the main collection.

There has been speculation that some objects still missing were not taken by looters after the war, but were taken by Saddam Hussein or his entourage before or during the fighting. There have also been reports that early looters had keys to vaults that held rarer pieces, and some have speculated as to the pre-meditated systematic removal of key artifacts.

The National Museum of Iraq was only one of many museums and sites of cultural significance that were affected by the war. Many in the arts and antiquities communities briefed policy makers in advance of the need to secure Iraqi museums. Despite the looting being lighter than initially feared, the cultural loss of items from ancient Sumeria is significant.

Zainab Bahrani, professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, reports that a helicopter landing pad was constructed in the heart of the ancient city of Babylon, 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." [42]

Bahrani also reports that this summer "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 reports, and some fragile artifacts, including the Ottoman Archive, will not survive the loss of refrigeration.

"End of major combat operations" (May 2003)

The USS Abraham Lincoln returning to port carrying its Mission Accomplished banner
President George W. Bush on the Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit after landing on the aircraft carrier in a military jet.

On May 1, 2003 George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, 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 overly theatrical and expensive stunt. The official reasoning behind using a jet for the landing was the distance of the carrier from the shore. It has since been revealed the carrier was well within helicopter range of San Diego, and was turned around to hide the coast line from the TV cameras. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating "Mission Accomplished". The banner, made by White House personnel (according to a CNN story [43]) and placed there by the U.S. Navy, was criticized as premature – especially later as the guerrilla war dragged on. The White House subsequently released a statement alleging that the sign and Bush's visit referred to the initial invasion of Iraq and disputed the claim of theatrics. The Bush Administration pointed out that they felt there was some merit to these claims, espeically when one reads the content of President Bush's speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, where he notes several times that this was not the end of actions in Iraq OR The War on Terrorism. ([44])

"Major combat" concluding did not mean that peace had returned to Iraq. Iraq was subsequently marked by violent conflict between U.S.-led occupation of Iraq soldiers and forces described by the occupiers as insurgents. As of May 11, 2005, the total deaths of American soldiers as a direct result of the Iraq invasion, reached over 1600, a large percentage of which were young men between the ages of 18 and 22. Of these, over 1318 were killed or died in accidents after the "end of major hostilities" was announced by president Bush on May 1, 2003. Some critics of the invasion (such as former CIA analyst Bill Christison (writing in Counterpunch)) argue that there are parallels between the current situation in Iraq and the Vietnam War ([45]). Many supporters of the invasion disagree, for example U.S. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran, who said in a speech given to the U.S. Senate on April 7, 2004: "I know we do not face another Vietnam". [46]

The ongoing resistance in Iraq was concentrated in, but not limited to, an area referred to by Western media and the occupying forces as the Sunni triangle and Baghdad [47]. Critics point out that the regions where violence is most common are also the most populated regions. This resistance may be described as guerrilla warfare. The tactics in use were to include mortars, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, small arms fire, and RPGs, as well as sabotage against the oil infrastructure. There are also accusations, questioned by some, about attacks toward the power and water infrastructure.

There is evidence that some of the resistance was organized, perhaps by the fedayeen and other Saddam Hussein or Ba'ath loyalists, religious radicals, Iraqis angered by the occupation, and foreign fighters. [48] The insurgents are generally known to the Coalition forces as Ali Baba, after a character in the Arabian Nights .

After the war, information began to emerge about several failed Iraqi peace initiatives, including offers as extensive as allowing 5,000 FBI agents in to search the country for weapons of mass destruction, support for the US-backed Roadmap For Peace, and the abdication of Saddam Hussein to be replaced under UN elections.

Opinion and legality

See Support and opposition for the 2003 invasion of Iraq for the full article.

An Iraqi child shows support for U.S. President Bush
Global Protests around the World against the Iraq War

Countries supporting and opposing the war

Support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq included 49 nations, a group that was frequently referred to as the "coalition of the willing". These nations provided combat troops, support troops, and logistical support for the invasion. The nations contributing combat forces were, roughly: United States (250,000), United Kingdom (45,000), South Korea (3,500), Australia (2,000), Denmark (200), and Poland (184). Ten other countries offered small numbers of non-combat forces, mostly either medical teams and specialists in decontamination. In several of these countries a majority of the public was opposed to the war. For example, in Spain polls reported at one time a 90% opposition to the war.

Popular opposition to war on Iraq led to global protests. In many Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, many protesters supported Saddam Hussein, but protesters in the United States and Europe generally did not. On the government level, the war was criticized by Canada, Belgium, Russia, France, the People's Republic of China, Germany, Switzerland, The Vatican, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico, the Arab League, the African Union and others. Though many nations opposed the war, none openly supported Saddam Hussein's government, and none volunteered any assistance to the Iraqi side.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said U.S. military could not use Saudi Arabia's soil in any way to attack Iraq. [49] After ten years of U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, cited among reasons by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden for his al-Qaeda attacks on America on September 11, 2001, most of U.S. forces were withdrawn in 2003. [50] According to the New York Times, the invasion secretly received support from Saudi Arabia. [51]

Legality of the invasion

Resolution 1441, drafted and accepted unanimously the year before the invasion, threatened "serious consequences" to Iraq in case Iraq did not comply with all conditions. Russia, People's Republic of China, and France made clear in a joint statement that this did not authorize the use of force but a further resolution was needed. Until a few days before the war, it was the position of the UK, the main US ally in the war, that a further resolution would be desirable before the UK would go to war.

Some have said that the US and other coalition governments' invasion of Iraq was an unprovoked assault on an independent country which breached international law. Under Article 2, Number 4 of the UN Charter, "All Members shall refrain... from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state..." This is known as the "Prohibition of Aggression". For the use of force other than in self defence, it is absolute without the positive sanction of the security council under Article 42. Resolution 1441 was not intended by China, Russia and France to authorise war. The coalition formed around the USA argued that another understanding of the resolution is possible, although Kofi Annan, speaking on behalf of the UN charter, declared: "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." [52]

The Bush administration argued that the UN Security Council Resolutions authorizing the 1991 invasion, in addition to Resolution 1441, gave legal authority to use "all necessary means", which is diplomatic code for going to war. This war ended with a cease fire instead of a permanent peace treaty. Their view was that Iraq had violated the terms of the cease-fire by breaching two key conditions and thus made the invasion of Iraq a legal continuation of the earlier war. If a war can be reactivated ten years after the fact, it would imply that any nation that has ever been at war that ended in a cease-fire (such as Korea) could face war for failing to meet the conditions of the cease-fire. Such is the purpose of using a cease-fire agreement in place of a peace treaty; the resumption of war is the penalty for, and thus deterrent of, engaging in the prohibited action(s). For instance, in WWII, the state of war with Germany did not end until October 19, 1951) and with Japan, not until April 28, 1952[53].

Since the majority of the United Nations security council members (both permanent and rotating) did not support the attack, it appears that they viewed the attack as invalid under any resolution still in effect in March, 2003. Both Kofi Annan, current Secretary-General of the United Nations, and former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, as well as several nations, say that the attack violated international law as a war of aggression since it lacked the validity of a U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize military force, and was not an act of defence, and so violated the UN charter. However, none have called for the security council to consider sanctions against the United States or the other nations involved, both because of an effort to restore warmer relationships with the US, and because the attempt would be futile since the US have veto at the Security Council.

The United States and United Kingdom claimed it was a legal action which they were within international law to undertake. Along with Poland and Australia, the invasion was supported by the governments of several European nations, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, and Spain. In the countries whose governments supported the invasion, governments and media have called the good faith of the Council into question on this matter, on the grounds of the issues raised by trade with Iraq in violation of the sanctions, the corruption of the Oil for Food program and the UN in general, and a resentment of the cultural and economic dominance of the USA that led to opposition irrespective of the merits of the invasion. There is still on-going discussion in the UK whether the war was actually legal, and the final verdict has yet to be reached.

On 28th April 2005, the UK government published the full advice given by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith on May 7 2003 on the legality of the war. The publication of this document followed the leaking of the summary to the press the day before. In a Labour press conference, Tony Blair responded to a question from journalist Jon Snow asking whether the full report could be published by saying 'we may as well, you've seen most of it already'. In the document, Lord Goldsmith weighs up the different arguments on whether military action against Iraq would be legal without a 2nd UN Resolution. It was clear about one point, "Regime change," insisted the Attorney General, "cannot be the object of military action." Any invasion which had that goal would be unambiguously illegal under international law. [54]

On 1st May 2005, a related UK document, detailing the minutes of a meeting on July 26th, 2002, was apparently leaked to The Times. British officials did not dispute the document's authenticity, and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman has called the document "nothing new". The document corroborates the information in the full advice of Lord Goldsmith: "The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult.", and states furthermore that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." and that "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.". On May 5th, John Conyers and 88 members of congress asked George W. Bush, in a formal letter, to answer some questions about the document, including whether he or anyone in his administration disputes its accuracy. As of May 12th, Bush has not responded to the letter. [55]

Opposition view of the invasion

Those who opposed the war in Iraq did not regard Iraq's violation of UN resolutions to be a valid case for the war, since no single nation has the authority, under the UN Charter, to judge Iraq's compliance to UN resolutions and to enforce them. Furthermore, critics argued that the US was applying double standards of justice, noting that other nations such as Israel are also in breach of UN resolutions and have nuclear weapons; this argument is not a black and white matter, [56], as some claim that Iraq's history of actually using chemical weapons (against Iran and the Kurdish population in Iraq) suggested at the time that Iraq was a far greater threat. Others claim, also, that this contradicts previous U.S. policy, since the US was one of many nations that supplied chemical weapon precursors, even when well aware of what it was being used for. Eventually, declarations by some members of the Bush administration, such as Deputy Secretary for Defense Paul Wolfowitz's informative statement that "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on" [57] has been focused upon by those who question the legitimacy of the invasion, and international confidence in the good faith of the USA.

Although Iraq was known to have pursued an active nuclear weapons development program previously, as well to have tried to procure materials and equipment for their manufacture, these weapons and material have yet to be discovered. In January 2005, the US announced that the search for these weapons was over. This casts doubt on some of the accusations against Iraq.

Deaths

See Casualties in the conflict in Iraq for details.

Possible estimates on the total number of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary widely. All estimates below are as of May 10, 2005, and include the period covered in 2003 Occupation of Iraq as well as the period covered in this article.

Iraqis Counts of civilian deaths specifically documented range from 21,521 to 24,398 1. A study in the Lancet estimated 100,000 deaths2 from all causes, with roughly three times as many injured. This has been disputed 3.[58][59] (Lancet report [pdf]) [60] [61]
U.S. armed forces 1,609 deaths, 12,243 combat wounded (6,115 serious) + unknown non-combat injuries [62][63]
Armed forces of other coalition countries 180 [64]
Non-Iraqi civilians from 234 to 355 [65]source
1 These only refer to deaths reported by two or more news organizations, and include "all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation."
2 The study's estimate of total deaths ranges from 8,000 to 194,000 at a 95% confidence interval.
3 For instance a written Ministerial Statement (17 November 2004) by the UK government [66]

Related phrases

This campaign has featured a variety of new and weighted terminology, much coined by the U.S. government and then repeated by the media. The name "Operation Iraqi Freedom", for example, expresses one viewpoint of the purpose of the invasion, and is almost never used outside the United States. Also notable was the usage "death squads" to refer to fedayeen paramilitary forces. Members of the Saddam Hussein government were called by disparaging nicknames – e.g., "Chemical Ali" (Ali Hassan al-Majid), "Comical Ali" (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf), and "Mrs Anthrax" or "Chemical Sally" (Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash). Saddam Hussein was systematically referred to as "Saddam," which some Westerners mistakenly believed to be disparaging. (Although there is no consensus about how to refer to him in English, "Saddam" is acceptable usage, and is how people in Iraq and the Middle East generally refer to him. [67])

Terminology introduced or popularized during the war include:

  • "Shock and Awe", the strategy of reducing an enemy's will to fight through displays of overwhelming force.
  • "Embedding", United States practice of assigning civilian journalists to U.S. military units; see war correspondent.
  • "Coalition of the willing"—Term originated in the Clinton era (eg: interview, President Clinton, ABC, June 8, 1994), and used by the Bush Administration to describe the countries contributing troops in the invasion, of which the US and UK are primaries.
  • "Old Europe"—Rumsfeld's term used to describe the divisions between European governments: "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe."
  • "Public diplomacy", euphemism for propaganda.
  • "Regime change", euphemism for overthrowing a government.
  • "Decapitating the regime", euphemism for either overthrowing the government or killing Saddam Hussein.
  • "minder", Iraqi government official assigned to watch over a foreign correspondent

Many slogans and terms coined have come to be used against the Bush administration in the 2004 United States Presidential election, especially by online media.

Media coverage

Main article: 2003 invasion of Iraq media coverage

Media coverage of this war was different in certain ways from that of the Persian Gulf War. Victoria Clarke, Assistant Defense Secretary (formerly with Hill and Knowlton, the PR firm infamous for promoting the false baby-incubator story during the first Persian Gulf War)[68] devised the Pentagon's policy of "embedding" reporters with military units. Viewers in the United States were able to watch U.S. tanks rolling into Baghdad live on television, with a split screen image of the Iraqi Minister of Information claiming that U.S. forces were not in the city. Many foreign observers of the media and especially the television coverage in the USA felt that it was excessively partisan and in some cases "gung-ho".

The European coverage was critical of the invasion, putting a greater emphasis on coalition setbacks and losses and civilian deaths than the US media [69] [70].

Arab media coverage of the conflict was criticized as biased towards Iraq. For example, the Chicago Tribune on April 10, 2003 reported that the defeat sent a shockwave of incredulity across the Middle East, and quoted a Damascus housewife who believed that jubilant Iraqis were being paid to act that way in front of the cameras [71].

Another difference was the wide and independent coverage in the World Wide Web demonstrating that for web-surfers in rich countries and the elites in poorer countries, the Internet has become mature as a medium, giving about half a billion people access to different versions of events.

However, the coverage itself was intrinsically biased by the fact that Internet penetration in Iraq was already very weak (with an estimate of 12,000 users in Iraq in 2002). Further, the deliberate destruction of Iraqi telecommunication facilities by US forces made Internet communication even more difficult. Different versions of truth by people who have equal ignorance of first-hand, raw data are by definition a very biased substitute for original, first-hand reports from people living locally. The World Wide Web did deliver some first-hand reports from bloggers such as Salam Pax. Additional information was available on soldier blogs.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, which was formed in 1996, gained worldwide attention for its coverage of the war. Their broadcasts were popular in much of the Arab world, but also to some degree in Western nations, with major American networks such as CNN and MSNBC re-broadcasting some of their coverage. Al-Jazeera was well-known for their graphic footage of civilian deaths, which American news media branded as overly sensationalistic. The English website of Al-Jazeera was brought down during the middle of the Iraq war by Internet vandals.

In August of 2004, Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices closed, and temporarily banned the station from broadcasting in Iraq. A couple of weeks later, the ban was made indefinite, and Iraqi security officers raided the station, sealing it off. Al-Jazeera called the raid "reminiscent of the way certain other regimes have behaved."[72]

Military leaders shut off the BBC connection to HMS Ark Royal after grumbling among sailors that it was biased in favor of Iraqi reports. [73] By contrast, a study by Justin Lewis at Cardiff University found that the BBC reports had been somewhat sanitized, and did not question pro-war assumptions.

Others point out that it is not the job of media organizations to support the military of their country. In Europe the US press and media are widely seen as unquestioningly pro-government; news programs adopting names like "Operation Iraqi Freedom" uncritically, and reporters wearing US flags in their lapels, are seen as inappropriate behavior. In particular the British broadcast media (but not the press) are required to observe due impartiality.

French journalist Alain Hertoghe published a book accusing the French press in particular and the European press in general of not being objective in its coverage of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Hertoghe's book, La Guerre à Outrances (The War of Outrages), criticizes French press coverage of the war as being pessimistic of the US led Coalition's chance of success and continually focusing on challenges faced during the invasion. Hertoghe also claims in his book that the European media became so wrapped up in its own particular biases against the United States that they fed disinformation to their readers and viewers and misled them as to the unfolding events. His selection of press articles to illustrate his point has been criticised as somewhat selective. The European coverage's concerns about the military becoming bogged down in Iraq and the war ending badly seem to have come true, as late as eighteen months after the declaration of the end of "major hostilities." Since being published, Hertoghe has been fired from his position at French newspaper La Croix. It was claimed that only one major French newspaper had published a review of his book.

International initiatives such as http://amor.cms.hu-berlin.de/~h0444e1w/massmail.htm protested against the U.S. media for downplaying and misinterpreting protests as anti-americanism and accused them of foul language such as calling Chirac "A balding Joan of Arc in drag", the French "frog-eating weasels" (New York Post) or stating that "Chirac and his poodle Putin have severely damaged the United Nations". Questions are also raised about U.S. media coverage given that in the U.S. pre-war polls showed that a majority of the population believed that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks although none of the terrorists was Iraqi and no proofs of an Iraqi connection to the attack are known.

Peter Arnett, who had won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1966 for his coverage of the war in Vietnam was fired by MSNBC and National Geographic after he had declared in an interview with the Iraqi information ministry that he believed the U.S. strategy of "shock and awe" had failed. He also went on to tell Iraqi State TV that he had told "Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government, and the willingness to fight for their country", and that reports from Baghdad about civilian deaths had helped antiwar protesters undermine the Bush administration's strategy. The interview was given 10 days before the fall of Baghdad, more than 500 US soldiers have since been killed, in addition to over 18,000 medical evacuations for 11,700 patients [74].

On April 2, 2003, in a speech given by British Home Secretary David Blunkett while in New York City, Blunkett also commented on what he believed to be sympathetic and corrupt reporting of Iraq by Arab news sources. He told the audience that "It's hard to get the true facts if the reporters of Al Jazeera are actually linked into, and are only there because they are provided with facilities and support from the régime". Ironically, his speech came only hours before Al Jazeera was ejected from Baghdad by the Iraqi government.

U.S. media coverage of other wars has included photographs of the flag-draped coffins of American military personnel killed in action. During the invasion and occupation of Iraq, however, the Bush administration prohibited release of such photographs, and, according to Senator Patrick Leahy, scheduled the return of wounded soldiers for after midnight so that the press would not see them. [75] A number of Dover photographs were eventually released in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by blogger Russ Kick. The practice of transporting wounded soldiers to the US at night was documented by Salon Magazine. [76]

See also

References

Further reading

  • Master of Chaos: The History of the Special Forces by Linda Robinson
  • Heavy Metal a Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad: by Captain Jason Conroy and Ron Martz

External links








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