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2003 invasion of Iraq

The 2003 invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003, when a large force of United States and British troops invaded Iraq, leading to the collapse of the Iraqi government in about three weeks and the start of the 2003 occupation of Iraq. Ground forces from Australia and Poland and naval forces from Denmark and Spain also took part. The international community was divided on the legitimacy of this invasion; see worldwide government positions on war on Iraq.

The start of hostilities came after the expiration of a 48-hour deadline which was set by U.S. President George W. Bush, demanding that Saddam Hussein and his two sons Uday and Qusay leave Iraq, ending the diplomatic Iraq disarmament crisis.

The U.S. name for the military campaign is Operation Iraqi Freedom. The UK military operations in this war are being conducted under the name of Operation Telic. The Australian codename is Operation Falconer.

The United States, with support from approximately 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian and 200 Polish combat forces, entered Iraq primarily through their staging area in Kuwait. Coalition forces also supported Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 50,000.

Table of contents

Timeline of the invasion See 2003 invasion of Iraq timeline for a detailed timeline

The invasion was notably 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.

Casualties of the invading forces were limited, while Iraqi military casualties are unknown, probably at least in the thousands, and Iraqi civilian casualties as a result of coalition action is being tracked by the Iraq Body Count project: http://www.iraqbodycount.net/

The U.S. Third Division moved westward and then northward through the desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and a UK expeditionary force moved northward through marshland. UK forces secured Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, following two weeks of conflict, although their control of the city was limited. Preexisting 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.

Three weeks into the invasion U.S. forces moved into Baghdad with limited resistance, Iraqi government officials either disappeared or conceded defeat. Looting took place in the days following. It was alleged that many items in the National Museum of Iraq were amongst those things looted. The F.B.I. was soon called into Iraq to track down the stolen items. However, it has been found that the initial claims of looting of substantial portions of the collection were grossly exaggerated. In the end, only about 30 objects of any significance were missing from the collection. Evidence has come to light that those 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. Despite the looting being far less bad than initially feared, the cultural loss of the items of ancient Sumeria could still be significant. The accusation that US forces did not guard the museum because they were guarding the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Interior is apparently true. However, those who make that accusation often have an agenda of claiming that because the US forces did not guard everything, they were greatly in the wrong. The reality of the situation on the ground was that hospitals needed guarding, water plants needed guarding, and ministries with vital intelligence inside needed guarding. There were only enough US troops on the ground to guard a subset of everything that ideally needed guarding, and so some hard choices were made.

In the north Kurdish forces under the command of U.S. Special Forces captured oil-rich Kirkuk on April 10. On April 15, U.S. forces mostly took control of Tikrit.

As areas were secured, coalition troops began searching for the key members of Saddam Hussein's regime. These individuals were identified by a variety of means, most famously through sets of most wanted Iraqi playing cards.

George W. Bush announced that the war had been won on May 1, 2003. However, this did not mean that peace returned to Iraq. The 2003 occupation of Iraq thereupon commenced, marked by ongoing violent conflict between the Iraqi and the occupying forces. As of July, 2003, coalition soldiers have been dying at a rate of about one soldier per day.

Events leading to the invasion

Following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, the George W. Bush administration announced a War on Terrorism, accompanied by the doctrine of preemptive military action dubbed the Bush doctrine. In 2002 the Iraq disarmament crisis arose primarily as a diplomatic situation, with United Nations actions regarding Iraq culminating in the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and the resumption of weapons inspections. The United States also began preparations for an invasion of Iraq, with a host of diplomatic, public relations and military preparations.

Payoff of Iraqi Military

Shortly after the sudden collaspe 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 Baath party itself to stand down. These rumors were ignored or treated dismissively in the US media and among the US public.

In late May, 2003, General Tommy Franks announced his retirement. Shortly thereafter, he confirmed in an interview with Defense Week that the US had paid Iraqi military leaders to defect. The extent of the defections and their effect on the war were not clear as of this writing (May 24, 2003).

Invasion justification and goals

The stated justification for the invasion included Iraqi production and use of weapons of mass destruction and human rights violations in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein government. To that end, the stated goals of the invasion, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were: to end the Saddam Hussein government and help Iraq transition to representative self-rule; to find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction and terrorists; to collect intelligence on networks of weapons of mass destruction and terrorists; to end sanctions and to deliver humanitarian support; and to secure Iraq's oil fields and resources.

No weapons of mass destruction have been reported as found as of July 2, 2003, though Saddam's government collapsed, former Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas was captured, and the oil fields and resources were rapidly secured. Several unsecured nuclear facilities were found looted.

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.

Support and opposition

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

The U.S.-led coalition against Iraq is claimed by the Bush administration to include 49 nations, a group that is frequently referred to as the "coalition of the willing". The only known combat forces are from the United States, Britain, Australia, Denmark, and Poland. Ten other countries are known to have offered small numbers of noncombat forces, mostly either medical teams and specialists in decontamination. In several of these countries a majority of the public was opposed to the war. In Spain polls reported at one time a 90% opposition while the government supported the war.

Popular opposition to war on Iraq led to global protests, and the war was criticized by Belgium, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the Arab League.

There are some that claim the US intervention took place without any international legal framework. Others would counter by pointing out certain key UN Security Council Resolutions that give legal authority to use "...all necessary means...", which is diplomatic code for going to war. Their view is that Iraq has violated the the resolution by breaching two conditions and thus made the invasion of Iraq legal.

Several nations, say the attack violates international law as a war of aggression since it lacks the validity of a U.N. Security Council resolution that could authorize military force. The Egyptian former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called the intervention a violation of the UN charter.

The United States and Britain claim it is a legal action which they are within their rights to undertake. Along with Poland and Australia, the invasion is supported by the governments of several European nations, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, and Spain.

Related slogans and terms

This campaign has featured a variety of new and weighted terminology, much coined 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. Also notable was the exclusive usage of "regime" to refer to the Saddam Hussein government (see also regime change), and "death squads" to refer to fedayeen paramilitary forces. Members of the Hussein government were called by disparaging nicknames - eg. "Chemical Ali" (Ali Hassan al-Majid), "Comical Ali" (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf), "Mrs Anthrax" (Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash[?]) - for propaganda purposes and because Western peoples are unfamiliar with Arabic names.

Other terminology introduced or popularized during the war include:

  • Shock and awe - The strategy of focusing on the enemy's will to fight through a display of overwhelming force.
  • "embedding" - process of assigning reporters to particular military units
  • "coalition of the willing"
  • untidiness - Rumsfeld's term for the looting and unrest which followed the government's collapse

Media coverage

Media coverage of this war was different in certain ways from that of the Gulf War. The Pentagon established the policy of "embedding" reporters with military units. Home viewers 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.

Another difference was the wide and independent coverage in the World Wide Web demonstrating that the internet has become mature as a medium, giving everyone access to different versions of the truth.


War casualities

See also

External links and references

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