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2003 invasion of Baghdad

In early April 2003, as part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S forces led by American soldiers and marines in M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicless invaded Baghdad. [1] The invasion of the city commenced three days after Allied forces had secured the Baghdad airport.

US officials said that their forces fought skirmishes there with Iraq's Special Republican Guard, with two task forces going up to the Tigris river from the southern outskirts of the city before moving west towards the airport. Major General Victor Renuart said the intention was to indicate to the Iraqi leader that Coalition forces could move in and out of Baghdad whenever they wished. [1] The Guardian reported that US forces occupied two "presidential palaces". [1] The Army also surrounded the Information Ministry and other key government installations for a while. [1]

Iraq, which had no free press, initially issued a statement contradicting Western reporters' accounts of the invasion. Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, head of the Information Ministry, told a press conference on April 7 that there were no U.S. troops in Baghdad, saying: "Their infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad. Be assured, Baghdad is safe, protected. Iraqis are heroes." [1] Western news media reported the denial as straight news, while continuing to report Allied military activity within Baghdad, such as the capture of two of Saddam's presidential palaces. The denials tapered off after US military forces surrounded the Information Ministry.

As the American forces secured control of the capital, Iraqi civilians immediately began looting the palaces, as well as government offices. A 20-foot tall statue of Saddam was toppled by a group of civilians with some help from U.S. forces, and various remnants of the president's vast personality cult were defaced.

U.S. media repeatedly showed images of crowds of Iraqi civilians cheering as the statue was toppled. The presentation implied that hundreds or thousands of people were involved, though wide shots of the plaza showed no more than about a hundred. [1]

In subsequent days, looting and unrest became a serious issue. With the notable exception of the Oil Ministry, which was guarded by American troops, the majority of government and public buildings were totally plundered, to the point of there being nothing of any value left. At the major Yarmuk Hospital, not only all beds, but absolutely all medical equipment, large or small, were stolen. One other hospital managed to keep on functioning in a manner by organizing local vigilante as armed guards.

At the National Museum of Iraq, which was a virtual repository of treasures from the ancient Mesopotamian cultures as well as early Islamic culture, many of the 170,000 irreplaceable artifacts were either stolen or broken. On April 14, Iraq's National Library and National Archives were burned down, destroying thousands of manuscripts from civilizations dating back as far as 7,000 years.

The damages of the wave of plunders and acts of arson to the Iraqi civilian infrastructure and economy, not to speak of to the cultural inheritance, may have been higher than those from three weeks of U.S. bombing, though it may be impossible to tell, as during the bombing reporters were much more limited in investigating damage.

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