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2003 invasion of Iraq

The 2003 invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003, when forces belonging primarily to the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq, leading to the collapse of the Ba'athist Iraqi government in about three weeks and the start of the U.S.-led 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 US military operations in this war were conducted under the name of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The UK military operations in this war were conducted under the name of Operation Telic. The Australian codename was 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. Included in these forces were groups of Australian SAS and Commando Personnel who performed Recon and combat search and rescue mission along side American and British SF units.

Table of contents
1 Timeline of the invasion
2 Events leading to the invasion
3 Invasion justification and goals
4 Failed peace initiatives
5 Support and opposition
6 Hussein Family Whereabouts
7 Related slogans and terms
8 Media coverage
9 Iraq
10 War casualities
11 See also
12 External links and references
13 Articles on the Iraqi peace initiatives
14 Related Amnesty International articles

Timeline of the invasion

See 2003 invasion of Iraq timeline for a detailed timeline

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 order to prevent Saddam Hussein's forces from destroying it (as happened in 1991, creating environmental and economic problems).

Casualties of the invading forces were limited, while Iraqi military and civilian casualties are unknown, probably at least in the thousands. A study from the Project on Defense Alternatives ( ), a Boston-based think tank, numbered the Iraqi casualities between 11,000 and 15,000 ( ), and the Iraq Body Count project numbered the civilian Iraqis injured in 20,000 ( However, the Iraq Body Count projects numbers have been the subject of much debate, and may or may not be overly pessimistic.

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.

NASA Landsat 7 image of Bagdad, April 2, 2003

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 looted items. The F.B.I 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 systematic removal of key artifacts.

Many in the arts and antiquities communities warned policymakers in advance of the need to secure Iriaqi museums. Despite the looting being somewhat less bad than initially feared, the cultural loss of items from ancient Sumeria is significant. The idea 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 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.

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 end of major combat in the Iraq war. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating "Mission Accomplished". Bush's landing was criticized by opponents as overly theatrical and expensive. The banner, made by White House personnel (according to a CNN story: and placed there by the U.S. Navy, was criticized as premature - especially later as the guerrilla war dragged on.

It was soon found that "major combat" being over did not mean that peace had returned to Iraq. The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq thereupon commenced, marked by ongoing violent conflict between the Iraqi and the occupying forces. As of January 2, 2004, the total deaths of American soldiers in the Iraq war since March have reached 483. Of these the majority has been killed after the end of major hostilities on May 1. There is concern being voiced from domestic quarters comparing the situation to previous wars such as the Vietnam War.

The ongoing resistance in Iraq is concentrated in, but not limited to, an area known as the Sunni triangle and Baghdad [1]. Critics point out that the regions where violence is most common are also the most populated regions. This resistance may be described as guerilla warfare. The tactics used thus far include mortars, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, small arms fire, and RPGs, as well as purported sabotage against the oil infrastructure. There are also accusations about attacks toward the power and water infrastructure, but these are rather questionable in nature. In the only widely covered example of what some considered an attack on the power system, two US soldiers were killed, indicating that they may instead have been the target. In the purported attack against a water main, some witnesses reported seeing an explosion on the pipe, but US soldiers and repair crews on the scene stated that it did not appear to have been caused by an explosion.

There is evidence that some of the resistance is organized, perhaps by the fedayeen and other Saddam Hussein or Baath loyalists, religious radicals, Iraqis simply angered over the occupation, and foreign fighters. [1]

Events leading to the invasion

In September 2000, in the Rebuilding America's Defenses report [1], the Project for the New American Century planned an attack on Iraq, independently of whether or not Saddam Hussein remained in power. One year later, on the day of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, Defense Secretary Donald H. 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. In 2002 the Iraq disarmament crisis arose primarily as a diplomatic situation. In October 2002, the United States Congress granted President Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq. The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq was worded so as to encourage, but not require, UN Security Council approval for military action. 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. 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 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 Baath party itself to stand down. These rumors were generally 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, links with terrorist organizations 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 September 21, 2003, though Saddam Hussein's government collapsed, former Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas was captured, and the oil fields and resources were rapidly secured but have since suffered continued sabotage.

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.

Failed peace initiatives

After the war, evidence began to emerge as to the failed attempts to bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution.

In December 2002, a representative of the head of Iraqi Intelligence, Gen. Tahir Jalil Habbush al Takriti, contacted former CIA counterterrorism head Vincent Cannistraro, stating that Saddam "knew there was a campaign to September 11 and prove he had weapons of mass destruction. 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." Cannistrano stated that the offers made were all "killed" by the Bush administration, citing that the fact that they all had Saddam Hussein remain in power was unacceptable.

Shortly after, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's national security advisor, Osama al Baz, sent a message to the U.S. State Department that the Iraqis wanted to discuss the accusations that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and ties with al-Qaeda. Iraq also attempted to reach the US through the Syrian, French, German, and Russian intelligence services. Nothing came of the attempts.

In January 2003, Lebanese-American Imad al-Hage met with Michael Maloof of the DoD's Office of Special Plans. Hage, a resident of Beiruit, had been recruited by the department to assist in the War on Terrorism. He reported that Mohammed Nassif, a close aide to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, 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 Richard Perle, head of the Defense Policy Board.

In February 2003, Hage met with the chief of Iraqi intelligence's foreign operations, Hassan al-Obeidi. Obeidi told Hage that Baghdad didn't understand why they were being targetted, and that they had no WMDs; he then made the offer for Washington to send in 2000 FBI agents to ascertain this. He additionally offered oil 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 Gen. Habbush in addition to Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. He was offered top priority to US firms in oil and mining rights, UN-supervised elections, US inspections (with up to 5,000 inspectors), to have al-Qaeda agent Abdul Rahman Yassin (in Iraqi custody since 1994) handed over as a sign of good faith, and to give "full support for any US plan" in the Arab-Israeli peace process. They also wished to meet with high-ranking US officials. On Feb. 19th, Hage faxed Maloof his report of the trip. Maloof reports having brought the proposal to Jamie Duman. The Pentagon denies that either Wolfowitz or Rumsfeld, Duman's bosses, were aware of the plan.

On February 21st, Maloof informed Duman in an email that Perle wished to meet with Hage and the Iraqis if the Pentagon would clear it. Duman responded "Mike, working this. Keep this close hold.". On March 7th, Perle met with Hage in Knightsbridge, and stated that he wanted to pursue the matter further with people in Washington (both have acknowleged 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 concensus in Washington was it was a no-go"). Perle told the Times, "The message was 'Tell them that we will see them in Baghdad."

Throughout March, Hage continued to pass messages from Iraqi officials to Maloof. At one point, Maloof wrote a memo stating "Hage quoted Obeidi as saying this is the last window or channel through which this message has gone to the United States. He characterized the tone of Dr. Obeidi as begging." Maloof contacted Perle, stating that Iraqi officials are "prepared to meet with you in Beiruit, and as soon as possible, concerning 'unconditional terms' ", and that "Such a meeting has Saddam Hussein's clearance." No action is taken.

According to an arab source of the Guardian's, Perle sent a Saudi official the following terms for Iraq to fulfill to prevent war: "Saddam's abdication and departure, first to a US military base for interrogation and then into supervised exile, a surrender of Iraqi troops, and the admission that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. "

Attempts were continued even after the war began, up to the fall of Baghdad.

Hage has since become embroiled in a situation involving an earlier incident involving airport security that many have viewed as payback similar to the case of Valerie Plame

Support and opposition

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

The Bush administration claimed that the U.S.-led coalition against 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), Australia (2,000), Denmark (200), and Poland (54). Ten other countries were 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 to the war.

Popular opposition to war on Iraq led to global protests, and the war was criticized by Belgium, Russia, France, the People's Republic of 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 that the UN Security Council Resolutions authorizing the 1991 invasion 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. To support this stance, one has to "reactivate" the war resolution from 1991; if a war resolution can be reactivated ten years after the fact, it would imply that almost any nation that has ever been at war that ended in a ceasefire (such as Korea) could have the war restarted if any other nation felt at any time that they were no longer meeting the conditions of the cease fire that ended that war. 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 not being valid under the 1991 resolution.

However, a resolution drafted and accepted the year before the invasion fully endorsed the use of military action to force Iraq to comply with the United Nations desires, and every country that sat upon the Security Council voted to draft that resolution.

Several nations say 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. The Egyptian former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali called the intervention a violation of the UN charter.

The United States and United Kingdom claim it was a legal action which they were within their rights 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.

Many people regarded the attack on Iraq to be hypocritical, when other nations such as Israel are also in breach of UN resolutions and have nuclear weapons; this argument is controversial [1], as 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.

Although Iraq was known to have pursued an active nuclear weapons development program previously, as well tried to procure materials and equipment for their manufacture, these weapons and material have yet to be discovered. This casts doubt on some of the accusations against Iraq, despite previous UN assertions that Iraq likely harbored such weapons, and that Iraq failed to document and give UN inspectors access to areas suspected of illegal weapons production. However, some believe that the weapons were moved into Syria and Lebanon.

Hussein Family Whereabouts

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

Related slogans and terms

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. 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 - e.g., "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:

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. 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"

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 (estimate of 12,000 users in Iraq in 2002 [1]), and 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.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, which was formed in 1996, gained a lot of 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 casualties, 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 hackers who saw its coverage as casting a negative view on the American cause.


War casualities

See also

External links and references

Articles on the Iraqi peace initiatives

Related Amnesty International articles