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Why didn't America finish Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War?


I have read To Die in Babylon by Harold Livingstone and it shows how powerful USA is, but some parts are not clear to me. Saddam thought Iraq is prepared for the Americans and it turns out not. At the end of the story a Iraqi soldier said that America will come back to finish Saddam in the future, and they did(Iraq invasion, 2003).

My first question is why didn't USA finish Saddam's reign in the first place?

Second what are Iraq's failures that caused them to lose the war?


The causus belli of the First Gulf War was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. President George (HW) Bush managed to get a series of UN declarations calling for the Iraqi troops to leave, and authorizing succesively more drastic actions to achieve this, culminating in 678, which authorized "all nessecary means". This provided a certian amount of international cover for military action, but only towards restoring Kuwait, not toppling Iraq itself.

Also, many Muslim states signed on to the effort as allies, with the understanding that the recovery of Kuwaiti independence was the only goal. Most significantly, Saudi Arabia provided the required miltary basing and staging territory, with the understanding that the scope of the effort was limited to restoring Kuwait.

There is debate about whether the US administration would have liked to see Saddam toppled as well. Colin Powell claims in his memoirs that the intention was always to leave him in place, as a bulwark against Iran. However, various public statements made by President Bush led many people inside Iraq to (incorrectly) believe the US would support popular uprisings, with very unfortunate results. The administration of his son (GW Bush), certianly believed this was a mistake.

As to Iraqi failures, frankly they lost the war the instant it started. Their mid-20th Century vintage Soviet and Chinese military hardware was simply no match for modern top of the line US and NATO equipment. They could have been tactical geniuses throughout the conflict, and still gotten beaten handily.


Take a look at what happened after Saddam was disposed and you get the answer. Or take a look at what happened after the fall of Kadhafi.

Those dictators, although certainly not good people, but stabilized their regions. From a political point of view this is what is important. In the case of Iraq it was especially important for the US as a stable Iraq was a counterweight for Iran. Putting nice slogens about democracy, human rights, etc. aside, it was in the best interest of the US (and Western countries) to keep the balance and relative stability of that region intact.

So the question as I see is much more why did the US and Western countries dispose of Saddam and Kadhafi-


  1. maybe they wanted to but political pressure from allies (especially Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) to withdraw before reaching Baghdad made it impossible. In fact military leaders advised strongly to do just that, drive for Baghdad. Read general Schwartzkopf's autobiography (and that of president Bush Sr. for details)
  2. arrest? On what grounds? Kuwait would have to press charges with the world court, and maybe did, but as the US doesn't recognise the world court it would be tricky for them to arrest anyone for delivery to the world court except maybe as a proxy for another country. When the US have apprehended foreigners abroad, it was always in international waters or airspace on charges for crimes in the US or against US citizens in international waters or airspace
  3. Iraq's main failure was underestimating the international outrage and the speed and size of the response to their invasion of Kuwait. They still thought they were the darlings of the world for opposing Iran in the Iran-Iraq war (a war btw that Iraq started, not as often thought Iran). They never thought the world (and especially the middle east) would unite against them, or that Saudi Arabia would allow infidels to stage something like a hundred thousand troops inside its borders.

A quote from Dick Cheney, at that time Defense Secretary, circa 1991: "If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?"

Later, as head of Halliburton, Mr. Cheney had this comment: "[I]f Saddam wasn't there, his successor probably wouldn't be notably friendlier to the United States than he is. I also look at that part of the world as of vital interest to the United States; for the next hundred years it's going to be the world's supply of oil. We've got a lot of friends in the region. We're always going to have to be involved there. Maybe it's part of our national character, you know, we like to have these problems nice and neatly wrapped up, put a ribbon around it. You deploy a force, you win the war, and the problem goes away, and it doesn't work that way in the Middle East; it never has and isn't likely to in my lifetime."


George Bush Sr. (a former oilman) was mainly concerned about the oil of Kuwait, and worse, Saudi Arabia, falling permanently into Iraqi hands. When the Iraqi army was "rolled back" out of these countries into Iraq, he was willing to stop the war.

George Bush Jr. believed (or professed to believe) that the Iraqis were on the verge of obtaining weapons of mass destruction. To combat this "threat," he had to occupy Iraq to discover the existence (or lack thereof) such weapons.

The 1991 Iraqis had (some) modern weapons, but the soldiers were mostly poorly trained, supplied, and motivated. They were particularly lacking in transportation and communications equipment. That's why America's General Schwartzkopf opted for a "Hail Mary" attack around the flanks instead of a "head on" attack against which the Iraqis might have done some damage. In 2003, they were even more outmatched, except that they did have the "home court" advantage.


The day the statue fell (part two)

Staff Sergeant Dave Sutherland arrived at his date with destiny on a tank called Kitten Rescue. His mission, as he understood it, was to liberate a small number of foreign journalists being held captive by Iraqi government officials. Instead, Sutherland found himself a hostage of sorts. He strayed into the camera's gaze and became a minor celebrity - captured when he helped to hang the stars and stripes from the statue of Saddam Hussein. His life since then has never been entirely his own.

There was no inkling of this when Kitten Rescue pulled into Firdous Square, with Sutherland in command. All day, he and his men had pushed forward towards the heart of Baghdad, expecting to run into Iraqi resistance - "contact", as he calls it - in every quadrant in the city. He met none.

Instead, the first sight he registered when he reached the square was that of photographers - far more than Sutherland could ever have imagined, and, contrary to his previous instructions, not an Iraqi official in sight. The atmosphere was surreal. His training and his seniors had told him to expect a battle royal for Baghdad, bloody street fighting that could drag on for weeks. The previous 21 days had given him no reason to disbelieve that. "I got a lot of trigger time," he says. "Let's just leave it at that."

Sutherland's first moments in the square unrolled according to military doctrine. He parked his tank in a defensive position just north of the square, and began directing his men to secure the area. By then, the first Iraqis had started trickling into the square. He spoke to a few they seemed intent on taking down the statue. Sutherland could understand that.

Marines like to leave their mark when they are in combat. One of the classic images of the second world war is the photograph of marines planting the stars and stripes on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima in the spring of 1945. On the way up from Kuwait, they regularly took pot shots at giant murals of Saddam, but nobody had tried to knock down a statue. Sutherland smirks that he wouldn't have wasted a tank shell, but the idea was lurking just the same. One of his men suggested it when the statue of Saddam first rose into view. Sutherland put him off. Watching the Iraqis make poor work of the job, though, doing little more than chipping the plinth, made the notion that the Marines would help destroy the statue irresistible.

To hear Sutherland tell it, his superior officers were making a similar calculation: tearing down a statue in the heart of Baghdad would make a great wartime spectacle - another Iwo Jima moment. "It was kind of like the statues of Lenin coming down, or the swastikas being blown up in Berlin," he says. "Pulling down the statue was kind of like a coup de grace to show that it was over."

He seems confident that the order did not originate with the ranking officer in the square, a lieutenant-colonel, but was delivered from on high, perhaps by the commander of the First Marine Division, Major-General JN Mattis, or possibly even the man in charge of the Marine Expeditionary Force, Lieutenant-General James Conway. Although the exact chain of command remains hazy to a marine of Sutherland's rank, on one fact he is clear: "It wasn't an on-the-spot decision from us."

The order came down, the mechanics of destroying the statue got under way. Sutherland milled around the area - ostensibly on crowd-control duty. In truth, he was a spectator, like hundreds of others in the square that day, until he was approached by his company commander, Captain Bryan Lewis. Lewis had another officer in tow, Lieutenant Tim McLaughlin, and an American flag. The captain handed the flag over, and directed Sutherland to fly it above the square.

He was not thrilled. By then the mast from a tank-recovery vehicle had been steered to within a few feet of the statue. With his colonel and captain watching, Sutherland climbed aboard, standing just below Marine Corporal Edward Chin. It could have been his Iwo Jima moment, but Sutherland had much more practical concerns. On the mast above him, Chin's balance was precarious, and both men were inviting targets.

"We were the biggest sniper bait in the whole country," he says. But orders were orders. He handed the flag up as directed, and Chin draped it over Saddam's face. It was there barely a minute before Sutherland heard shouts from below to take the flag down. He did so, and went on to raise an Iraqi flag in its place.

Only after Sutherland descended from his perch did he gain an understanding of the magnitude of that moment. He was mobbed by reporters, demanding his name and hometown. Sutherland knew then: the news had already gone out.

It's hard to imagine this now, sitting by the swimming pool in the residential complex in the small town of Chico, California where Sutherland lives. He left the Marines last September, and entered the police academy. A few months from now, if all goes to plan, he will have traded in his fatigues for a tailored suit, an earpiece, and a $120,000-a-year job in security at a Las Vegas casino.

He is excited about his new life. At 27, he feels as if he has seen a lot more of the world than his contemporaries. He certainly feels disassociated from the life that he knew before the marines, growing up in a small town in the San Francisco Bay area. But then Sutherland never did quite fit the California boy mould.

Growing up in a complicated family of half-siblings, Sutherland was not imbued with the liberal ethos of San Francisco. Even as a child, he was fascinated by military history, and was one of only three among his high-school graduating class of 700 who sought a career in the military. The loner status didn't bother him. He prides himself on his independence, and when he came home on leave and saw his old friends smoking marijuana in their parents' basements he knew he had done the right thing.

For nine years, the marine corps was his life. He travelled, won a speaking role in Ang Lee's film, The Hulk, and learned how to be a leader of men. By October 2002 he was thinking of moving on. But he knew that a war was coming and could not conceive of the idea of waving his friends off to war while he stayed at home, safe and sound. Sutherland volunteered to stay on for an extra year.

After the war and his release from the marines, Sutherland saw his obligations elsewhere. He was also shocked to discover that he had a daughter to raise, Annika, now nearly two years old. Although the relationship ended before Annika was born, Sutherland dotes on his child. He moved to Chico in part to be close to her.

The new responsibilities have not taken the place of his old life. Sutherland badly misses the camaraderie of the marines, and the close friendships he made there. Those nine years left their mark. His hair is cut close to his skull, his trousers are well pressed and his shoes are improbably shiny for a Sunday afternoon with the family.

Looking back now he understands why draping the stars and stripes over Saddam's head would suggest conquest rather than freedom to Iraqis. But none of the controversy appears to have disheartened him within his circle he is seen purely as a hero for handing up that flag. He certainly feels no need to apologise for anything that transpired that day, or for the war. "We were 100% justified. We should have been over there 10 years earlier," he says.

He is no fan of the current occupation, though - he has one brother in Iraq, and another, now in marine boot camp, lined up to go. He would like American troops to quit Iraq, and the entire Middle East, but believes the Iraqi government has to be stabilised first. A headlong withdrawal, he argues, would lead to bloody chaos. He believes that the troops are going to be there for some time.

By all accounts, Sutherland's modest celebrity will be around for some time as well. Around this part of Chico, he is known as the man who tore Saddam's statue down. "Every new book or magazine that comes out about the war has a picture of me from that day on the square," he says. SG

The tank commander
Gunnery Sergeant Leon Lambert

It took 21 days to produce Gunnery Sergeant Leon Lambert's epiphany: long, hard days eating dust in the desert, too tired and too tense to mourn the US marines killed as they pushed up from Kuwait, or to register his surroundings. Nothing made sense to him - until the day he rolled his giant tank-recovery vehicle into Firdous Square and attached a length of cable around the statue of Saddam Hussein. Only then did it dawn: his war was nearly over, and the fighting had had a purpose.

"I really had a sense of what I was doing there for the very first time. I didn't, really didn't, understand before then that what was going on was that we were actually freeing people that were under oppression," he says. "You can watch all this stuff on the news, but it really does not drive home until you can actually see these people with relief on their faces."

Lambert's memories of that day are overlaid with images of his journey from Kuwait. Almost every day was a battle. The third battalion/fourth marines lost men, including an entire tank crew. A day or two before, he had his own close call when two missiles slammed into the dust on either side of his vehicle, spitting up dust and debris. Lambert was stuck in that cloud for what felt like an eternity, waiting for the next missile to hit, before he was able to move.

It's not easy for him to tell the story of those days. Lambert stops often, and gulps for air. He makes no mention of his own role, though he has every reason to be proud. Last week, at his base in Yakima, Washington state, Lambert received a commendation for valour during wartime. As maintenance chief for company B, he put a tank back on its tracks again by improvising spare parts out of an MRE (meal ready to eat) packet and cardboard - all while under enemy fire. The citation calls it a "heroic achievement".

But Lambert's pride is tempered with grief. "I feel what we did that day did not compare to the three weeks of us trying to get there," he says. "We fought and we bled, and some people died every day all the way up to that day and I just believe: why should that day be seen as greater than any other day for my guys that were actually out there doing the fighting?"

He says nothing in his life compares with the experience of those days - and Lambert has lived through an enormous amount in his 36 years. He grew up poor in the Colorado Rockies, the son of a car mechanic. His father could never quite earn enough for his five children Lambert got his first after-school job, as a dishwasher, when he was about 12 years old.

When the Lambert boys reached high school, they made the choices poor Americans often do. The eldest Lambert son joined the army straight out of high school, the second joined the airforce, and Leon became a marine.

It wasn't only the money. Lambert had had options - an athletics scholarship to an Oklahoma college. But he partied too hard, and he could feel himself drifting. Four years in the marines would put him on the straight and narrow, he decided.

He has been in the service for 17 years. The war started on his 10th wedding anniversary - an ironic coincidence given that his wife refuses to believe that he will ever retire. At the time, he never imagined it would be worse than anything else life had dealt him. Within the space of a few years, he and his wife, Denise Irons-Lambert, suffered three miscarriages, and the death of three parents between them. When it came time to ship out to Iraq, Lambert had had so many dealings with death, he couldn't bring himself to make a will - although it is standard procedure before a deployment.

"It had been very rough," he says. "Even before the word came out that we were leaving for Iraq, we had been through so much and through so many tough times that this was just another notch in our belts." He laughs now to think how wrong that was.

By the time Lambert's M-88 tank-recovery vehicle rolled into Firdous Square on April 9 after sweeping up through the southern fringes of Baghdad, his mood was oscillating rapidly between fear and elation. The elation was winning. "I radioed to my executive officer," he says. "I was just messing around with him and I said over the radio: 'Hey, sir, we got the statue over there. Can we go knock it down?' And he said: 'No, Gunny, that's not what we are here for. We are not here for the destruction of property'."

But some Iraqis in the crowd had a similar idea. One, whom Lambert remembers as a fairly large man, came up to ask for help. Lambert, under orders, had to turn him down, but from his M-88 vehicle, he handed over a sledgehammer and some rope.

As many as 50 men threw their weight on the rope looped around Saddam's neck, others flailed at the statue's base. The statue remained unharmed. After about an hour, Lam bert's captain came over, and put him on notice. Orders had come that the statue was to be taken down. "I said, 'Roger that, sir. Give me about five minutes.'"

Lambert moved his vehicle closer to the statue. High up in the Pentagon, others might have been thinking of the propaganda power of that moment Lambert's concerns were far more immediate. He feared that he and his vehicle were becoming a target for any potential Iraqi snipers in the area. He was also worried at the prospect of six metres of bronze tumbling off its plinth into a heaving crowd of civilians, or of a broken cable scything through them.

It would take some ingenuity to get the job done safely.

With his mind thus preoccupied, Lambert was only dimly aware of the scenes taking place only a few metres above his head. His rigger, Corporal Edward Chin, had scaled the mast of the marine recovery vehicle to connect a cable from the M-88 to the statue's neck. So had another marine, Staff Sergeant Dave Sutherland. While Lambert calculated angles of fall and cable strengths, an American flag was draped over the statue's head. A minute later, it was removed, and replaced with an old Iraqi flag from before the first Gulf war.

Moments later, Lambert got the go-ahead from Lt-Colonel Bryan McCoy, the ranking officer in the square that day. Lambert had the driver throttle up the engine in expectation of a heavy load, and started reeling in the cable. "I was afraid because the cable was wrapped around the head that it was going to break in half," he says. He had no choice but to finish Saddam off. He cleared the square and put the vehicle in reverse, hoisting Saddam off his metallic shins. "That's when it actually fell," he says.

The result was pandemonium. "People had such hatred and anger for this man that, literally before I could take the chain off the statue, they started beating it with the soles of shoes, and they took the sledgehammer and were flailing at it. They were literally tearing apart the statue with their bare hands, and I am talking bronze metal, and all this is is a symbol of him."

The scenes convinced Lambert. America had been right to go to war.

By last June, his own part in the invasion was over, and Lambert went home to await the birth of his first son, also called Leon. He will definitely tell Leon Jr about the Iraq war one day, and show him the tiny piece of metal that is his souvenir of the statue.

For Lambert, it remains a proud moment, but he is equally aware that his son's generation may have a different view of those hours in Firdous Square. "I don't know how my daughter or son are going to perceive it 20 years from now. I know that one day it is going to be in the history books, but how will it be in the history books?" he says. "There is still so much controversy going on right now, so many allegations, so much stuff still happening over there in Iraq that I don't think this page of history is done being written yet." SG

The Sculptor
Khaled Izzat

Sitting at home, Khaled Izzat watched live on satellite television as US troops and Iraqis tore down his 5m statue of the dictator Saddam Hussein on Firdous Square. The moment will be replayed on the screens of the world for generations. Few artists achieve such immortality. I ask Izzat what he felt when he saw his work being destroyed. "I felt nothing," he says.

Izzat is 66, although he seems younger. When I first meet him, in the courtyard of a private gallery near Baghdad's art school, he looks like some German intellectual lion of the 1960s, frozen in time, with his Günter Grass moustache, curly hair touching the collar of his black polo neck, and teal-green blazer with a foppish satin handkerchief folded in the breast pocket. "I expected that when the regime changed, these statues would be brought down," he says. "But I thought they would put them in a museum, at least."

Izzat did not go down to the square on the day they destroyed his statue. He seems like a man in a state of shock. He says he doesn't know what happened to the pieces, although he has had offers from shady individuals to recreate parts of the statue for sale to collectors. "I'm from the realistic school," he says. "I don't believe in surrealism." What did Saddam think? "He didn't believe in modern art. He was a realistic person."

We sit in the large, European-style living room of Izzat's comfortable bungalow in Baghdad on a morning in March. There are red plush chairs, and the walls are lined with paintings and sculptures by Izzat and his friends.

Saddam did not sit for the Firdous Square monument, a commission from the municipality of Baghdad in 1992. Instead, Izzat used a photograph to fashion his stiff tribute to the tyrant. But he knew him. Saddam would often visit his studio to deliver critiques of his work. Izzat met him most recently in 2002. His first encounter with the dictator as art critic came in 1983, when, with the Iran-Iraq war in full flow, Izzat was commissioned to sculpt a monument to a young bride killed by Iranian bombardment in the border town of Mendali.

"I'd finished the model," says Izzat. "It was a statue of the whole bride. But when Saddam came and saw it, he said: 'Look, the bride was killed in a bombing raid. Her hands and legs were cut off. Why are you showing the woman whole?' So I changed the model."

It is difficult to get Izzat to talk about how he thought of himself then - artist, regime hack - or what he thought about Saddam. He claims that he lost money on the Firdous Square monument because he took the blame for a worker's accident that damaged the first attempt at casting. But he does not deny that he made good money out of glorifying Saddam. "As an artist, when you're finished, you're going to be happy when you see your work on the plinth. I'm not a politician. My only aim was to work. I was always busy. Our relations with the president were good."

Izzat is still getting a pension of about $27 a month. The family is clearly not in want. I sense Izzat is unhappy about the US occupation, but he does not like to say so directly. He seems a little frightened. He does not want to talk about his former subject's crimes. "If Saddam made mistakes, he should have been toppled peacefully," he says vaguely. "I don't have any specific information about him. Was he a problem?"

I arrive at Izzat's home just as news is coming in of the carnage caused by bombs among pilgrims in Karbala and Kadhimiya. Kadhimiya is a few miles away close enough to hear the dull boom of the blasts, but they are common enough in Baghdad. "You see?" says Izzat as we walk from the front gate past a yellowing lawn to his front door. "The war continued."

Izzat suffered the humiliation of having to buy back some of his sculptures from looters after they were plundered from the national museum. He points to a large wooden object like something from a trendy 1970s salad set. It's called "Dancing Woman". He paid the looters the equivalent of $50 to ransom it, and intends to give it back to the museum.

Now that the warm weather has returned, the old artists sit out on white plastic garden chairs in the little garden in front of the gallery, drinking tea and coffee and chatting. One day, the gallery owner, Qassem al Sabti Hewar, brings in an old oil lamp he has found. Everyone starts making jokes about Aladdin.

"Where's the genie?" says Izzat.

"The looters looted it," says Hewar.

"Those days are gone," says Izzat, without conviction. "We're going to start a new life."

"The greatest favour given us by God is forgetfulness," says Hewar. "If you're able to forget all the terrible things that have happened, you should be honoured. There should be a medal of forgetting." JM

Firdous Square is quiet now. In a city whose world image is one of district-to-district traffic jams, bombs, shootings, hysterical crowds shoving stretchers into ambulances, frenzied dealing in consumer goods, and US soldiers, armoured to anonymity like imperial stormtroopers in Star Wars, the square is a backwater.

It is not a meeting place. You seldom see people sitting and chatting there. A small amount of traffic flows around it, and moneychangers have set up stalls around the edge, but the square itself is largely deserted. Weeds grow through the gaps in the paving stones.

The gap left by the extraction of Saddam has been filled. A consortium of Iraqi artists, the Najeen group, took it on themselves to deposit on the vacant plinth a curious monument made of gypsum and painted a violent shade of green. Basim Hamad's work is intended to represent hope, the Tigris, the Euphrates, Islamic civilisation, the Sumerians, and the family, but from most angles it looks like a great sagging pudding, with horns.

The square was never much of a focal point. Only a few modern blocks of flats overlook it directly most of the small crowd that entered the square on April 9, 2003 was from streets a little further away.

One of the reasons the square is so quiet is that it is partially blocked off. One road from the square leads down to the Tigris embankment and the rows of fish restaurants, now shut, that used to thrive there. It goes past the two hotels, the Palestine and the Sheraton, where the foreign journalists who spent the war in Baghdad were concentrated.

Soon after they arrived, the Americans barricaded that road and began controlling access to it by Iraqis. The barricade has grown steadily thicker, higher and stronger, until now all that can be seen is a solid barrier of concrete, with razor wire curling around it, and beyond that, a tank and the dim blobs that are the heads of US military guards at their posts.

Most of the journalists have moved to other parts of Baghdad now, but on April 9 the two hotels were packed with them. Dozens of TV stations, including the big US networks and the BBC, had live broadcast positions on a cascade of roofs on different levels overlooking the square. From the ground, they were a curious sight: dozens of nodding, gesturing figures stacked in pools of arc lights, telling the world that the Americans had arrived, Saddam was finished and the war was over.

Talking to ordinary Iraqis now, it is striking how none of them gets the chance to meet the American occupiers as human beings, only as helmeted violators, who raid their houses, or as distant, forbidding ghosts, frightened and frightening.

There was an implicit contract in the US military's blitzkrieg of Baghdad a year ago that they were driving, through miles of sand and blood, to attain a rendezvous with the Iraqi people, to be able to shake the Iraqis' hands and tell them that they were free. Yet the real rendezvous, on April 9, was between the invading troops and the resident foreign media. The other rendezvous, the meeting of America and Iraq, has yet to take place. JM

· Guardian Films' extraordinary film about the characters involved appeared on Channel 4 News last night. Distributed by the PA. Contact Scott White Tel: 020-7963 7423


Why didn't America finish Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War? - History

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- ANTHRAX! Where, one wonders, might terrorists have gotten anthrax powder, processed and milled to just the right size and consistency to waft freely through the air but then lodge fatally in the lungs? Could the source be, perhaps, the Trilateral Commission? The World Trade Organization? France? Or -- now here's a thought -- Saddam Hussein?

The tyrant of Iraq has retained both the capability and the determination to obtain weapons of mass destruction. He has thumbed his nose at the West and turned economic sanctions into a propaganda weapon. He is weakened militarily but still menacing enough to require the presence of American forces in Saudi Arabia, thus inflaming anti-American sentiment among Islamic hard-liners who are glad to have reasons to be inflamed. And now we can guess that he is helping to kill Americans anonymously, having learned the drawbacks of killing them openly.

If there is one thing that everyone now agrees is true, it is that the first President Bush blew it when he called off the war on Saddam. America should have finished the job in 1991 and removed Saddam from power, driving from Basra to Baghdad if necessary to find and eliminate him. The failure to do so showed, once and for all, the bankruptcy of coalition war-making and the folly of quitting when the enemy is still on his feet.

Or, to be more exact, partly right, but in a way that is unhelpful at best and misleading at worst. Given what the Administration knew in February 1991, and given the nature of the war it was fighting then, the President's decision to stop when he did was a good one. Those who say George H.W. Bush left the job unfinished are undoubtedly right, but they are right in the same unhelpful way that it is right to say I should have sold my stocks when the market peaked. Like stockbrokers and quarterbacks, Presidents and generals must base their decisions on what they know and see rather than on what may become apparent later on. The real lesson of the Gulf War's early end is not that Bush blew it but that the very compelling reasons to quit then underscore the equally compelling reasons not to quit now.

Early on the morning of February 28, 1991, the White House phoned the headquarters of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf in Riyadh with orders to cease fire against Iraqi forces at 8 a.m. The ground war was only four days old but had been crushingly successful. Iraqi forces were disintegrating, fleeing, surrendering. Still, Saddam's elite Republican Guard units were largely intact and rapidly escaping toward the Iraqi city of Basra, near the Kuwaiti border. The American command needed more time if was to destroy or disarm those divisions. Thanks to Bush's cease-fire, the Republican Guard got away, soon to reappear in southern and northern Iraq slaughtering thousands of hapless Shiites and Kurds whom the United States had encouraged to rebel.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln repeatedly and rightly cursed his generals for licking their wounds rather than giving chase to battered but undefeated Confederate troops. Military doctrine then and now warns against letting the enemy escape to fight again. So why did Bush let the Republican Guard and their leader get away? For four reasons, all of them sound, given (one cannot repeat this qualification too often) the way things looked and the war America was fighting at the time.

Politically, the Administration wanted to keep its coalition together, and the coalition included Arab states whose participation was crucial, both militarily and diplomatically. Although the Arab partners might have acceded to a few more hours or perhaps days of fighting, more than that -- as might have been necessary to finish Saddam -- could well have pushed them beyond their limits. Then the war would have changed from World versus Iraq to United States versus Arabs -- not a war Bush wanted to fight.

People who today criticize the elder Bush for letting the coalition constrain American action in 1991 forget that the coalition had both strategic and tactical reasons for concern. The Saudis and Egyptians, for instance, pressed Bush to stop not because they had any affection for Saddam, nor even primarily because they feared domestic backlash (though that was certainly a factor, and an Islamic revolution in Cairo or Riyadh just then could have been catastrophic), but because they feared that the one thing that might be worse than Saddam would be the chaos that might follow his destruction. In particular, they worried about the rise of a fundamentalist Shiite regime -- another Iran, perhaps -- in part or all of Iraq. That, in turn, might have tipped fundamentalist dominoes throughout the region.

The goal of the Gulf War, for Bush and the Arab allies alike, was not to impose a new order on the region but to restabilize the old one. Strategically speaking, that meant caging the overweening Saddam, not toppling him. Moreover, until 1990 Saddam had been a savage bully, but one America had done business with. It was reasonable to expect that after the fighting he might settle down, play by the rules, and pocket billions in diverted development aid like any self-respecting kleptocrat. That he would instead become psychopathically fixated on revenge could not have been known until after the fact.

Tactically, too, destroying Saddam looked costly. The Republican Guard was melting as fast as it could into Basra. Rooting it out could have meant street combat, with significant American and civilian casualties. No one -- not the allies, not Bush, and not the Pentagon -- relished fighting that type of war, particularly when doing so was not clearly necessary.

Finally, there was a humanitarian problem. By the end of the war, the Administration was coming under attack at home for its "turkey shoot" of the Iraqi forces fleeing toward Basra. Annihilating a prostrate enemy may be good military doctrine, but it was not sustainable in a theater where Americans were fighting for oil rather than for survival. Under the circumstances, and mostly to their credit, Americans and Europeans did not have the stomach to shoot Iraqis, even armed ones, in the back.

Afterward, things turned out badly. Bush made matters worse by allowing Saddam to turn his remaining military forces against his domestic opposition. That was a serious and avoidable error, for which Bush's Administration deserved blame. Still, if you believe that ending the war while Saddam was still in power was a foolish misjudgment, recall the apparent alternative: a drawn-out hunt for Saddam as American and civilian casualties mounted in urban combat a humanitarian crisis with Iraq using civilians as shields and propaganda weapons rather than just a few thousand American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia to inflame the ire of Islamic radicals, an American or Western occupation of an Arab nation, with little if any Arab support. Not clearly needing to go down that road, Bush was right to pull up short.

His son, by exactly the same token, would be wrong to pull up short. George W. Bush's situation is the obverse of his father's. The current President Bush answers not a faraway threat to regional stability but multiple attacks on American soil. He is not defending American hegemony he is defending America. For that reason, Americans will have few qualms this time about fighting hard and taking casualties. A turkey shoot of Al Qaeda forces would not break many hearts at The New York Times.

In 1991, the coalition was fundamental to the war's aim, which was to restore stability in the region this time, the coalition is incidental to the war's aim, which is to defend the United States of America. Stability remains an issue: The current Bush Administration is right to worry about keeping diplomatic damage to a minimum, and about such niceties as installing a postwar government that the Pakistanis and Pashtuns can live with. Nonetheless, this time the aim of the war is not to preserve the order of things but to change it, even at what is likely to be a considerable cost to peace and quiet in the region and in the world and in America. No one imagines that Al Qaeda and Mullah Omar, if spanked, would behave themselves. The enemy has declared his implacable hostility to America if he wins, we lose. Restoring a sustainable status quo ante is not an option, and therefore is not a goal.

In short, this is a real war against a real enemy, and not a "military operation" against a regional bully. It is fundamentally an American war, rather than a coalition war and it is being fought not to restore an old power balance but to establish a new one, for better and also, inevitably, for worse. The first George Bush, notwithstanding the errors revealed by hindsight (and compounded by President Clinton), was a good war leader because he quit prudently. The second George Bush will be a good war leader if he perseveres

Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal. Comment by clicking here.


Final Results

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I don't understand this naive and elitist dismissal of questions as "trivia". History is a massive and very broad field and obviously people's interests will not be the same. There is a large number of us who pursue history as a hobby subject (I myself, like many others, come from stackoverflow) and are not interested in 'deep' questions rather we want to find out about all the little interesting facts which happen throughout history.

And I personally find it very elitist that there are people who think that this does not belong on this site.

Last I checked, this site is called "History exchange" not "Historian Academic exchange". As long as the question is properly written and referenced and is about history, it should be 100% ok. It does not matter if the subject is popular history or about some insignificant trivia or an identification of something in a photo they all form into the umbrella of 'history'. Such style of questions are commonly asked on Stack Overflow and no one has any issue (e.g. "here is my code snippet, what am I doing wrong?" questions are fine on SO). There are plenty of proper academia sites if you want to discuss 'proper' history, let us hobbyists and amateurs have some fun too :)

That being said, we should make sure that anything to do with ice road truckers or lumberjacks or aliens be swiftly purged lest we turn into a certain TV channel I won't name.

I stay on this site purely as a hobby, if suddenly it becomes against site policy to ask simple 'trivia' questions then I wouldn't have any reason to stay anymore. I think I'm not alone in this. If you want the website to get more hits, then alienating all the hobbyists and amateurs, which probably form a significant part of the readership (but not necessarily contributor), is not be the solution.


America's unlearned lesson: the forgotten truth about why we invaded Iraq

Perhaps the tensest moment in Saturday's Republican presidential debate came when Donald Trump finally said something so outrageous that the other candidates onstage and even the debate audience closed ranks against him.

Here is what Trump did: He accused George W. Bush of launching the Iraq War based on a lie:

You do whatever you want. You call it whatever you want. I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.

Trump's 10-second history of the war articulated it as many Americans, who largely consider that war a mistake, now understand it. And, indeed, Bush did justify the war as a quest for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist.

The other Republican candidates, who have had this fight with Trump before, did not defend the war as their party has in the past, but rather offered the party's standard line of the moment, which is that Bush had been innocently misled by "faulty intelligence."

But neither version of history is really correct. The US primarily invaded Iraq not because of lies or because of bad intelligence, though both featured. In fact, it invaded because of an ideology.

A movement of high-minded ideologues had, throughout the 1990s, become obsessed with deposing Saddam Hussein. When they assumed positions of power under Bush in 2001, they did not seek to trick America into that war, but rather tricked themselves. In 9/11, and in fragments of intelligence that more objective minds would have rejected, they could see only validation for their abstract and untested theories about the world — theories whose inevitable and obvious conclusion was an American invasion of Iraq.

This is perhaps not as satisfying as the "Bush lied, people died" bumper sticker history that has since taken hold on much of the left and elements of the Tea Party right. Nor is it as convenient as the Republican establishment's polite fiction that Bush was misled by "faulty intelligence."

If the problem were merely that Bush lied, then the solution would be straightforward: Check the administration's facts. But how do you fact-check an ideology, particularly when that ideology is partially concealed from the public view? How do you guard against that ideology, which still dominates much of the GOP, and some of whose ideas are shared by more hawkish Democrats, from leading us astray again?

The moment at Saturday's debate should highlight the degree to which many Americans, from voters right up to presidential candidates, still misunderstand — and failed to learn from — the story of how America came to expend 4,500 of its citizens' lives in a war that would kill well over 100,000 Iraqis, destroy an entire nation, and help send the Middle East spiraling into chaos.

Why did the United States invade Iraq?

An undated file photo of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. AFP/Getty

To understand the American decision to invade Iraq, and to learn the lessons of that mistake, one must begin not with George W. Bush's claims of Iraqi WMDs or with the 9/11 attacks, but rather with a series of initially obscure ideological debates on elements of the American right.

Those debates, which played out throughout the 1990s, had their roots in disagreements within the Republican Party over American power — and in the evolution of a right-leaning but surprisingly heterodox intellectual movement known as neoconservatism.

Neoconservatism, which had been around for decades, mixed humanitarian impulses with an almost messianic faith in the transformative virtue of American military force, as well as a deep fear of an outside world seen as threatening and morally compromised.

This ideology stated that authoritarian states were inherently destabilizing and dangerous that it was both a moral good and a strategic necessity for America to replace those dictatorships with democracy — and to dominate the world as the unquestioned moral and military leader.

Neoconservatism's proponents, for strategic as well as political reasons, would develop an obsession with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. That obsession would, by the end of the decade, congeal into a policy, explicitly stated: regime change.

Their case was always grandly ideological, rooted in highly abstract and untested theories about the nature of the world and America's rightful place in it. Their beliefs were so deeply held that when 9/11 shook the foundations of American foreign policy, they were able to see only validation of their worldview, including their belief in the urgent need to bring democracy to Iraq.

It was this ideological conviction, more than any piece of intelligence or lie told about it, that primarily led America into Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction were the stated justification, but they were never the real reason, nor was bad intelligence.

The lesson of the Iraq mistake is not the dangers of lying or of anything as narrow as faulty intelligence, but rather of sweeping ideologies and ambitions that can take on a momentum all their own.

That particular ideology, neoconservatism, remains a major force in the Republican Party, and a number of its tenets are held by some Democrats as well. Its mandate for war, and its faith in the power of American military force, still animates that ideology, particularly toward the Middle East.

It is remarkable and alarming that more than a decade and thousands of lives later, neither Republicans nor Americans more broadly have fully confronted how that ideology developed to lead us into a catastrophic war — and the dangers that it, or any other blindly fervent ideology on the right or the left, could still pose.

The radical ideas that led to the neoconservative obsession with Iraq

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush talks to reporters about US military operations in Iraq, flanked by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Chair of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell. David Hume Kennerly/Getty

The story of neoconservatism's evolution in the 1990s begins and ends with Iraq, but at its start it was a disagreement among Republicans.

In late 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraq invaded the oil-rich neighboring kingdom of Kuwait, and a few months later President George H.W. Bush led a brief military intervention to expel Saddam.

But where many Americans saw a rousing success, and the start of a decade that they would experience as overwhelmingly peaceful, a dissident faction of Republicans in and outside of the administration experienced it as a formative moment of national disgrace.

As the American-led mission wound down, the elder Bush urged Iraqis to rise up. But Bush had stopped the war short of destroying Saddam's Republican Guard or his helicopter units, which were able to quickly crush the short-lived Iraqi uprising.

Some administration officials, particularly then-Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, argued that the US should intervene against Saddam's crackdown — if not to aid in regime change, then at least to stop the slaughter.

Wolfowitz "wanted to finish Saddam's regime, and not only did he want to finish it, he believed there was a strong basis for doing so," Richard Perle, another major neoconservative figure, told the journalist George Packer for his book The Assassins' Gate.

Wolfowitz, an idealist and humanitarian, had long believed in America's responsibility to promote democracy abroad. In the mid-1980s, as Ronald Reagan's assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Wolfowitz successfully pushed for the US to abandon Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who, though a reliable anti-communist, was violent and corrupt.

For Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives in the elder Bush administration, the 1991 Gulf War embodied of everything that was morally wrong — and indeed dangerous — with America's practice of tolerating dictators.

Throughout the 1990s, Saddam Hussein only became more defiant and disobedient, ignoring United Nations mandates on weapons inspections and issuing increasingly anti-American rhetoric. While many Middle East analysts suspected Saddam's actions were primarily designed to help him save face at home after his humiliating 1991 defeat against the Americans, neoconservatives saw not just American humiliation but alarming evidence of American decline.

This played into a growing school of thought among the dissident Republicans, which went far beyond Iraq. It said that America had a special responsibility to spread democracy for the betterment of humanity, that Republicans had forgotten the world-changing idealism of Ronald Reagan, and that the end of the Cold War was not an excuse for America to retreat from its military adventurism but rather the moment when it was needed most.

A historian and scholar named Robert Kagan helped lead this charge. He argued that America's unilateral assertion of power — the mere fact of American military action — was not just strategically but morally necessary. It would spread democracy and thus human rights, but also deter rogue states and thus promote peace.

In 1996, Kagan co-authored, along with Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, a seminal essay in Foreign Affairs calling on America to bring about an era of "global benevolent hegemony."

They predicted that the world would welcome American military dominance as a force for stability and for the promotion of values such as democracy and human rights. In this view, nearly any expression of American military dominance was an act of moral good, whereas the absence of US dominance would invite chaos and, ultimately, threats against the US.

The neoconservatives' attention would inevitably return, over and over, to Iraq and to the anti-American dictator who had wrongly escaped justice. Iraq was a perfect example of their criticisms of Democrats and Republicans alike, its defiance a seemingly undeniable argument for their worldview.

Building the case for war

In 1997, the year after their Foreign Affairs essay, Kagan and Kristol helped found a group called the Project for a New American Century, meant to instill these foreign policy ambitions in a Republican Party that had tilted away from Reagan-style idealism.

PNAC included in its members Wolfowitz and Perle, as well as other senior Reagan administration officials and neoconservatives such as Elliott Abrams, James Woolsey, and Donald Rumsfeld. From the start, it made Iraq its central issue.

In January 1998, PNAC published an open letter to the Clinton administration warning that "we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War." It urged a new strategy that "should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power."

Partly this was specific to Iraq. The world was generally pliant to American will in the 1990s, but the defiantly anti-American Iraq stood out as a glaring exception neoconservatives simply had few other examples to justify their view of a dangerous world that had to be subjugated by American power.

Perhaps just as importantly, Iraq was seen in Washington as a policy failure for Bill Clinton — tempting many Republicans, whether they were particularly invested in neoconservatism or not, to take hard-line positions from which to attack him.

But more than that, this was about using Iraq as a proving ground for the neoconservatives' larger and more ideological mission.

"They saw Iraq as the test case for their ideals about American power and world leadership," Packer writes. "Iraq represented the worst failure of the nineties and the first opportunity of the new American century."

As it happened, PNAC and its allies had an unprecedented opening to harden their radical proposal into mainstream Washington consensus.

In 1998 came the Monica Lewinsky scandal, in which congressional Republicans, sensing Clinton's political weakness, sought opportunities to both embarrass him on other fronts and win concessions he might have otherwise resisted. Iraq gave them both: That October, seizing on PNAC's call for regime change, congressional Republicans passed the Iraq Liberation Act, which stated that regime change was US policy.

Clinton caved to the pressure, signing the Iraq Liberation Act and thus announcing to Saddam Hussein, and to the world, that America was bent on his removal. Saddam, in retaliation, expelled UN weapons inspectors that same day.

These two acts would prove crucial in laying the groundwork for the US invasion five years later. In Washington, regime change had suddenly and with little thought become a comfortably bipartisan policy position. And the George W. Bush administration would later argue that Saddam had expelled the inspectors not as political retaliation, but rather to restart his 1980s chemical and biological weapons programs.

In the final year of Clinton's presidency, Kristol and Kagan co-edited a book of essays titled Present Dangers, meant to argue for a new era of neoconservative Republican foreign policy. It included an essay by Richard Perle that argued the US should not just promote an Iraqi uprising but also provide US ground troops to assist them. Perle also urged installing in Saddam's place an exile group known as the Iraqi National Congress, which was headed by Ahmed Chalabi — the very man the US would try to install three years later.

A few months later, Texas Gov. George W. Bush became president. Moved by neoconservatism's idealistic faith in democracy and perhaps sympathetic to its fixation on Iraq — Saddam had attempted to assassinate Bush's father — Bush filled several top positions with members of PNAC and other neoconservative adherents, including Rumsfeld as defense secretary and Wolfowitz as deputy secretary of defense. Richard Perle chaired the Pentagon's defense policy advisory board.

Vice President Dick Cheney speaks to President Bush by phone from a secure White House room on September 11, 2001, alongside other senior officials. The White House/Getty Images

What 9/11 really had to do with the Iraq War

Despite longstanding conspiracy theory to the contrary, it is not the case that Bush came into office secretly plotting to invade Iraq or that he seized on the 9/11 attacks as cynical justification. While there is a line between the attacks and the invasion of Iraq, that line is not as direct as many Americans might think.

The attacks left Bush, a foreign policy neophyte, adrift. He had little experience with the Middle East or the complex social and political forces that had culminated, seemingly out of nowhere, in the deaths of some 3,000 Americans. He grasped for an answer the neoconservatives in his administration just happened to have one ready.

Since long before 9/11, these officials had argued that terrorism like that of al-Qaeda had to be understood as a symptom of the Middle East's real problems as they saw it: an absence of democracy and of American-dominated "benevolent hegemony."

This worldview did not necessarily require that Saddam Hussein had been behind the 9/11 attacks or that he had sheltered Osama bin Laden. Nonetheless, the neoconservatives, so steeped in abstract ideological convictions that put Saddam at the center of the Middle East's problems, were unable to resist the temptation to see the 9/11 attacks as validating their grand theories about the world.

And those theories inevitably culminated, as they always had, in the need for America to go to war with Iraq.

On 9/11 itself, Packer recounts in his book, "Within minutes of fleeing his office at the devastated Pentagon, Wolfowitz told aides that he suspected Iraqi involvement in the attacks."

On September 12, 2001, as rescue workers still swarmed the downed Twin Towers, Bush asked his counterterrorism team to investigate Iraqi links. "See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way. . I want to know any shred," he said, according to then-counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke's recollection to Packer.

On September 15, at a high-level Camp David meeting to discuss the US response to the attacks, Wolfowitz repeatedly raised Saddam Hussein as not just a possible link but the most important target for retaliation.

On September 17, according to Packer's account, Bush told his war council, "I believe Iraq was involved."

In subsequent months, the Bush administration would gesture at a case for Iraqi involvement in 9/11, but would ultimately settle on a very different argument that Saddam possessed WMD programs that threatened the US.

Bush's flexibility in how he justified the war was telling. It was not any particular issue, whether terrorism or WMDs, that prompted the war rather, it was always about ideological convictions. Those convictions took on a momentum of their own.

The administration's neoconservatives argued not just for possible links between Saddam and Osama bin Laden, but that al-Qaeda was an outgrowth of the Middle East's larger problems as they had long identified them. Toppling Saddam would not just solve these root problems — it would transform the Middle East for the better, and begin an era of welcomed American dominance over the region.

These arguments relied increasingly on a small circle of Middle East scholars such as Fouad Ajami, whose 1998 book Dream Palace of the Arabs had rooted the region's problems in a self-perpetuating social and political rot. Only a major jolt could end the cycle and awaken the once-proud Arabs. This jolt, Ajami argued, would be best delivered by an American invasion to topple Saddam and "liberate" Iraqis with democracy — thus surely inspiring a regional awakening.

By that December, long before the Bush administration would produce any of the so-called smoking guns proving Iraqi WMDs, it had already begun preparing to sell the public on a war with Iraq. David Frum, the Bush-era speechwriter who would later coin the term "axis of evil," described this moment in his memoir, The Right Man:

"Here's an assignment. Can you sum up in a sentence or two our best case for going after Iraq?"

It was late December 2001, and Mike Gerson was parceling out the components of the forthcoming State of the Union speech. His request to me could not have been simpler: I was to provide a justification for war.

Frum clarifies that other speechwriters were working on alternate drafts that were to be less "hawkish" his assignment, he believes, did not indicate that the administration was yet dead set on war.

But Frum's anecdote, like so many others from that time, shows the building momentum, within the administration, for war — a momentum, propelled by ideological conviction, that would ultimately overtake reason and critical thinking in the White House.

In March 2002, Bush dropped into a meeting between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and three senators to tell them, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out."

That June, Richard Haass, the State Department director of policy planning, visited Rice's office for their regular meeting. When he raised the State Department's misgivings about the "bureaucratic chatter" of a possible war, Rice cut him off.

"Save your breath," she told him. "The president has already made up his mind."

"It was an accretion, a tipping point," Haass told Packer, recounting the incident. "A decision was not made — a decision happened and you can't say when or how."

How the Bush administration fooled even itself

Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld with President George W. Bush. Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

The neoconservative ideological convictions — a preoccupation with Saddam Hussein, a radical ambition to remake the Middle East from within, an almost blind faith in American military power as a force for positive transformation — led them to desire a war with Iraq as the solution to not just terrorism but a litany of problems, and to see validation for that desire even in the obviously flawed intelligence that would be their justification.

The White House inserted itself directly into an intelligence dissemination and vetting process that is typically handled by the agencies themselves. After 9/11, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney instituted a new system known as "Top Secret Codeword/Threat Matrix," under which they demanded to personally review raw intelligence.

"The mistake was not to have proper analysis of the intelligence before giving to the president," Roger Cressey, who served in Bush's National Security Council, told Jane Mayer for her book The Dark Side. "There was no filter. Most of it was garbage. None of it had been corroborated or screened. But it went directly to the president and his advisers, who are not intelligence experts. That's when mistakes got made."

In the months after the attacks, US intelligence agencies came under heavy pressure to investigate the administration's suspicions of links between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, or of ongoing Iraqi WMD programs.

It does not appear that the administration encouraged them to lie, but rather that deep-rooted biases led top officials to dismiss the mountains of intelligence that undercut their theories and to favor deeply problematic intelligence that supported it.

In 2001, for example, a man named Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, whom the US had picked up in Afghanistan and then shipped to Egypt to be tortured, claimed that Saddam had provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. The Defense Intelligence Agency warned that Libi's information could not be trusted. But Bush treated it as credible, and repeated Libi's claim as established fact in his case for war.

The US also relied heavily on claims by an Iraqi exile living in Germany named Rafid Ahmed Alwan, code-named "curveball," who claimed to have direct knowledge of secret Iraqi WMD programs. Though both German and UK intelligence said Alwan was unstable and his information unreliable, the US embraced his claims, which provided the basis of much of its case for war.

Years later, Alwan admitted he had made it all up to help instigate the American invasion of Iraq. But the White House believed him for the simple reason that it badly wanted to.

Within months, the momentum for war within the administration had overtaken the normal processes of decision-making — and certainly had overtaken the public case for war.

By all appearances, administration officials believed their allegations of Iraqi WMDs were true and that this was indeed sufficient justification. Why else would the US launch a desperate, high-profile search for WMDs after invading — which only ended up drawing more attention to how false those allegations had been?

Rather, they had deceived themselves into seeing half-baked intelligence as affirming their desire for war, and then had sold this to the American people as their casus belli, when in fact it was secondary to their more high-minded and ideological mission that would have been too difficult to explain. That, more than overstating intelligence on WMDs, was the really egregious lie.

The lie bigger than WMDs: claiming the war was because of WMDs

"We know they have weapons of mass destruction. We know they have active programs. There isn't any debate about it," Rumsfeld said in September 2002.

"Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons, and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon," Bush said the next month, warning that Saddam would "threaten America and the world with horrible poisons, and diseases, and gases, and atomic weapons."

Then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice claimed that Saddam was running a clandestine nuclear program that was only "six months from a crude nuclear device."

In fact, none of this was true. Iraq had discontinued its chemical and biological weapons programs in the 1980s. A 1998 US-led bombing campaign had destroyed much of the remains.

But even if Bush's allegations had been true, they would not have accurately described his administration's real reasons for invading Iraq. The neoconservative mission of upending a tyrant and bringing democracy to the Middle East was mentioned only as a secondary benefit, or deployed as a later justification when no WMDs materialized.

This was, in part, how the Bush administration backed itself into such shoddy intelligence — shutting down Iraqi WMDs was never really the point, so Bush officials had little reason to fully vet the intelligence suggesting those programs were already gone.

At the same time, in keeping their actual reasons for war from the public, the Bush administration lost the opportunity for those reasons to be openly debated, at which point more grounded Middle East or military scholars might have revealed them as dangerously misguided.

America needs to finally confront the lessons of Iraq — before we repeat them

Marco Rubio at the January 28 Republican debate in Des Moines, hosted by Fox News. (Scott Olson/Getty)

As Donald Trump's stunt showed, America's public debate over Iraq, now 13 years later, still turns largely on Bush's claims and their truth. But even if Saddam had turned out to possess weapons of mass destruction, if Bush had been right, what would it really change?

The war would still have cost some 4,500 American lives and well over 100,000 Iraqi lives. It would still have destabilized Iraq, opened up the country for violent extremism, and contributed directly to the rise of ISIS. And it would still have been launched in pursuit of an ideological mission that turned out to be dangerously misguided.

Abstract and radical neoconservative ideas that had developed during the Clinton years, bouncing around a tiny echo chamber of like-minded idealists who had little desire to challenge one another, had suddenly and with no real public debate become the basis of a war that would quickly cost many thousands of lives.

But those ideas are still very much a part of America's foreign policy discourse, and some day, even as soon as this January, their adherents could return to the White House.

Americans have rightly litigated the question of Bush's honesty on WMDs. But we have still not interrogated the deeper force behind the catastrophic war: the radical convictions of a neoconservative ideology that remains central to the Republican Party's foreign policy — particular among establishment-backed presidential candidates such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

These candidates, in how they discuss hostile nations such as Iran, Russia, and Syria, do not sound so different from the neoconservatives of the 1990s. You hear this in their belief in the power and virtue of unilateral American force, in the need to express hegemonic American dominance over the Middle East, and in the apparently earnest fear that any challenge to American power, no matter how slight, is just the start of a potentially global unraveling.

You see it in Marco Rubio's highly ideological but analytically groundless belief that dismantling the Iran nuclear deal and adopting a policy of maximal belligerence toward Tehran would advance freedom and peace in the Middle East.

This is not to say that neoconservative candidates are secretly plotting, or would necessarily execute, another war in the Middle East — although it is concerning to see them so focused on Iran as an implacable and grave threat that can only be addressed by subjugating the regime or bringing about its downfall.

It is concerning to see Rubio advocating forceful regime change in Syria and hiring a foreign policy adviser who advocates it in Iran, all along similar high-minded ideological lines as the neoconservative obsession with Iraq 20 years ago. It is worrying to hear hawks like Sen. Tom Cotton, embraced by neoconservative luminaries, explicitly advocate that the US abandon the nuclear deal to instead force regime change or even launch military strikes.

To be clear, the ideas of neoconservatism are not all exclusive to the Republican Party Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power have pursued some, though far from all, similarly high-minded policies, particularly a belief in humanitarian interventions. (Indeed, Clinton voted for the Iraq War.) And many Republicans do oppose neoconservatism, instead advocating a return to the hard-nosed realism of George H.W. Bush.

The lesson is not that neoconservatism should be a disqualification from the presidency. Indeed, the ideology has made important and undervalued contributions to American foreign policy, such as its focus on human rights and its warning that supporting friendly dictatorships is both morally wrong and, in the long term, strategically unviable.

But these ideas, like neoconservatives' more dangerous faith in the transformative power of American military force, deserve to be evaluated and then either embraced or rejected on their merits.

In the Iraq War, we had the purest possible test of many of this ideology's core beliefs about the inherent virtue of American military power, about the supposedly transformative power of regime change, and about the supposed demand for American hegemony.

These ideas all proved not just false but disastrously so. We have not taken those lessons into account, preferring instead to litigate the narrower and politically easier question of Bush's personal honesty.

The lesson, which extends to both parties, is that a potential president's ideological views are just as important to examine and vet as are his or her policy proposals that the line between obscure policy journals and American military action can be much shorter than we'd like to think.

That is true of any ideology, but it is especially true of neoconservatism, which we have still not chosen to vet, remarkably, even after we invested billions of dollars and thousands of lives in testing it directly in Iraq, to results apparently so damning we have still not fully absorbed them.

Recommended reading cited in this article (and some not cited)

Histories of the US decision to invade:

Influential neoconservative texts:

Pentagon Defense Planning Guidance, by Zalmay Khalilzad and Abram Shulsky, supervised by Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (1992) [key excerpts]

"Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs, by William Kristol and Robert Kagan (1996)

Memoirs from Bush administration officials:

Open letter to President Bill Clinton on Iraq, sent by Project for a New American Century (1998)

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WHY ISRAEL HAS THE MOST ADVANCED MILITARY ON EARTH (By Yakoov Katz, New York Post)

In 1950, just two years after the state of Israel was founded, the country’s first commercial delegation set off for South America.

Israel desperately needed trading partners. Unlike its Arab adversaries, Israel did not have natural resources to fund its economy. There was no oil or minerals. Nothing.

The delegation held a couple of meetings but was mostly met with laughs. The Israelis were trying to sell oranges, kerosene stove tops and fake teeth. For countries like Argentina, which grew its own oranges and was connected to the electrical grid, the products were pretty useless.

It’s hard to imagine this is what Israeli exports looked like a mere 67 years ago. Today, Israel is a high-tech superpower and one of the world’s top weapons exporters with approximately $6.5 billion in annual arms sales.

Since 1985, for example, Israel is the world’s largest exporter of drones, responsible for about 60 percent of the global market, trailed by the US, whose market share is under 25 percent. Its customers are everywhere — Russia, South Korea, Australia, France, Germany and Brazil.
In 2010, for example, five NATO countries were flying Israeli drones in Afghanistan. How did this happen? How did Israel, a country not yet even 70 years old, become a superpower with one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world that is changing the way modern wars are fought?

The answer, I believe, is a combination of a number of national characteristics unique to Israel.

First, despite Israel’s small size, about 4.5 percent of its GDP is spent on research and development, almost twice the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average. Of that amount, about 30 percent goes to products of a military nature. By comparison, only 2 percent of German R& />and 17 percent of US R& />is for the military.
Another major contribution is the culture of innovation and creativity in Israel. Israelis are more willing to take risks than other nations. They get this from their compulsory military service during which they are tasked, at a young age, to carry out missions often with deadly consequences.

While Israeli 19-year-olds embark on operations behind enemy lines, their Western counterparts can be found in the safety of their college dormitories.

Lastly, Israel has been in a perpetual state of conflict since its inception, fighting a war almost every decade. This reality, of having your back against the wall, sharpens the mind. It forces Israelis to be creative and come up with innovative ways and weapons to survive.

ROBOTIC BORDER PATROL
The Guardium is a part of a new category of robotic weapons known as Unmanned Ground Vehicles or UGVs. Israel is the first country in the world using these robots to replace soldiers on missions like border patrols.

Already, Guardium UGVs are deployed along Israel’s border with Syria in the north and the Gaza Strip in the south.

The Guardium is based on a Tomcar dune-buggy-like vehicle and equipped with a range of sensors, cameras and weapons. It can be driven by a soldier sitting in a command center miles away or receive a pre-designated route for its patrol, making it completely autonomous.
The increasing use of robots by the Israel Defense Forces is part of a larger strategy to minimize risk to soldiers when possible. In addition, soldiers require breaks, food and water. All a Guardium needs is a full tank of gas. Other UGVs in use by the IDF include the Segev, which is based on a Ford F-350 pickup truck.

Facing terrorists who use tunnels to infiltrate into Israel from places like the Gaza Strip, Israel is also relying on UGVs like robotic snakes to slither into underground passageways and enemy headquarters. The robots will then map out the structures, giving soldiers an accurate picture of a battle area before the place is stormed.

The same is happening at sea. Israeli defense contractor Rafael has developed an unmanned patrol ship called Protector which is being used by Israel to protect its strategic ports and patrol the country’s long Mediterranean coastline.
THE ARROW ANTI-MISSILE PROGRAM
In 2000, the Israeli air force received its first operational Arrow missile battery, making Israel the first country in the world with an operational system that could shoot down incoming enemy missiles.

The idea to create the Arrow was born in the mid-1980s after US President Ronald Reagan floated his Star Wars plan and asked America’s allies to partner in developing systems that could protect the country from Soviet nuclear missiles.

The Arrow was a revolutionary idea. Due to Israel’s small size and lack of territory, all ballistic missiles deployed in the region — by Syria, Iraq and Iran — can reach anywhere within the country and pose a strategic and possibly even existential threat. Israel, the developers argued, needed a system that could shoot down enemy missiles over neighboring countries and provide overall protection for the tiny Jewish state.
The program had its ups and downs but got a huge boost in funding after the First Gulf War in 1991, when Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles into Israel, paralyzing the country and forcing millions of Israelis into bomb shelters with their gas masks.

The Arrow was just the beginning. Today, Israel has the Arrow, which is partially funded by the United States, to intercept long-range ballistic missiles, David’s Sling to intercept medium-range rockets and cruise missiles as well as the combat-proven Iron Dome, which has intercepted hundreds of Katyusha rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in recent years.

Israel is the only country in the world that has used missile defense systems in times of war. These systems do more than just save lives. They also give the country’s leadership “diplomatic maneuverability,” the opportunity to think and strategize before retaliating against rocket attacks.

While other countries have also invested in missile defense, none has created a multi-tier architecture like Israel.

MINI SPY SATELLITES
In 1988, Israel launched its first spy satellite into space, gaining membership in the exclusive club of just eight nations with independent satellite-launching capabilities.

From the beginning, there were those who doubted Israel was capable of developing, building and launching its own satellite, but in the nearly 30 years since that day, it has grown into a satellite superpower, now operating eight different spy satellites in space.

This is a critical capability considering the threats Israel faces from countries like Iran, which it still suspects is planning one day to build a nuclear weapon.

Israel has shied away from building big satellites and instead designs what are known as “mini satellites,” which weigh about 300 kilograms (661 pounds) in comparison to America’s 25-ton satellites.
Israel’s spy satellites are split into two categories.

A model of Israel’s Tecsar satellite, which uses radar instead of a camera to create high-quality imagesIAI
Most of Israel’s satellites come with advanced high-resolution cameras like the Ofek-9, launched in 2010, which can discern objects as small as 50 centimeters (20 inches) from hundreds of miles away.

Israel’s other category of satellites are known as the TecSar. These satellites use a synthetic aperture sensor, basically a radar system that can create high-resolution images at almost the same quality as a regular camera.

The advantage this technology provides Israel is tremendous. A camera cannot see through clouds or fog, but radars can work in all weather conditions and can even see through camouflage nets. What this means is that Israel has the ability to track its enemies and gather intelligence on them at all times of the day and through rain, fog or clouds.

Israel’s success in developing state-of-the-art satellites has caught the world’s attention. In 2005, the French entered a strategic partnership with an Israeli company to develop a satellite, and in 2012, Italy ordered a reconnaissance satellite, paying $182 million. Singapore and India have also reportedly purchased Israeli satellites over the years.

DRONES
It is referred to in Israel as the “drone that can reach Iran.” The Heron TP is Israel’s largest unmanned aerial vehicle with an 85-foot wingspan, the same as a Boeing 737 airliner. It can stay airborne for 24 hours and carry a 1-ton payload.

While Israel doesn’t openly admit it, the Heron TP is believed to also be capable of launching air-to-surface missiles.

Israel was the first country in the world to operate drones in combat operations. Its first use of drones was in 1969, when the Israel Defense Forces flew toy airplanes with cameras glued to their bellies along the Suez Canal to spy on Egypt. In 1982, it flew its first combat drone, called Scout, in Lebanon, where they played a key role in locating and neutralizing Syrian anti-aircraft missile systems.

That operation caught the world’s attention, and in 1986, Israel supplied the US Navy with its first drone, known as the Pioneer. A few years later, one Pioneer made history when it flew over a group of Iraqi soldiers during the First Gulf War. The soldiers saw the aircraft, took off their white undershirts and waved them in the air. It was the first time in history that a military unit had surrendered to a robot.

Israel’s drones have revolutionized the modern battlefield. They cost a fraction of a manned fighter jet — some as little as a few million dollars — and participate today in every single operation conducted by the IDF.

Drones give soldiers the ability to make calculated decisions before invading territory or storming enemy compounds.

Before Israel bombs a building in the Gaza Strip, for example, it always has a drone in the air to ensure that civilians are not inside. They also reportedly fly almost daily over Lebanon, tracking fighters for Hezbollah, which is believed to have about 130,000 missiles capable of striking Israel.

THE TOP-SECRET TANK
To this day, the Merkava tank is one of Israel’s most top-secret projects. It is said to be one of the most lethal and protected tanks in the world, and its construction started out of pure necessity — the United Kingdom and other countries refused to sell Israel tanks. So in the 1970s, it started to build its own.

The newest model — known as the Merkava Mk-4 — is the most impressive. It can reach speeds of 40 mph and comes with a new modular armor kit, meaning that the tank can be fitted with the armor it needs based on the specific mission it is heading into.

An area, for example, known to be full of anti-tank missile squads requires heavy armor, while an operation without the threat of anti-tank missiles means less. This also allows tank crews to replace damaged pieces of armor on the battlefield without having to bring the full tank back to a repair shop inside Israel.

In 2012, the Merkava underwent its biggest change yet when a new system — called Trophy — was installed on the tank. Trophy is an active-protection system, basically a personal missile defense system for an individual tank.

Trophy uses a miniature radar to detect incoming anti-tank missiles and then fires a cloud of countermeasures — basically metal pellets — to intercept them. The radar also interfaces with the tank’s battle management system. This means that once a missile launch is detectsyed, the coordinates of the enemy squad that fired the missile are immediately obtained, allowing the tank to retaliate quickly and accurately.


Luay Al-Khatteeb

Former Brookings Expert

Throughout this time, Iraqi opposition figures saw their people endure immense suffering and destruction (not to mention appalling sanctions). Some say Chalabi helped push the United States to war. But Chalabi was already in a long war with Saddam, one that the United States supported in the 1990s, only far more in word than in deed.

Chalabi knew that cultivating relations with the Republicans was essential not just for the goal of removing Saddam, but merely so that the opposition project could survive. And survival was key: upwards of 500 mass graves were discovered in Iraq after 2003.

But did Chalabi manipulate the entire Bush administration? Paul Wolfowitz, a key figure pushing for tougher action on Saddam, was personal friends with prominent Iraqi dissident and author Kanan Makiya and pro war thinker Christopher Hitchens – these men didn’t need defectors with WMD stories to know that a genocidal dictator had to go. That was U.S. policy from 1991 onwards when Bush senior asked the CIA to “create the conditions for Saddam’s removal.” So, the “master manipulator” portrayal is also exaggerated.

But as the centrepiece of the Iraq opposition, and after much fumbling from the Clinton administration, Chalabi was instrumental in making the project feasible. Without that role, Saddam or his deranged sons would still be in Baghdad.

Imagine being faced with such a task, based only a few miles from a dictator who had already poisoned the Kurdish region with chemical weapons. Chalabi had to allay the fears of defected Baathist officers, divided Kurds and Shi’a opposition groups who knew the U.S. had abandoned them before to Saddam’s killing machine.

But while Chalabi’s contemporaries in this dark period schemed — and in the case of KDP leader Masoud Barzani, temporarily joined forces with Saddam, Chalabi’s aim was singular: to end a regime that had murdered hundreds of thousands of people, caused one of the bloodiest wars post WW2 with Iran that left two million dead and wounded, forced three million into exile, and at one point planned to fire VX chemical missiles into Tehran, which would have killed tens of thousands of civilians.

Chalabi reached his goal, but soon felt betrayed by the broken U.S. promise to hand over power to Iraqis and hold a democratic election as soon as possible. Chalabi sat almost powerless in the interim governing council, just as Paul Bremer unleashed a series of lamentable mistakes upon the Iraqi people. Just as many people would in this situation, he deepened ties to Iran, but never gave up on his hope of a united, democratic Iraq.

Despite coming close to the political wilderness in 2006, Chalabi followed a more conciliatory role in Iraqi politics than people give him credit for, bringing disparate Shi’a groups together into the National Alliance (including the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front and the Kurdish Alliance) which energised Iraqis to vote in the 2005 elections.

This brings us to another historically divided view of the man: Chalabi the sectarian champion of de-Baathification. This is always a strange accusation, given the quasi fascist nature of the Baath, which had embedded itself in Iraq’s institutions through decades of coercion and intensive propaganda. Just as in Germany’s de-Nazification after WW2 to uproot the former regime’s ideology, Iraq’s institutions had to be rehabilitated. The fact that the project was ultimately hijacked to become a politicised witch hunt is no fault of Chalabi.

Despite accusations of sectarianism, it was Chalabi who once took Iraqi Sunnis to the Shi’a Holy Shrine of Imam Ali at the height of sectarian violence in 2006.

The misrepresentation continues: Chalabi the “convicted fraudster” following the Petra Bank scandal, which ignores the fact that the “court” who tried him was a military tribunal. It was a highly controversial case with strong reasons to believe political motivations were behind the charges.

These allegations jar with Chalabi’s last role in Iraq, vigorously chasing corruption during his active role in parliament and most recently as head of the Finance Committee despite the immense danger of such a job, leaking information on scandals to local and international media.

That’s the Chalabi I remember: in our meetings, he was always deeply concerned by corruption and mismanagement in Iraq and abuse of the dollar auctions. He talked about how past administrations lost the golden opportunity of high oil prices whilst failing to diversify Iraq’s economy and income streams.

During our last telephone conversation in October, he asked me for advice on Iraq’s debts to oil companies and market forecast while working on the 2016 budget. Despite the financial and security challenges Iraq faced, he always talked with a strong belief that “one day, our country, would become a civil state headed by competent technocrats and more responsible administrations.” He remained influential to the end, and deeply passionate about his country.

No doubt historians will continue to debate the complex episodes of his life, but many Iraqis are deeply fond of the man and in his passing, it seems his legend will grow. He received nothing less than a state funeral and astonishingly, a final resting place in al-Kadhimiya Holy Shrine, perhaps the ultimate endorsement of Iraq’s religious Marjiyah establishment, a fitting end to an epic life. This honour is unprecedented for a liberal Iraqi politician who laid the cornerstone for a democratic, civil Iraqi state. Chalabi fought many battles, but that was his final victory.


Contents

Strong international opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime began after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The international community condemned the invasion, [79] and in 1991 a military coalition led by the United States launched the Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, the US and its allies tried to keep Saddam Hussein in check with a policy of containment. This policy involved numerous economic sanctions by the UN Security Council the enforcement of Iraqi no-fly zones declared by the US and the UK to protect the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and Shias in the south from aerial attacks by the Iraqi government and ongoing inspections to ensure Iraq's compliance with United Nations resolutions concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The inspections were carried out by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). UNSCOM, in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, worked to ensure that Iraq destroyed its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and facilities. [80] In the decade following the Gulf War, the United Nations passed 16 Security Council resolutions calling for the complete elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Member states communicated their frustration over the years that Iraq was impeding the work of the special commission and failing to take seriously its disarmament obligations. Iraqi officials harassed the inspectors and obstructed their work, [80] and in August 1998 the Iraqi government suspended cooperation with the inspectors completely, alleging that the inspectors were spying for the US. [81] The spying allegations were later substantiated. [82]

In October 1998, removing the Iraqi government became official U.S. foreign policy with enactment of the Iraq Liberation Act. The act provided $97 million for Iraqi "democratic opposition organizations" to "establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq." [83] This legislation contrasted with the terms set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which focused on weapons and weapons programs and made no mention of regime change. [84] One month after the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, the US and UK launched a bombardment campaign of Iraq called Operation Desert Fox. The campaign's express rationale was to hamper Saddam Hussein's government's ability to produce chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but U.S. intelligence personnel also hoped it would help weaken Saddam's grip on power. [85]

Following the election of George W. Bush as president in 2000, the US moved towards a more aggressive Iraq policy. The Republican Party's campaign platform in the 2000 election called for "full implementation" of the Iraq Liberation Act as "a starting point" in a plan to "remove" Saddam. [86] Little formal movement towards an invasion occurred until the 11 September attacks although plans were drafted and meetings were held from the first days of his administration. [87] [88]

After 9/11, the Bush Administration national security team actively debated an invasion of Iraq. On the day of the attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked his aides for: "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit Saddam Hussein at the same time. Not only Osama bin Laden." [89] President Bush spoke with Rumsfeld on 21 November and instructed him to conduct a confidential review of OPLAN 1003, the war plan for invading Iraq. [90] Rumsfeld met with General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. Central Command, on 27 November to go over the plans. A record of the meeting includes the question "How start?", listing multiple possible justifications for a U.S.–Iraq War. [91] [92] The rationale for invading Iraq as a response to 9/11 has been widely questioned, as there was no cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. [93]

President Bush began laying the public groundwork for an invasion of Iraq in January 2002 State of the Union address, calling Iraq a member of the Axis of Evil, and saying "The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." [94] Bush said this and made many other dire allegations about the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction despite the fact that the Bush administration knew that Iraq had no nuclear weapons and had no information about whether Iraq had biological weapons. [95] He began formally making his case to the international community for an invasion of Iraq in his 12 September 2002 address to the UN Security Council. [96] However, a 5 September 2002 report from Major General Glen Shaffer revealed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff's J2 Intelligence Directorate had concluded that the United States' knowledge on different aspects of the Iraqi WMD program ranged from essentially zero to about 75%, and that knowledge was particularly weak on aspects of a possible nuclear weapons program: "Our knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence," they concluded. "Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence. The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs." [97] [98] Similarly, the British government found no evidence that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq posed no threat to the West, a conclusion British diplomats shared with the U.S. government. [99]

Key U.S. allies in NATO, such as the United Kingdom, agreed with the US actions, while France and Germany were critical of plans to invade Iraq, arguing instead for continued diplomacy and weapons inspections. After considerable debate, the UN Security Council adopted a compromise resolution, UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized the resumption of weapons inspections and promised "serious consequences" for non-compliance. Security Council members France and Russia made clear that they did not consider these consequences to include the use of force to overthrow the Iraqi government. [100] The US and UK ambassadors to the UN publicly confirmed this reading of the resolution. [101]

Resolution 1441 set up inspections by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Saddam accepted the resolution on 13 November and inspectors returned to Iraq under the direction of UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blix and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. As of February 2003, the IAEA "found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq" the IAEA concluded that certain items which could have been used in nuclear enrichment centrifuges, such as aluminum tubes, were in fact intended for other uses. [102] In March 2003, Blix said progress had been made in inspections, and no evidence of WMD had been found. [103]

In October 2002, the US Congress passed the "Iraq Resolution", which authorized the President to "use any means necessary" against Iraq. Americans polled in January 2003 widely favored further diplomacy over an invasion. Later that year, however, Americans began to agree with Bush's plan (see popular opinion in the United States on the invasion of Iraq). The US government engaged in an elaborate domestic public relations campaign to market the war to its citizens. Americans overwhelmingly believed Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction: 85% said so, even though the inspectors had not uncovered those weapons. By February 2003, 64% of Americans supported taking military action to remove Saddam from power. [104]

On 5 February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared before the UN to present evidence that Iraq was hiding unconventional weapons. However, Powell's presentation included information based on the claims of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed "Curveball", an Iraqi emigrant living in Germany who later admitted that his claims had been false. [105] Powell also presented evidence alleging Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda. As a follow-up to Powell's presentation, the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Japan, and Spain proposed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, but NATO members like Canada, France, and Germany, together with Russia, strongly urged continued diplomacy. Facing a losing vote as well as a likely veto from France and Russia, the US, the UK, Poland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Japan, and Australia eventually withdrew their resolution. [106] [107]

In March 2003, the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, Spain, Denmark, and Italy began preparing for the invasion of Iraq with a host of public relations and military moves. In an address to the nation on 17 March 2003, Bush demanded that Saddam and his two sons, Uday and Qusay, surrender and leave Iraq, giving them a 48-hour deadline. [108]

The UK House of Commons held a debate on going to war on 18 March 2003 where the government motion was approved 412 to 149. [109] The vote was a key moment in the history of the Blair administration, as the number of government MPs who rebelled against the vote was the greatest since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Three government ministers resigned in protest at the war, John Denham, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the then Leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook.

Opposition to invasion Edit

In October 2002, former U.S. President Bill Clinton warned about possible dangers of pre-emptive military action against Iraq. Speaking in the UK at a Labour Party conference he said: "As a preemptive action today, however well-justified, may come back with unwelcome consequences in the future. I don't care how precise your bombs and your weapons are when you set them off, innocent people will die." [110] [111] Of 209 House Democrats in Congress, 126 voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, although 29 of 50 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of it. Only one Republican Senator, Lincoln Chafee, voted against it. The Senate's lone Independent, Jim Jeffords, voted against it. Retired US Marine, former Navy Secretary and future US senator Jim Webb wrote shortly before the vote, "Those who are pushing for a unilateral war in Iraq know full well that there is no exit strategy if we invade." [112]

In the same period, Pope John Paul II publicly condemned the military intervention. During a private meeting, he also said directly to George W. Bush: "Mr. President, you know my opinion about the war in Iraq. Let's talk about something else. Every violence, against one or a million, is a blasphemy addressed to the image and likeness of God." [113]

On 20 January 2003, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin declared "we believe that military intervention would be the worst solution". [115] Meanwhile, anti-war groups across the world organized public protests. According to French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against war in Iraq, with demonstrations on 15 February 2003 being the largest. [116] Nelson Mandela voiced his opposition in late January, stating "All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil," and questioning if Bush deliberately undermined the U.N. "because the secretary-general of the United Nations [was] a black man". [117]

In February 2003, the US Army's top general, Eric Shinseki, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take "several hundred thousand soldiers" to secure Iraq. [118] Two days later, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the post-war troop commitment would be less than the number of troops required to win the war, and that "the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces is far from the mark." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Shinseki's estimate was "way off the mark," because other countries would take part in an occupying force. [119]

Germany's Foreign Secretary Joschka Fischer, although having been in favour of stationing German troops in Afghanistan, advised Federal Chancellor Schröder not to join the war in Iraq. Fischer famously confronted United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the 39th Munich Security Conference in 2003 on the secretary's purported evidence for Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction: "Excuse me, I am not convinced!" [120]

There were serious legal questions surrounding the launching of the war against Iraq and the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war in general. On 16 September 2004, Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said of the invasion, "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." [121]

In November 2008 Lord Bingham, the former British Law Lord, described the war as a serious violation of international law, and accused Britain and the United States of acting like a "world vigilante". He also criticized the post-invasion record of Britain as "an occupying power in Iraq". Regarding the treatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib, Bingham said: "Particularly disturbing to proponents of the rule of law is the cynical lack of concern for international legality among some top officials in the Bush administration." [122] In July 2010, Deputy Prime Minister of the UK Nick Clegg, during PMQs session in Parliament, condemned the invasion of Iraq as "illegal" - though he later clarified that this was a personal opinion, not an official one. [123]

The first Central Intelligence Agency team entered Iraq on 10 July 2002. [124] This team was composed of members of the CIA's Special Activities Division and was later joined by members of the US military's elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). [125] Together, they prepared for an invasion by conventional forces. These efforts consisted of persuading the commanders of several Iraqi military divisions to surrender rather than oppose the invasion, and identifying all the initial leadership targets during very high risk reconnaissance missions. [125]

Most importantly, their efforts organized the Kurdish Peshmerga to become the northern front of the invasion. Together this force defeated Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan before the invasion and then defeated the Iraqi army in the north. [125] [126] The battle against Ansar al-Islam, known as Operation Viking Hammer, led to the death of a substantial number of militants and the uncovering of a chemical weapons facility at Sargat. [124] [127]

At 5:34 a.m. Baghdad time on 20 March 2003 (9:34 pm, 19 March EST) the surprise [128] military invasion of Iraq began. [129] There was no declaration of war. [130] The 2003 invasion of Iraq was led by U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, under the code-name Operation Iraqi Freedom, [131] the UK code-name Operation Telic, and the Australian code-name Operation Falconer. Coalition forces also cooperated with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the north. Approximately forty other governments, the "Coalition of the Willing," participated by providing troops, equipment, services, security, and special forces, with 248,000 soldiers from the United States, 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers and 194 Polish soldiers from Special Forces unit GROM sent to Kuwait for the invasion. [132] The invasion force was also supported by Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 70,000. [133]

According to General Franks, there were eight objectives of the invasion:

"First, ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. Second, to identify, isolate, and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Third, to search for, to capture, and to drive out terrorists from that country. Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can relate to terrorist networks. Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can relate to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction. Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens. Seventh, to secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people. And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to representative self-government." [134]

The invasion was a quick and decisive operation encountering major resistance, though not what the U.S., British and other forces expected. The Iraqi regime had prepared to fight both a conventional and irregular, asymmetric warfare at the same time, conceding territory when faced with superior conventional forces, largely armored, but launching smaller-scale attacks in the rear using fighters dressed in civilian and paramilitary clothes.

Coalition troops launched air and amphibious assaults on the al-Faw Peninsula to secure the oil fields there and the important ports, supported by warships of the Royal Navy, Polish Navy, and Royal Australian Navy. The United States Marine Corps' 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, attached to 3 Commando Brigade and the Polish Special Forces unit GROM, attacked the port of Umm Qasr, while the British Army's 16 Air Assault Brigade secured the oil fields in southern Iraq. [135] [136]

The heavy armor of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division moved westward and then northward through the western desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force moved more easterly along Highway 1 through the center of the country, and 1 (UK) Armoured Division moved northward through the eastern marshland. [137] The U.S. 1st Marine Division fought through Nasiriyah in a battle to seize the major road junction. [138] The United States Army 3rd Infantry Division defeated Iraqi forces entrenched in and around Talil Airfield. [139]

With the Nasiriyah and Talil Airfields secured in its rear, the 3rd Infantry Division supported by the 101st Airborne Division continued its attack north toward Najaf and Karbala, but a severe sand storm slowed the coalition advance and there was a halt to consolidate and make sure the supply lines were secure. [140] When they started again they secured the Karbala Gap, a key approach to Baghdad, then secured the bridges over the Euphrates River, and U.S. forces poured through the gap on to Baghdad. In the middle of Iraq, the 1st Marine Division fought its way to the eastern side of Baghdad and prepared for the attack to seize the city. [141]

On 9 April, Baghdad fell, ending Saddam's 24‑year rule. U.S. forces seized the deserted Ba'ath Party ministries and, according to some reports later disputed by the Marines on the ground, stage-managed [142] the tearing down of a huge iron statue of Saddam, photos and video of which became symbolic of the event, although later controversial. Allegedly, though not seen in the photos or heard on the videos, shot with a zoom lens, was the chant of the inflamed crowd for Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric. [143] The abrupt fall of Baghdad was accompanied by a widespread outpouring of gratitude toward the invaders, but also massive civil disorder, including the looting of public and government buildings and drastically increased crime. [144] [145]

According to the Pentagon, 250,000 short tons (230,000 t) (of 650,000 short tons (590,000 t) total) of ordnance was looted, providing a significant source of ammunition for the Iraqi insurgency. The invasion phase concluded when Tikrit, Saddam's home town, fell with little resistance to the U.S. Marines of Task Force Tripoli.

In the invasion phase of the war (19 March – 30 April), an estimated 9,200 Iraqi combatants were killed by coalition forces along with an estimated 3,750 non-combatants, i.e. civilians who did not take up arms. [146] Coalition forces reported the death in combat of 139 U.S. military personnel [147] and 33 UK military personnel. [148]

2003: Beginnings of insurgency Edit

On 1 May 2003, President Bush visited the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln operating a few miles west of San Diego, California. At sunset, he held his nationally televised "Mission Accomplished" speech, delivered before the sailors and airmen on the flight deck. Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, due to the defeat of Iraq's conventional forces, while maintaining that much still needed to be done.

Nevertheless, Saddam Hussein remained at large, and significant pockets of resistance remained. After Bush's speech, coalition forces noticed a flurry of attacks on its troops began to gradually increase in various regions, such as the "Sunni Triangle". [149] The initial Iraqi insurgents were supplied by hundreds of weapons caches created before the invasion by the Iraqi army and Republican Guard.

Initially, Iraqi resistance (described by the coalition as "Anti-Iraqi Forces") largely stemmed from fedayeen and Saddam/Ba'ath Party loyalists, but soon religious radicals and Iraqis angered by the occupation contributed to the insurgency. The three governorates with the highest number of attacks were Baghdad, Al Anbar, and Saladin. Those three governorates account for 35% of the population, but by December 2006 they were responsible for 73% of U.S. military deaths and an even higher percentage of recent U.S. military deaths (about 80%). [150]

Insurgents used various guerrilla tactics, including mortars, missiles, suicide attacks, snipers, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, small arms fire (usually with assault rifles), and RPGs (rocket propelled grenades), as well as sabotage against the petroleum, water, and electrical infrastructures.

Coalition efforts to establish post-invasion Iraq commenced after the fall of Saddam's regime. The coalition nations, together with the United Nations, began to work to establish a stable, compliant democratic state capable of defending itself from non-coalition forces, as well as overcoming internal divisions. [151]

Meanwhile, coalition military forces launched several operations around the Tigris River peninsula and in the Sunni Triangle. A series of similar operations were launched throughout the summer in the Sunni Triangle. In late 2003, the intensity and pace of insurgent attacks began to increase. A sharp surge in guerrilla attacks ushered in an insurgent effort that was termed the "Ramadan Offensive", as it coincided with the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

To counter this offensive, coalition forces began to use airpower and artillery again for the first time since the end of the invasion, by striking suspected ambush sites and mortar launching positions. Surveillance of major routes, patrols, and raids on suspected insurgents was stepped up. In addition, two villages, including Saddam's birthplace of al-Auja and the small town of Abu Hishma, were surrounded by barbed wire and carefully monitored.

Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraq Survey Group Edit

Shortly after the invasion, the multinational coalition created the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA Arabic: سلطة الائتلاف الموحدة ‎), based in the Green Zone, as a transitional government of Iraq until the establishment of a democratic government. Citing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 (22 May 2003) and the laws of war, the CPA vested itself with executive, legislative, and judicial authority over the Iraqi government from the period of the CPA's inception on 21 April 2003 until its dissolution on 28 June 2004.

The CPA was originally headed by Jay Garner, a former U.S. military officer, but his appointment lasted only until 11 May 2003, when President Bush appointed L. Paul Bremer. On 16 May 2003, his first day on the job, Paul Bremer issued Coalition Provisional Authority Order 1 to exclude from the new Iraqi government and administration members of the Baathist party. This policy, known as De-Ba'athification, eventually led to the removal of 85,000 to 100,000 Iraqi people from their job, [152] including 40,000 school teachers who had joined the Baath Party simply to keep their jobs. U.S. army general Ricardo Sanchez called the decision a "catastrophic failure". [153] Bremer served until the CPA's dissolution in June 2004.

In May 2003, the US Advisor to Iraq Ministry of Defense within the CPA, Walter B. Slocombe, advocated changing the pre-war Bush policy to employ the former Iraq Army after hostilities on the ground ceased. [154] At the time, hundreds of thousands of former Iraq soldiers who had not been paid for months were waiting for the CPA to hire them back to work to help secure and rebuild Iraq. Despite advice from U.S. Military Staff working within the CPA, Bremer met with President Bush, via video conference, and asked for authority to change the U.S. policy. Bush gave Bremer and Slocombe authority to change the pre-war policy. Slocombe announced the policy change in the Spring of 2003. The decision led to the alienation of hundreds of thousands of former armed Iraq soldiers, who subsequently aligned themselves with various occupation resistance movements all over Iraq. In the week before the order to dissolve the Iraq Army, no coalition forces were killed by hostile action in Iraq the week after, five U.S. soldiers were killed. Then, on 18 June 2003, coalition forces opened fire on former Iraq soldiers protesting in Baghdad who were throwing rocks at coalition forces. The policy to disband the Iraq Army was reversed by the CPA only days after it was implemented. But it was too late the former Iraq Army shifted their alliance from one that was ready and willing to work with the CPA to one of armed resistance against the CPA and the coalition forces. [155]

Another group created by the multinational force in Iraq post-invasion was the 1,400-member international Iraq Survey Group, who conducted a fact-finding mission to find Iraq weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. In 2004, the ISG's Duelfer Report stated that Iraq did not have a viable WMD program. [156]

Capturing former government leaders Edit

In summer 2003, the multinational forces focused on capturing the remaining leaders of the former government. On 22 July, a raid by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and soldiers from Task Force 20 killed Saddam's sons (Uday and Qusay) along with one of his grandsons. In all, over 300 top leaders of the former government were killed or captured, as well as numerous lesser functionaries and military personnel.

Most significantly, Saddam Hussein himself was captured on 13 December 2003, on a farm near Tikrit in Operation Red Dawn. [157] The operation was conducted by the United States Army's 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121. Intelligence on Saddam's whereabouts came from his family members and former bodyguards. [158]

With the capture of Saddam and a drop in the number of insurgent attacks, some concluded the multinational forces were prevailing in the fight against the insurgency. The provisional government began training the new Iraqi security forces intended to police the country, and the United States promised over $20 billion in reconstruction money in the form of credit against Iraq's future oil revenues. Oil revenue was also used for rebuilding schools and for work on the electrical and refining infrastructure.

Shortly after the capture of Saddam, elements left out of the Coalition Provisional Authority began to agitate for elections and the formation of an Iraqi Interim Government. Most prominent among these was the Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. The Coalition Provisional Authority opposed allowing democratic elections at this time. [159] The insurgents stepped up their activities. The two most turbulent centers were the area around Fallujah and the poor Shia sections of cities from Baghdad (Sadr City) to Basra in the south.

2004: Insurgency expands Edit

The start of 2004 was marked by a relative lull in violence. Insurgent forces reorganised during this time, studying the multinational forces' tactics and planning a renewed offensive. However, violence did increase during the Iraq Spring Fighting of 2004 with foreign fighters from around the Middle East as well as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, an al-Qaeda-linked group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, helping to drive the insurgency. [161]

As the insurgency grew there was a distinct change in targeting from the coalition forces towards the new Iraqi Security Forces, as hundreds of Iraqi civilians and police were killed over the next few months in a series of massive bombings. An organized Sunni insurgency, with deep roots and both nationalist and Islamist motivations, was becoming more powerful throughout Iraq. The Shia Mahdi Army also began launching attacks on coalition targets in an attempt to seize control from Iraqi security forces. The southern and central portions of Iraq were beginning to erupt in urban guerrilla combat as multinational forces attempted to keep control and prepared for a counteroffensive.

The most serious fighting of the war so far began on 31 March 2004, when Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah ambushed a Blackwater USA convoy led by four U.S. private military contractors who were providing security for food caterers Eurest Support Services. [162] The four armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona, and Michael Teague, were killed with grenades and small arms fire. Subsequently, their bodies were dragged from their vehicles by local people, beaten, set ablaze, and their burned corpses hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates. [163] Photos of the event were released to news agencies worldwide, causing a great deal of indignation and moral outrage in the United States, and prompting an unsuccessful "pacification" of the city: the First Battle of Fallujah in April 2004.

The offensive was resumed in November 2004 in the bloodiest battle of the war: the Second Battle of Fallujah, described by the U.S. military as "the heaviest urban combat (that they had been involved in) since the Battle of Hue City in Vietnam." [164] During the assault, U.S. forces used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against insurgent personnel, attracting controversy. The 46‑day battle resulted in a victory for the coalition, with 95 U.S. soldiers killed along with approximately 1,350 insurgents. Fallujah was totally devastated during the fighting, though civilian casualties were low, as they had mostly fled before the battle. [165]

Another major event of that year was the revelation of widespread prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, which received international media attention in April 2004. First reports of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, as well as graphic pictures showing U.S. military personnel taunting and abusing Iraqi prisoners, came to public attention from a 60 Minutes II news report (28 April) and a Seymour M. Hersh article in The New Yorker (posted online on 30 April.) [166] Military correspondent Thomas Ricks claimed that these revelations dealt a blow to the moral justifications for the occupation in the eyes of many people, especially Iraqis, and was a turning point in the war. [167]

2004 also marked the beginning of Military Transition Teams in Iraq, which were teams of U.S. military advisors assigned directly to New Iraqi Army units.

2005: Elections and transitional government Edit

On 31 January, Iraqis elected the Iraqi Transitional Government in order to draft a permanent constitution. Although some violence and a widespread Sunni boycott marred the event, most of the eligible Kurd and Shia populace participated. On 4 February, Paul Wolfowitz announced that 15,000 U.S. troops whose tours of duty had been extended in order to provide election security would be pulled out of Iraq by the next month. [168] February to April proved to be relatively peaceful months compared to the carnage of November and January, with insurgent attacks averaging 30 a day from the prior average of 70.

The Battle of Abu Ghraib on 2 April 2005 was an attack on United States forces at Abu Ghraib prison, which consisted of heavy mortar and rocket fire, under which an estimated 80–120 armed insurgents attacked with grenades, small arms, and two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). The U.S. force's munitions ran so low that orders to fix bayonets were given in preparation for hand-to-hand fighting. It was considered to be the largest coordinated assault on a U.S. base since the Vietnam War. [169]

Hopes for a quick end to the insurgency and a withdrawal of U.S. troops were dashed in May, Iraq's bloodiest month since the invasion. Suicide bombers, believed to be mainly disheartened Iraqi Sunni Arabs, Syrians and Saudis, tore through Iraq. Their targets were often Shia gatherings or civilian concentrations of Shias. As a result, over 700 Iraqi civilians died in that month, as well as 79 U.S. soldiers.

The summer of 2005 saw fighting around Baghdad and at Tall Afar in northwestern Iraq as U.S. forces tried to seal off the Syrian border. This led to fighting in the autumn in the small towns of the Euphrates valley between the capital and that border. [170]

A referendum was held on 15 October in which the new Iraqi constitution was ratified. An Iraqi National Assembly was elected in December, with participation from the Sunnis as well as the Kurds and Shia. [170]

Insurgent attacks increased in 2005 with 34,131 recorded incidents, compared to a total 26,496 for the previous year. [171]

2006: Civil war and permanent Iraqi government Edit

The beginning of 2006 was marked by government creation talks, growing sectarian violence, and continuous anti-coalition attacks. Sectarian violence expanded to a new level of intensity following the al-Askari Mosque bombing in the Iraqi city of Samarra, on 22 February 2006. The explosion at the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Shi'a Islam, is believed to have been caused by a bomb planted by al-Qaeda.

Although no injuries occurred in the blast, the mosque was severely damaged and the bombing resulted in violence over the following days. Over 100 dead bodies with bullet holes were found on 23 February, and at least 165 people are thought to have been killed. In the aftermath of this attack the U.S. military calculated that the average homicide rate in Baghdad tripled from 11 to 33 deaths per day. In 2006 the UN described the environment in Iraq as a "civil war-like situation". [172]

On 12 March, five United States Army soldiers of the 502nd Infantry Regiment raped the 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, and then murdered her, her father, her mother Fakhriya Taha Muhasen and her six-year-old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. The soldiers then set fire to the girl's body to conceal evidence of the crime. [173] Four of the soldiers were convicted of rape and murder and the fifth was convicted of lesser crimes for their involvement in the events, which became known as the Mahmudiyah rape and killings. [174] [175]

On 6 June 2006, the United States was successful in tracking Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a targeted killing, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) north of Baqubah. Having been tracked by a British UAV, radio contact was made between the controller and two United States Air Force F-16C jets, which identified the house and at 14:15 GMT, the lead jet dropped two 500‑pound (230 kg) guided bombs, a laser-guided GBU‑12 and GPS-guided GBU‑38 on the building where he was located. Six others—three male and three female individuals—were also reported killed. Among those killed were one of his wives and their child.

The government of Iraq took office on 20 May 2006, following approval by the members of the Iraqi National Assembly. This followed the general election in December 2005. The government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government, which had continued in office in a caretaker capacity until the formation of the permanent government.

Iraq Study Group report and Saddam's execution Edit

The Iraq Study Group Report was released on 6 December 2006. The Iraq Study Group made up of people from both of the major U.S. parties, was led by co-chairs James Baker, a former Secretary of State (Republican), and Lee H. Hamilton, a former U.S. Representative (Democrat). It concluded that "the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating" and "U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end." The report's 79 recommendations include increasing diplomatic measures with Iran and Syria and intensifying efforts to train Iraqi troops. On 18 December, a Pentagon report found that insurgent attacks were averaging about 960 attacks per week, the highest since the reports had begun in 2005. [176]

Coalition forces formally transferred control of a governorate to the Iraqi government, the first since the war. Military prosecutors charged eight U.S. Marines with the murders of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November 2005, 10 of them women and children. Four officers were also charged with dereliction of duty in relation to the event. [177]

Saddam Hussein was hanged on 30 December 2006, after being found guilty of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court after a year-long trial. [178]

2007: U.S. troops surge Edit

In a 10 January 2007, televised address to the U.S. public, Bush proposed 21,500 more troops for Iraq, a job program for Iraqis, more reconstruction proposals, and $1.2 billion for these programs. [179] On 23 January 2007, in the 2007 State of the Union Address, Bush announced "deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq".

On 10 February 2007, David Petraeus was made commander of Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I), the four-star post that oversees all coalition forces in country, replacing General George Casey. In his new position, Petraeus oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq and employed them in the new "Surge" strategy outlined by the Bush administration. [180] [181]

On 10 May 2007, 144 Iraqi Parliamentary lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal. [182] On 3 June 2007, the Iraqi Parliament voted 85 to 59 to require the Iraqi government to consult with Parliament before requesting additional extensions of the UN Security Council Mandate for Coalition operations in Iraq. [183]

Pressures on U.S. troops were compounded by the continuing withdrawal of coalition forces. [ citation needed ] In early 2007, British Prime Minister Blair announced that following Operation Sinbad, British troops would begin to withdraw from Basra Governorate, handing security over to the Iraqis. [184] In July Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also announced the withdrawal of 441 Danish troops from Iraq, leaving only a unit of nine soldiers manning four observational helicopters. [185] In October 2019, the new Danish government said it will not re-open an official probe into the country's participation in the US-led military coalition in 2003 Iraqi war. [186]

Planned troop reduction Edit

In a speech made to Congress on 10 September 2007, Petraeus "envisioned the withdrawal of roughly 30,000 U.S. troops by next summer, beginning with a Marine contingent [in September]." [187] On 13 September, Bush backed a limited withdrawal of troops from Iraq. [188] Bush said 5,700 personnel would be home by Christmas 2007, and expected thousands more to return by July 2008. The plan would take troop numbers back to their level before the surge at the beginning of 2007.

Effects of the surge on security Edit

By March 2008, violence in Iraq was reported curtailed by 40–80%, according to a Pentagon report. [189] Independent reports [190] [191] raised questions about those assessments. An Iraqi military spokesman claimed that civilian deaths since the start of the troop surge plan were 265 in Baghdad, down from 1,440 in the four previous weeks. The New York Times counted more than 450 Iraqi civilians killed during the same 28‑day period, based on initial daily reports from Iraqi Interior Ministry and hospital officials.

Historically, the daily counts tallied by The New York Times have underestimated the total death toll by 50% or more when compared to studies by the United Nations, which rely upon figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry and morgue figures. [192]

The rate of U.S. combat deaths in Baghdad nearly doubled to 3.14 per day in the first seven weeks of the "surge" in security activity, compared to previous period. Across the rest of Iraq it decreased slightly. [193] [194]

On 14 August 2007, the deadliest single attack of the whole war occurred. Nearly 800 civilians were killed by a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks on the northern Iraqi settlement of Kahtaniya. More than 100 homes and shops were destroyed in the blasts. U.S. officials blamed al‑Qaeda. The targeted villagers belonged to the non-Muslim Yazidi ethnic minority. The attack may have represented the latest in a feud that erupted earlier that year when members of the Yazidi community stoned to death a teenage girl called Du'a Khalil Aswad accused of dating a Sunni Arab man and converting to Islam. The killing of the girl was recorded on camera-mobiles and the video was uploaded onto the internet. [195] [196] [197] [198]

On 13 September 2007, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed in a bomb attack in the city of Ramadi. [199] He was an important U.S. ally because he led the "Anbar Awakening", an alliance of Sunni Arab tribes that opposed al-Qaeda. The latter organisation claimed responsibility for the attack. [200] A statement posted on the Internet by the shadowy Islamic State of Iraq called Abu Risha "one of the dogs of Bush" and described Thursday's killing as a "heroic operation that took over a month to prepare". [201]

There was a reported trend of decreasing U.S. troop deaths after May 2007, [202] and violence against coalition troops had fallen to the "lowest levels since the first year of the American invasion". [203] These, and several other positive developments, were attributed to the surge by many analysts. [204]

Data from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq remained "about the same" since February. The GAO also stated that there was no discernible trend in sectarian violence. [205] However, this report ran counter to reports to Congress, which showed a general downward trend in civilian deaths and ethno-sectarian violence since December 2006. [206] By late 2007, as the U.S. troop surge began to wind down, violence in Iraq had begun to decrease from its 2006 highs. [207]

Entire neighborhoods in Baghdad were ethnically cleansed by Shia and Sunni militias and sectarian violence has broken out in every Iraqi city where there is a mixed population. [208] [209] [210] Investigative reporter Bob Woodward cites U.S. government sources according to which the U.S. "surge" was not the primary reason for the drop in violence in 2007–08. Instead, according to that view, the reduction of violence was due to newer covert techniques by U.S. military and intelligence officials to find, target and kill insurgents, including working closely with former insurgents. [211]

In the Shia region near Basra, British forces turned over security for the region to Iraqi Security Forces. Basra is the ninth governorate of Iraq's 18 governorates to be returned to local security forces' control since the beginning of the occupation. [212]

Political developments Edit

More than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country for the first time. 144 of the 275 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition that would require the Iraqi government to seek approval from Parliament before it requests an extension of the UN mandate for foreign forces to be in Iraq, which expires at the end of 2008. It also calls for a timetable for troop withdrawal and a freeze on the size of foreign forces. The UN Security Council mandate for U.S.‑led forces in Iraq will terminate "if requested by the government of Iraq." [213] 59% of those polled in the U.S. support a timetable for withdrawal. [214]

In mid-2007, the Coalition began a controversial program to recruit Iraqi Sunnis (often former insurgents) for the formation of "Guardian" militias. These Guardian militias are intended to support and secure various Sunni neighborhoods against the Islamists. [215]

Tensions with Iran Edit

In 2007, tensions increased greatly between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan due to the latter's giving sanctuary to the militant Kurdish secessionist group Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK.) According to reports, Iran had been shelling PEJAK positions in Iraqi Kurdistan since 16 August. These tensions further increased with an alleged border incursion on 23 August by Iranian troops who attacked several Kurdish villages killing an unknown number of civilians and militants. [216]

Coalition forces also began to target alleged Iranian Quds force operatives in Iraq, either arresting or killing suspected members. The Bush administration and coalition leaders began to publicly state that Iran was supplying weapons, particularly EFP devices, to Iraqi insurgents and militias although to date have failed to provide any proof for these allegations. Further sanctions on Iranian organizations were also announced by the Bush administration in the autumn of 2007. On 21 November 2007, Lieutenant General James Dubik, who is in charge of training Iraqi security forces, praised Iran for its "contribution to the reduction of violence" in Iraq by upholding its pledge to stop the flow of weapons, explosives and training of extremists in Iraq. [217]

Tensions with Turkey Edit

Border incursions by PKK militants based in Northern Iraq have continued to harass Turkish forces, with casualties on both sides. In the fall of 2007, the Turkish military stated their right to cross the Iraqi Kurdistan border in "hot pursuit" of PKK militants and began shelling Kurdish areas in Iraq and attacking PKK bases in the Mount Cudi region with aircraft. [218] [219] The Turkish parliament approved a resolution permitting the military to pursue the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan. [220] In November, Turkish gunships attacked parts of northern Iraq in the first such attack by Turkish aircraft since the border tensions escalated. [221] Another series of attacks in mid-December hit PKK targets in the Qandil, Zap, Avashin and Hakurk regions. The latest series of attacks involved at least 50 aircraft and artillery and Kurdish officials reported one civilian killed and two wounded. [222]

Additionally, weapons that were given to Iraqi security forces by the U.S. military were being recovered by authorities in Turkey after being used by PKK in that state. [223]

Blackwater private security controversy Edit

On 17 September 2007, the Iraqi government announced that it was revoking the license of the U.S. security firm Blackwater USA over the firm's involvement in the killing of eight civilians, including a woman and an infant, [224] in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade.

2008: Civil war continues Edit

Throughout 2008, U.S. officials and independent think tanks began to point to improvements in the security situation, as measured by key statistics. According to the U.S. Defense Department, in December 2008 the "overall level of violence" in the country had dropped 80% since before the surge began in January 2007, and the country's murder rate had dropped to prewar levels. They also pointed out that the casualty figure for U.S. forces in 2008 was 314 against a figure of 904 in 2007. [225]

According to the Brookings Institution, Iraqi civilian fatalities numbered 490 in November 2008 as against 3,500 in January 2007, whereas attacks against the coalition numbered somewhere between 200 and 300 per week in the latter half of 2008, as opposed to a peak of nearly 1,600 in summer 2007. The number of Iraqi security forces killed was under 100 per month in the second half of 2008, from a high of 200 to 300 in summer 2007. [226]

Meanwhile, the proficiency of the Iraqi military increased as it launched a spring offensive against Shia militias, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had previously been criticized for allowing to operate. This began with a March operation against the Mehdi Army in Basra, which led to fighting in Shia areas up and down the country, especially in the Sadr City district of Baghdad. By October, the British officer in charge of Basra said that since the operation, the town had become "secure" and had a murder rate comparable to Manchester in England. [227] The U.S. military also said there had been a decrease of about a quarter in the quantity of Iranian-made explosives found in Iraq in 2008, possibly indicating a change in Iranian policy. [228]

Progress in Sunni areas continued after members of the Awakening movement were transferred from U.S. military to Iraqi control. [229] In May, the Iraqi army – backed by coalition support – launched an offensive in Mosul, the last major Iraqi stronghold of al-Qaeda. Despite detaining thousands of individuals, the offensive failed to lead to major long-term security improvements in Mosul. At the end of the year, the city remained a major flashpoint. [230] [231]

In the regional dimension, the ongoing conflict between Turkey and PKK [232] [233] [234] intensified on 21 February, when Turkey launched a ground attack into the Quandeel Mountains of Northern Iraq. In the nine-day-long operation, around 10,000 Turkish troops advanced up to 25 km into Northern Iraq. This was the first substantial ground incursion by Turkish forces since 1995. [235] [236]

Shortly after the incursion began, both the Iraqi cabinet and the Kurdistan regional government condemned Turkey's actions and called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the region. [237] Turkish troops withdrew on 29 February. [238] The fate of the Kurds and the future of the ethnically diverse city of Kirkuk remained a contentious issue in Iraqi politics.

U.S. military officials met these trends with cautious optimism as they approached what they described as the "transition" embodied in the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, which was negotiated throughout 2008. [225] The commander of the coalition, U.S. General Raymond T. Odierno, noted that "in military terms, transitions are the most dangerous time" in December 2008. [225]

Spring offensives on Shiite militias Edit

At the end of March, the Iraqi Army, with Coalition air support, launched an offensive, dubbed "Charge of the Knights", in Basra to secure the area from militias. This was the first major operation where the Iraqi Army did not have direct combat support from conventional coalition ground troops. The offensive was opposed by the Mahdi Army, one of the militias, which controlled much of the region. [239] [240] Fighting quickly spread to other parts of Iraq: including Sadr City, Al Kut, Al Hillah and others. During the fighting Iraqi forces met stiff resistance from militiamen in Basra to the point that the Iraqi military offensive slowed to a crawl, with the high attrition rates finally forcing the Sadrists to the negotiating table.

Following intercession by the Iranian government, al‑Sadr ordered a ceasefire on 30 March 2008. [241] The militiamen kept their weapons.

By 12 May 2008, Basra "residents overwhelmingly reported a substantial improvement in their everyday lives" according to The New York Times. "Government forces have now taken over Islamic militants' headquarters and halted the death squads and 'vice enforcers' who attacked women, Christians, musicians, alcohol sellers and anyone suspected of collaborating with Westerners", according to the report however, when asked how long it would take for lawlessness to resume if the Iraqi army left, one resident replied, "one day". [240]

In late April roadside bombings continued to rise from a low in January—from 114 bombings to more than 250, surpassing the May 2007 high.

Congressional testimony Edit

Speaking before the Congress on 8 April 2008, General David Petraeus urged delaying troop withdrawals, saying, "I've repeatedly noted that we haven't turned any corners, we haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel," referencing the comments of then President Bush and former Vietnam-era General William Westmoreland. [242] When asked by the Senate if reasonable people could disagree on the way forward, Petraeus said, "We fight for the right of people to have other opinions." [243]

Upon questioning by then Senate committee chair Joe Biden, Ambassador Crocker admitted that Al‑Qaeda in Iraq was less important than the Al Qaeda organization led by Osama bin Laden along the Afghan-Pakistani border. [244] Lawmakers from both parties complained that U.S. taxpayers are carrying Iraq's burden as it earns billions of dollars in oil revenues.

Iraqi security forces rearm Edit

Iraq became one of the top purchasers of U.S. military equipment with their army trading its AK‑47 assault rifles for the U.S. M‑16 and M‑4 rifles, among other equipment. [245] In 2008 alone, Iraq accounted for more than $12.5 billion of the $34 billion U.S. weapon sales to foreign countries (not including the potential F-16 fighter planes.). [246]

Iraq sought 36 F‑16s, the most sophisticated weapons system Iraq has attempted to purchase. The Pentagon notified Congress that it had approved the sale of 24 American attack helicopters to Iraq, valued at as much as $2.4 billion. Including the helicopters, Iraq announced plans to purchase at least $10 billion in U.S. tanks and armored vehicles, transport planes and other battlefield equipment and services. Over the summer, the Defense Department announced that the Iraqi government wanted to order more than 400 armored vehicles and other equipment worth up to $3 billion , and six C-130J transport planes, worth up to $1.5 billion . [247] [248] From 2005 to 2008, the United States had completed approximately $20 billion in arms sales agreements with Iraq. [249]

Status of forces agreement Edit

The U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement was approved by the Iraqi government on 4 December 2008. [250] It established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by 30 June 2009, and that all U.S. forces would be completely out of Iraq by 31 December 2011. The pact was subject to possible negotiations which could have delayed withdrawal and a referendum scheduled for mid-2009 in Iraq, which might have required all U.S. forces to completely leave by the middle of 2010. [251] [252] The pact required criminal charges for holding prisoners over 24 hours, and required a warrant for searches of homes and buildings that are not related to combat. [253]

U.S. contractors working for U.S. forces were to be subject to Iraqi criminal law, while contractors working for the State Department and other U.S. agencies may retain their immunity. If U.S. forces commit still undecided "major premeditated felonies" while off-duty and off-base, they will be subject to the still undecided procedures laid out by a joint U.S.‑Iraq committee if the United States certifies the forces were off-duty. [254] [255] [256] [257]

Some Americans have discussed "loopholes" [258] and some Iraqis have said they believe parts of the pact remain a "mystery". [259] U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates predicted that after 2011 he expected to see "perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops" as part of a residual force in Iraq. [260]

Several groups of Iraqis protested the passing of the SOFA accord [261] [262] [263] as prolonging and legitimizing the occupation. Tens of thousands of Iraqis burned an effigy of George W. Bush in a central Baghdad square where U.S. troops five years previously organized a tearing down of a statue of Saddam Hussein. [142] [259] [264] Some Iraqis expressed skeptical optimism that the U.S. would completely end its presence by 2011. [265] On 4 December 2008, Iraq's presidential council approved the security pact. [250]

A representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al‑Sistani expressed concern with the ratified version of the pact and noted that the government of Iraq has no authority to control the transfer of occupier forces into and out of Iraq, no control of shipments and that the pact grants the occupiers immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts. He said that Iraqi rule in the country is not complete while the occupiers are present, but that ultimately the Iraqi people would judge the pact in a referendum. [264] Thousands of Iraqis have gathered weekly after Friday prayers and shouted anti‑U.S. and anti-Israeli slogans protesting the security pact between Baghdad and Washington. A protester said that despite the approval of the Interim Security pact, the Iraqi people would break it in a referendum next year. [266]

2009: Coalition redeployment Edit

Transfer of the Green Zone Edit

On 1 January 2009, the United States handed control of the Green Zone and Saddam Hussein's presidential palace to the Iraqi government in a ceremonial move described by the country's prime minister as a restoration of Iraq's sovereignty. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would propose 1 January be declared national "Sovereignty Day". "This palace is the symbol of Iraqi sovereignty and by restoring it, a real message is directed to all Iraqi people that Iraqi sovereignty has returned to its natural status", al‑Maliki said.

The U.S. military attributed a decline in reported civilian deaths to several factors including the U.S.‑led "troop surge", the growth of U.S.-funded Awakening Councils, and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's call for his militia to abide by a cease fire. [267]

Provincial elections Edit

On 31 January, Iraq held provincial elections. [268] Provincial candidates and those close to them faced some political assassinations and attempted assassinations, and there was also some other violence related to the election. [269] [270] [271] [272]

Iraqi voter turnout failed to meet the original expectations which were set and was the lowest on record in Iraq, [273] but U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker characterized the turnout as "large". [274] Of those who turned out to vote, some groups complained of disenfranchisement and fraud. [273] [275] [276] After the post-election curfew was lifted, some groups made threats about what would happen if they were unhappy with the results. [277]

Exit strategy announcement Edit

On 27 February, United States President Barack Obama gave a speech at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in the U.S. state of North Carolina announcing that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq would end by 31 August 2010. A "transitional force" of up to 50,000 troops tasked with training the Iraqi Security Forces, conducting counterterrorism operations, and providing general support may remain until the end of 2011, the president added. However, the insurgency in 2011 and the rise of ISIL in 2014 caused the war to continue. [278]

The day before Obama's speech, Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al‑Maliki said at a press conference that the government of Iraq had "no worries" over the impending departure of U.S. forces and expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces and police to maintain order without U.S. military support. [279]

Sixth anniversary protests Edit

On 9 April, the 6th anniversary of Baghdad's fall to coalition forces, tens of thousands of Iraqis thronged Baghdad to mark the anniversary and demand the immediate departure of coalition forces. The crowds of Iraqis stretched from the Sadr City slum in northeast Baghdad to the square around 5 km (3.1 mi) away, where protesters burned an effigy featuring the face of U.S. President George W. Bush. [280] There were also Sunni Muslims in the crowd. Police said many Sunnis, including prominent leaders such as a founding sheikh from the Sons of Iraq, took part. [281]

Coalition forces withdraw Edit

On 30 April, the United Kingdom formally ended combat operations. Prime Minister Gordon Brown characterized the operation in Iraq as a "success story" because of UK troops' efforts. Britain handed control of Basra to the United States Armed Forces. [282]

On 28 July, Australia withdrew its combat forces as the Australian military presence in Iraq ended, per an agreement with the Iraqi government.

The withdrawal of U.S. forces began at the end of June, with 38 bases to be handed over to Iraqi forces. On 29 June 2009, U.S. forces withdrew from Baghdad. On 30 November 2009, Iraqi Interior Ministry officials reported that the civilian death toll in Iraq fell to its lowest level in November since the 2003 invasion. [283]

Iraq awards oil contracts Edit

On 30 June and 11 December 2009, the Iraqi ministry of oil awarded contracts to international oil companies for some of Iraq's many oil fields. The winning oil companies entered joint ventures with the Iraqi ministry of oil, and the terms of the awarded contracts included extraction of oil for a fixed fee of approximately $1.40 per barrel. [284] [285] [286] The fees will only be paid once a production threshold set by the Iraqi ministry of oil is reached.

2010: U.S. drawdown and Operation New Dawn Edit

On 17 February 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that as of 1 September, the name "Operation Iraqi Freedom" would be replaced by "Operation New Dawn". [287]

On 18 April, U.S. and Iraqi forces killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq in a joint American and Iraqi operation near Tikrit, Iraq. [288] The coalition forces believed al-Masri to be wearing a suicide vest and proceeded cautiously. After the lengthy exchange of fire and bombing of the house, the Iraqi troops stormed inside and found two women still alive, one of whom was al-Masri's wife, and four dead men, identified as al-Masri, Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi, an assistant to al-Masri, and al-Baghdadi's son. A suicide vest was indeed found on al-Masri's corpse, as the Iraqi Army subsequently stated. [289] Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference in Baghdad and showed reporters photographs of their bloody corpses. "The attack was carried out by ground forces which surrounded the house, and also through the use of missiles," Mr Maliki said. "During the operation computers were seized with e-mails and messages to the two biggest terrorists, Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman al-Zawahiri", Maliki added. U.S. forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno praised the operation. "The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al‑Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency", he said. "There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists."

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden stated that the deaths of the top two al‑Qaeda figures in Iraq are "potentially devastating" blows to the terror network there and proof that Iraqi security forces are gaining ground. [290]

On 20 June, Iraq's Central Bank was bombed in an attack that left 15 people dead and brought much of downtown Baghdad to a standstill. The attack was claimed to have been carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq. This attack was followed by another attack on Iraq's Bank of Trade building that killed 26 and wounded 52 people. [291]

In late August 2010, insurgents conducted a major attack with at least 12 car bombs simultaneously detonating from Mosul to Basra and killing at least 51. These attacks coincided with the U.S. plans for a withdrawal of combat troops. [292]

From the end of August 2010, the United States attempted to dramatically cut its combat role in Iraq, with the withdrawal of all U.S. ground forces designated for active combat operations. The last U.S. combat brigades departed Iraq in the early morning of 19 August. Convoys of U.S. troops had been moving out of Iraq to Kuwait for several days, and NBC News broadcast live from Iraq as the last convoy crossed the border. While all combat brigades left the country, an additional 50,000 personnel (including Advise and Assist Brigades) remained in the country to provide support for the Iraqi military. [293] [294] These troops are required to leave Iraq by 31 December 2011 under an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. [295]

The desire to step back from an active counter-insurgency role did not however mean that the Advise and Assist Brigades and other remaining U.S. forces would not be caught up in combat. A standards memo from the Associated Press reiterated "combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials". [296]

State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley stated ". we are not ending our work in Iraq, We have a long-term commitment to Iraq." [297] On 31 August, from the Oval Office, Barack Obama announced his intent to end the combat mission in Iraq. In his address, he covered the role of the United States' soft power, the effect the war had on the United States economy, and the legacy of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. [298]

On the same day in Iraq, at a ceremony at one of Saddam Hussein's former residences at Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, a number of U.S. dignitaries spoke in a ceremony for television cameras, avoiding overtones of the triumphalism present in U.S. announcements made earlier in the war. Vice President Joe Biden expressed concerns regarding the ongoing lack of progress in forming a new Iraqi government, saying of the Iraqi people that "they expect a government that reflects the results of the votes they cast". Gen. Ray Odierno stated that the new era "in no way signals the end of our commitment to the people of Iraq". Speaking in Ramadi earlier in the day, Gates said that U.S. forces "have accomplished something really quite extraordinary here, [but] how it all weighs in the balance over time I think remains to be seen". When asked by reporters if the seven-year war was worth doing, Gates commented that "It really requires a historian's perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run". He noted the Iraq War "will always be clouded by how it began" regarding Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction, which were never confirmed to have existed. Gates continued, "This is one of the reasons that this war remains so controversial at home". [299] On the same day Gen. Ray Odierno was replaced by Lloyd Austin as Commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

On 7 September, two U.S. troops were killed and nine wounded in an incident at an Iraqi military base. The incident is under investigation by Iraqi and U.S. forces, but it is believed that an Iraqi soldier opened fire on U.S. forces. [300]

On 8 September, the U.S. Army announced the arrival in Iraq of the first specifically-designated Advise and Assist Brigade, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. It was announced that the unit would assume responsibilities in five southern governorates. [301] From 10 to 13 September, Second Advise and Assist Brigade, 25th Infantry Division fought Iraqi insurgents near Diyala.

According to reports from Iraq, hundreds of members of the Sunni Awakening Councils may have switched allegiance back to the Iraqi insurgency or al-Qaeda. [302]

In October, WikiLeaks disclosed 391,832 classified U.S. military documents on the Iraq War. [303] [304] [305] Approximately, 58 people were killed with another 40 wounded in an attack on the Sayidat al‑Nejat church, a Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq organization. [306]

Coordinated attacks in primarily Shia areas struck throughout Baghdad on 2 November, killing approximately 113 and wounding 250 with around 17 bombs. [307]

Iraqi arms purchases Edit

As U.S. forces departed the country, the Iraq Defense Ministry solidified plans to purchase advanced military equipment from the United States. Plans in 2010 called for $13 billion of purchases, to include 140 M1 Abrams main battle tanks. [308] In addition to the $13 billion purchase, the Iraqis also requested 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons as part of a $4.2 billion program that also included aircraft training and maintenance, AIM‑9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs and reconnaissance equipment. [309] All Abrams tanks were delivered by the end of 2011, [310] but the first F-16s did not arrive in Iraq until 2015, due to concerns that the Islamic State might overrun Balad Air Base. [311]

The Iraqi navy also purchased 12 U.S.‑built Swift-class patrol boats, at a cost of $20 million each. Delivery was completed in 2013. [312] The vessels are used to protect the oil terminals at Basra and Khor al-Amiya. [309] Two U.S.‑built offshore support vessels, each costing $70 million, were delivered in 2011. [313]

The UN lifts restrictions on Iraq Edit

In a move to legitimize the existing Iraqi government, the United Nations lifted the Saddam Hussein-era UN restrictions on Iraq. These included allowing Iraq to have a civilian nuclear program, permitting the participation of Iraq in international nuclear and chemical weapons treaties, as well as returning control of Iraq's oil and gas revenue to the government and ending the Oil-for-Food Programme. [314]

2011: U.S. withdrawal Edit

Muqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq in the holy city of Najaf to lead the Sadrist movement after being in exile since 2007. [315]

On 15 January 2011, three U.S. troops were killed in Iraq. One of the troops was killed on a military operation in central Iraq, while the other two troops were deliberately shot by one or two Iraqi soldiers during a training exercise. [316]

On 6 June, five U.S. troops were killed in an apparent rocket attack on JSS Loyalty. [317] A sixth soldier, who was wounded in the attack, died 10 days later of his wounds. [318]

On 13 June 2011, two U.S. troops were killed in an IED attack located in Wasit Governorate. [319]

On 26 June 2011, a U.S. soldier was killed. [320] Sergeant Brent McBride was sentenced to four years, two months for his involvement in the death. [321]

On 29 June, three U.S. troops were killed in a rocket attack on a U.S. base located near the border with Iran. It was speculated that the militant group responsible for the attack was the same one which attacked JSS Loyalty just over three weeks before. [322] With the three deaths, June 2011, became the bloodiest month in Iraq for the U.S. military since June 2009, with 15 U.S. soldiers killed, only one of them outside combat. [323]

On 7 July, two U.S. troops were killed and one seriously injured in an IED attack at Victory Base Complex outside Baghdad. They were members of the 145th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team, an Idaho Army National Guard unit base in Post Falls, Idaho. Spc. Nathan R. Beyers, 24, and Spc. Nicholas W. Newby, 20, were killed in the attack, Staff Sgt. Jazon Rzepa, 30, was seriously injured. [324]

In September, Iraq signed a contract to buy 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 warplanes, becoming the 26th nation to operate the F-16. Because of windfall profits from oil, the Iraqi government is planning to double this originally planned 18, to 36 F-16s. Iraq is relying on the U.S. military for air support as it rebuilds its forces and battles a stubborn Islamist insurgency. [325]

With the collapse of the discussions about extending the stay of any U.S. troops beyond 2011, where they would not be granted any immunity from the Iraqi government, on 21 October 2011, President Obama announced at a White House press conference that all remaining U.S. troops and trainers would leave Iraq by the end of the year as previously scheduled, bringing the U.S. mission in Iraq to an end. [326] The last American soldier to die in Iraq before the withdrawal, SPC. David Hickman, was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad on 14 November. [327]

In November 2011, the U.S. Senate voted down a resolution to formally end the war by bringing its authorization by Congress to an end. [328]

On 15 December, an American military ceremony was held in Baghdad putting a formal end to the U.S. mission in Iraq. [329]

The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq on 18 December 2011, although the U.S. embassy and consulates continue to maintain a staff of more than 20,000 including U.S. Marine Embassy Guards and between 4,000 and 5,000 private military contractors. [330] [331] The next day, Iraqi officials issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi. He has been accused of involvement in assassinations and fled to the Kurdish part of Iraq. [332]

The invasion and occupation led to sectarian violence, which caused widespread displacement among Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi Red Crescent organization estimated the total internal displacement was around 2.3 million in 2008, with as many as 2 million Iraqis having left the country. Poverty led many Iraqi women to turn to prostitution to support themselves and their families, attracting sex tourists from regional lands. The invasion led to a constitution, which supported democracy as long as laws did not violate traditional Islamic principles, and a parliamentary election was held in 2005. In addition, the invasion preserved the autonomy of the Kurdish region, and stability brought new economic prosperity. Because the Kurdish region is historically the most democratic area of Iraq, many Iraqi refugees from other territories fled into the Kurdish land. [333]

Sectarian violence continued in the first half of 2013. At least 56 people died in April when a Sunni protest in Hawija was interrupted by a government-supported helicopter raid and a series of violent incidents occurred in May. On 20 May 2013, at least 95 people died in a wave of car bomb attacks that was preceded by a car bombing on 15 May that led to 33 deaths also, on 18 May 76 people were killed in the Sunni areas of Baghdad. Some experts have stated that Iraq could return to the brutal sectarian conflict of 2006. [334] [335]

On 22 July 2013, at least five hundred convicts, most of whom were senior members of al-Qaida who had received death sentences, broke out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail when comrades launched a military-style assault to free them. The attack began when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into prison gates. [336] James F. Jeffrey, the United States ambassador in Baghdad when the last American troops exited, said the assault and resulting escape "will provide seasoned leadership and a morale boost to Al Qaeda and its allies in both Iraq and Syria . it is likely to have an electrifying impact on the Sunni population in Iraq, which has been sitting on the fence." [337]

By mid-2014 the country was in chaos with a new government yet to be formed following national elections, and the insurgency reaching new heights. In early June 2014 the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and said it was ready to march on Baghdad, while Iraqi Kurdish forces took control of key military installations in the major oil city of Kirkuk. The al-Qaida breakaway group formally declared the creation of an Islamic state on 29 June 2014, in the territory under its control. [338]

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked his parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him increased powers, but the lawmakers refused. [339] On 14 August 2014, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki succumbed to pressure at home and abroad to step down. This paved the way for Haidar al-Abadi to take over on 19 August 2014.

In September 2014, President Obama acknowledged that the U.S. underestimated the rise of the Islamic State and overestimated the ability of the Iraqi military to fend off ISIL. [340] As a result, he announced the return of U.S. forces to Iraq, but only in the form of aerial support, in an effort to halt the advance of ISIL forces, render humanitarian aid to stranded refugees and stabilize the political situation. [341] A civil war between ISIL and the central government continued for the next three years, until the government declared victory in December 2017. [342]

Following the election of Donald Trump, the United States intensified its campaign against the Islamic State by January 2017. [343] Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said a tactical shift to surrounding Islamic State strongholds in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, was devised not only to "annihilate" ISIL fighters hunkered down there, but also to prevent them from returning to their home nations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. In 2017, U.S.-backed Kurdish forces captured Raqqa, which had served as the ISIL capital. [344] By 2018, violence in Iraq was at its lowest level in ten years. This was greatly a result of the defeat of ISIL forces and the subsequent calming-down of the insurgency. [345]

In January 2020, the Iraqi parliament voted for all foreign troops to leave the country. This would end its standing agreement with the United States to station 5,200 soldiers in Iraq. Then President Trump objected to withdrawing troops and threatened Iraq with sanctions over this decision. [346]

For coalition death totals see the infobox at the top right. See also Casualties of the Iraq War, which has casualty numbers for coalition nations, contractors, non-Iraqi civilians, journalists, media helpers, aid workers, and the wounded. Casualty figures, especially Iraqi ones, are highly disputed.

There have been several attempts by the media, coalition governments and others to estimate the Iraqi casualties. The table below summarizes some of these estimates and methods.

Source Iraqi casualties March 2003 to .
Iraq Family Health Survey 151,000 violent deaths June 2006
Lancet survey 601,027 violent deaths out of 654,965 excess deaths June 2006
PLOS Medicine Study 460,000 excess deaths including 132,000 violent deaths from the conflict [52] June 2011
Opinion Research Business survey 1,033,000 violent deaths from the conflict August 2007
Iraqi Health Ministry 87,215 violent deaths per death certificates issued
Deaths prior to January 2005 unrecorded
Ministry estimates up to 20% more deaths are undocumented.
January 2005 to
February 2009
Associated Press 110,600 violent deaths
Health Ministry death certificates plus AP estimate of casualties for 2003–04
April 2009
Iraq Body Count 105,052–114,731 violent civilian deaths
compiled from commercial news media, NGO and official reports
Over 162,000 civilian and combatant deaths
January 2012
WikiLeaks. Classified Iraq War Logs 109,032 violent deaths including 66,081 civilian deaths January 2004 to
December 2009

The Bush Administration's rationale for the Iraq War has faced heavy criticism from an array of popular and official sources both inside and outside the United States, with many U.S. citizens finding many parallels with the Vietnam War. [348] For example, a former CIA officer described the Office of Special Plans as a group of ideologues who were dangerous to U.S. national security and a threat to world peace, and stated that the group lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. [349] The Center for Public Integrity alleges that the Bush administration made a total of 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq's alleged threat to the United States. [350]

Both proponents and opponents of the invasion have also criticized the prosecution of the war effort along with a number of other lines. Most significantly, critics have assailed the United States and its allies for not devoting enough troops to the mission, not adequately planning for post-invasion Iraq, and for permitting and perpetrating human rights abuses. As the war has progressed, critics have also railed against the high human and financial costs. In 2016, the United Kingdom published the Iraq Inquiry, a public inquiry which was broadly critical of the actions of the British government and military in making the case for the war, in tactics and in planning for the aftermath of the war. [351] [352] [353]

    of the invasion[354][355]
  • Human rights violations such as the Iraq prison abuse scandals
  • Insufficient post-invasion plans, in particular inadequate troop levels (A RAND Corporation study stated that 500,000 troops would be required for success.) [356] with approximately $612 billion spent as of 4/09 the CBO has estimated the total cost of the war in Iraq to the United States will be around $1.9 trillion . [357]
  • Adverse effect on U.S.-led global "war on terror" [358][359]
  • Damage to U.S.' traditional alliances and influence in the region. [360][361]
  • Endangerment and ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities by insurgents [209][362][363][364][365]
  • Disruption of Iraqi oil production and related energy security concerns (The price of oil has quadrupled since 2002.) [366][367]

Financial cost Edit

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War to date was estimated at $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University. [368] Some argue that the total cost of the war to the U.S. economy will range from $3 trillion [369] to $6 trillion , [370] including interest rates, by 2053, as described in the Watson Institute's report. The upper ranges of these estimates include long-term veterans costs and economic impacts. For example, Harvard's public finance expert Linda J. Bilmes has estimated that the long-term cost of providing disability compensation and medical care to U.S. troops injured in the Iraq conflict will reach nearly $1 trillion over the next 40 years, [371] and that the war in Iraq diverted resources from the war in Afghanistan, led to rising oil prices, increased the federal debt, and contributed to a global financial crisis. [372]

A CNN report noted that the United States-led interim government, the Coalition Provisional Authority lasting until 2004 in Iraq had lost $8.8 billion in the Development Fund for Iraq. In June 2011, it was reported by CBS News that $6 billion in neatly packaged blocks of $100 bills was air-lifted into Iraq by the George W. Bush administration, which flew it into Baghdad aboard C‑130 military cargo planes. In total, the Times says $12 billion in cash was flown into Iraq in 21 separate flights by May 2004, all of which has disappeared. An inspector general's report mentioned that "'Severe inefficiencies and poor management' by the Coalition Provisional Authority would leave no guarantee that the money was properly used", said Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., director of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. "The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial, and contractual controls to ensure that funds were used in a transparent manner." [373] Bowen told the Times the missing money may represent "the largest theft of funds in national history." [374]

The child malnutrition rate rose to 28% in 2007. [375] In 2007, Nasser Muhssin, a researcher on family and children's affairs affiliated to the University of Baghdad claimed that 60–70% of Iraqi children suffered from psychological problems. [376] Most Iraqis had no access to safe drinking water. A cholera outbreak in northern Iraq was thought to be the result of poor water quality. [377] As many as half of Iraqi doctors left the country between 2003 and 2006. [378] Articles in The Lancet and Al Jazeera have suggested that the number of cases of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, illnesses and premature births may have increased dramatically after the first and second Iraq wars, due to the presences of depleted uranium and chemicals introduced during American attacks. [379] [380]

By the end of 2015, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 4.4 million Iraqis had been internally displaced. [381] The population of Iraqi Christians dropped dramatically during the war, from 1.5 million in 2003 to 500,000 in 2015, [382] and perhaps only 275,000 in 2016.

The Foreign Policy Association reported that "Perhaps the most perplexing component of the Iraq refugee crisis . has been the inability for the United States to absorb more Iraqis following the 2003 invasion of the country. To date, the United States has granted around 84,000 Iraqis refugee status, of the more than two million global Iraqi refugees. By contrast, the United States granted asylum to more than 100,000 South Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam War." [383] [384] [385]

Throughout the entire Iraq War, there have been human rights abuses on all sides of the conflict.

Post-invasion Iraq Government Edit

  • Use of torture by Iraqi security forces [386]
  • Iraqi police from the Interior Ministry accused of forming Death Squads and committing numerous massacres and tortures of Sunni Arabs [387] and the police collusion with militias in Iraq have compounded the problems.

Coalition forces and private contractors Edit

  • Deaths of civilians as a result of bombing and missile strikes that fail to take all feasible precautions with regards to civilians casualties. [388] by U.S. Army personnel, [389] involving the detention of thousands of Iraqi men and women. Torture at Abu Ghraib included rape, sodomy and extensive sexual abuse, waterboarding, pouring phosphoric acid on detainees, sleep deprivation and physical beatings. of 24 civilians.
  • Widespread use of the incendiary munition white phosphorus such as during the battle of Fallujah. The documentary Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre, claimed that Iraqi civilians, including women and children, had died of burns caused by white phosphorus during the battle, however, US Department of Defence spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable denied that this was true but confirmed to the BBC that US forces had used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon there against enemy combatants. [390][391][392] The use of white phosphorus against civilian populations is banned by international legislation. [393] by Coalition Forces, estimated to number at least 300,000 rounds fired in Iraq during the war. [394] Several 2012 studies in Iraq have identified increased occurrence of deformities, cancers, and other serious health problems in areas where depleted uranium shells were used. Some Iraqi doctors attributed these malformations to possible long-term effects of depleted uranium. Studies disagree on whether depleted uranium ammunition has any measurable detrimental health effects. [395][396] and murder of an Iraqi girl, and murder of her family. [397]
  • The torture and killing of prisoner of war, Iraqi Air Force commander, Abed Hamed Mowhoush. . . [398] where 42 civilians were allegedly killed by coalition forces.
  • Planting weapons on noncombatant, unarmed Iraqis by three U.S. Marines after killing them. [399][400] According to a report by The Nation, other similar acts have been witnessed by U.S. soldiers. [401] .
  • Allegations of beatings, electrocution, mock executions, and sexual assault by British troops were presented to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) on 12 January 2014. [402]

Insurgent groups Edit

  • Killing over 12,000 Iraqis from January 2005 to June 2006, according to Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, giving the first official count for the victims of bombings, ambushes and other deadly attacks. [403] The insurgents have also conducted numerous suicide attacks on the Iraqi civilian population, mostly targeting the majority Shia community. [404][405] An October 2005 report from Human Rights Watch examines the range of civilian attacks and their purported justification. [406]
  • Attacks against civilians by sectarian death squads primarily during the Iraqi Civil War. Iraq Body Count project data shows that 33% of civilian deaths during the Iraq War resulted from execution after abduction or capture. These were overwhelmingly carried out by unknown actors including insurgents, sectarian militias and criminals. [407]
  • Attacks on diplomats and diplomatic facilities including the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 killing the top UN representative in Iraq and 21 other UN staff members [408] beheading several diplomats: two Algerian diplomatic envoys Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi, [409] Egyptian diplomatic envoy al-Sherif, [410] and four Russian diplomats [411]
  • The February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari Mosque, destroying one of the holiest Shiite shrines, killing over 165 worshipers and igniting sectarian strife and reprisal killings [412]
  • The publicised killing of several contractors Eugene Armstrong, Jack Hensley, Kenneth Bigley, Ivaylo Kepov and Georgi Lazov (Bulgarian truck drivers.) [413] Other non-military personnel murdered include: translator Kim Sun-il, Shosei Koda, Fabrizio Quattrocchi (Italian), charity worker Margaret Hassan, reconstruction engineer Nick Berg, photographer Salvatore Santoro (Italian) [414] and supply worker Seif Adnan Kanaan (Iraqi.) Four private armed contractors, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Zovko, Wesley Batalona and Michael Teague, were killed with grenades and small arms fire, their bodies dragged from their vehicles, beaten and set ablaze. Their burned corpses were then dragged through the streets before being hung over a bridge crossing the Euphrates. [415]
  • Torture or killing of members of the New Iraqi Army, [416] and assassination of civilians associated with the Coalition Provisional Authority, such as Fern Holland, or the Iraqi Governing Council, such as Aqila al-Hashimi and Ezzedine Salim, or other foreign civilians, such as those from Kenya [417]
  • A group of Iraqi Shia militia supporters broke into the compound of the US Embassy in Baghdad and set fire in the reception area. U.S. soldiers fired tears gas at the militants, who advanced no further. The attack came after U.S. airstrikes on 29 December, which killed 25 militants of Iran-backed group, Kataeb Hezbollah. [418]

International opinion Edit

In a March 2003 Gallup poll, the day after the invasion, 76% of Americans had approved of military action against Iraq. [419] In a March 2003 YouGov poll, 54% of Britons supported the military action against Iraq. [420]

According to a January 2007 BBC World Service poll of more than 26,000 people in 25 countries, 73% of the global population disapproved of U.S. handling of the Iraq War. [421] A September 2007 poll conducted by the BBC found that two-thirds of the world's population believed the U.S. should withdraw its forces from Iraq. [422]

In 2006 it was found that majorities in the UK and Canada believed that the war in Iraq was "unjustified" and – in the UK – were critical of their government's support of U.S. policies in Iraq. [423]

According to polls conducted by the Arab American Institute, four years after the invasion of Iraq, 83% of Egyptians had a negative view of the U.S. role in Iraq 68% of Saudi Arabians had a negative view 96% of the Jordanian population had a negative view 70% of the population of the United Arab Emirates and 76% of the Lebanese population also described their view as negative. [424] The Pew Global Attitudes Project reports that in 2006 majorities in the Netherlands, Germany, Jordan, France, Lebanon, Russia, China, Canada, Poland, Pakistan, Spain, Indonesia, Turkey, and Morocco believed the world was safer before the Iraq War and the toppling of Saddam, while pluralities in the United States and India believe the world is safer without Saddam Hussein. [425]

Iraqi opinion Edit

Directly after the invasion, polling suggested that a slight majority supported the U.S. invasion. [426] Polls conducted between 2005 and 2007 showed 31–37% of Iraqis wanted U.S. and other Coalition forces to withdraw once security was restored and that 26–35% wanted immediate withdrawal instead. [427] [428] [429] Despite a majority having previously been opposed to the U.S. presence, 60% of Iraqis opposed American troops leaving directly prior to withdrawal, with 51% saying withdrawal would have a negative effect. [430] [431] In 2006, a poll conducted on the Iraqi public revealed that 52% of the ones polled said Iraq was going in the right direction and 61% claimed it was worth ousting Saddam Hussein. [427] In a March 2007 BBC poll, 82% of Iraqis expressed a lack of confidence in coalition forces based in Iraq. [432]

Though explicitly stating that Iraq had "nothing" to do with 9/11, [433] erstwhile President George W. Bush consistently referred to the Iraq War as "the central front in the War on Terror", and argued that if the United States pulled out of Iraq, "terrorists will follow us here". [434] [435] [436] While other proponents of the war regularly echoed this assertion, as the conflict dragged on, members of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. public, and even U.S. troops questioned the connection between Iraq and the fight against anti-U.S. terrorism. In particular, a consensus developed among intelligence experts that the Iraq War actually increased terrorism. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna frequently referred to the invasion of Iraq as a "fatal mistake". [437]

London's International Institute for Strategic Studies concluded in 2004 that the occupation of Iraq had become "a potent global recruitment pretext" for Mujahideen and that the invasion "galvanised" al-Qaeda and "perversely inspired insurgent violence" there. [438] The U.S. National Intelligence Council concluded in a January 2005 report that the war in Iraq had become a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists David Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, indicated that the report concluded that the war in Iraq provided terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills . There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will, therefore, disperse to various other countries." The council's chairman Robert Hutchings said, "At the moment, Iraq is a magnet for international terrorist activity." [439] And the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, which outlined the considered judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, held that "The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause célèbre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement." [440]

Role of Saudi Arabia and non-Iraqis Edit

According to studies, most of the suicide bombers in Iraq are foreigners, especially Saudis. [441] [442] [443]

Role of Iran Edit

According to two unnamed U.S. officials, the Pentagon is examining the possibility that the Karbala provincial headquarters raid, in which insurgents managed to infiltrate an American base, kill five U.S. soldiers, wound three, and destroy three humvees before fleeing, was supported by Iranians. In a speech on 31 January 2007 , Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stated that Iran was supporting attacks against Coalition forces in Iraq [444] and some Iraqis suspect that the raid may have been perpetrated by the Quds Force in retaliation for the detention of five Iranian officials by U.S. forces in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on 11 January . [445] [446]

A 1,300-page US Army Iraq War study, released in January 2019, concluded that “At the time of this project’s completion in 2018, an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor" and that the outcome of the war triggered a "deep skepticism about foreign interventions” among America's public opinion. [447]


The tank commander

It took 21 days to produce Gunnery Sergeant Leon Lambert's epiphany: long, hard days eating dust in the desert, too tired and too tense to mourn the US marines killed as they pushed up from Kuwait, or to register his surroundings.

Nothing made sense to him - until the day he rolled his giant tank-recovery vehicle into Firdous Square and attached a length of cable around the statue of Saddam Hussein. Only then did it dawn: his war was nearly over, and the fighting had had a purpose.

"I really had a sense of what I was doing there for the very first time. I didn't, really didn't, understand before then that what was going on was that we were actually freeing people that were under oppression," he says. "You can watch all this stuff on the news, but it really does not drive home until you can actually see these people with relief on their faces."

Lambert's memories of that day are overlaid with images of his journey from Kuwait. Almost every day was a battle. The third battalion/fourth marines lost men, including an entire tank crew. A day or two before, he had his own close call when two missiles slammed into the dust on either side of his vehicle, spitting up dust and debris. Lambert was stuck in that cloud for what felt like an eternity, waiting for the next missile to hit, before he was able to move.

It's not easy for him to tell the story of those days. Lambert stops often, and gulps for air. He makes no mention of his own role, though he has every reason to be proud. Last week, at his base in Yakima, Washington state, Lambert received a commendation for valour during wartime. As maintenance chief for company B, he put a tank back on its tracks again by improvising spare parts out of an MRE (meal ready to eat) packet and cardboard - all while under enemy fire. The citation calls it a "heroic achievement".

But Lambert's pride is tempered with grief. "I feel what we did that day did not compare to the three weeks of us trying to get there," he says. "We fought and we bled, and some people died every day all the way up to that day and I just believe: why should that day be seen as greater than any other day for my guys that were actually out there doing the fighting?"

He says nothing in his life compares with the experience of those days - and Lambert has lived through an enormous amount in his 36 years. He grew up poor in the Colorado Rockies, the son of a car mechanic. His father could never quite earn enough for his five children Lambert got his first after-school job, as a dishwasher, when he was about 12 years old.

When the Lambert boys reached high school, they made the choices poor Americans often do. The eldest Lambert son joined the army straight out of high school, the second joined the airforce, and Leon became a marine.

It wasn't only the money. Lambert had had options - an athletics scholarship to an Oklahoma college. But he partied too hard, and he could feel himself drifting. Four years in the marines would put him on the straight and narrow, he decided.

He has been in the service for 17 years. The war started on his 10th wedding anniversary - an ironic coincidence given that his wife refuses to believe that he will ever retire. At the time, he never imagined it would be worse than anything else life had dealt him. Within the space of a few years, he and his wife, Denise Irons-Lambert, suffered three miscarriages, and the death of three parents between them.

When it came time to ship out to Iraq, Lambert had had so many dealings with death, he couldn't bring himself to make a will - although it is standard procedure before a deployment.

"It had been very rough," he says. "Even before the word came out that we were leaving for Iraq, we had been through so much and through so many tough times that this was just another notch in our belts." He laughs now to think how wrong that was.

By the time Lambert's M-88 tank-recovery vehicle rolled into Firdous Square on April 9 after sweeping up through the southern fringes of Baghdad, his mood was oscillating rapidly between fear and elation. The elation was winning. "I radioed to my executive officer," he says. "I was just messing around with him and I said over the radio: 'Hey, sir, we got the statue over there. Can we go knock it down?' And he said: 'No, Gunny, that's not what we are here for. We are not here for the destruction of property'."

But some Iraqis in the crowd had a similar idea. One, whom Lambert remembers as a fairly large man, came up to ask for help. Lambert, under orders, had to turn him down, but from his M-88 vehicle, he handed over a sledgehammer and some rope.

As many as 50 men threw their weight on the rope looped around Saddam's neck, others flailed at the statue's base. The statue remained unharmed. After about an hour, Lambert's captain came over, and put him on notice. Orders had come that the statue was to be taken down. "I said, 'Roger that, sir. Give me about five minutes.'"

Lambert moved his vehicle closer to the statue. High up in the Pentagon, others might have been thinking of the propaganda power of that moment Lambert's concerns were far more immediate. He feared that he and his vehicle were becoming a target for any potential Iraqi snipers in the area. He was also worried at the prospect of six metres of bronze tumbling off its plinth into a heaving crowd of civilians, or of a broken cable scything through them.

It would take some ingenuity to get the job done safely.

With his mind thus preoccupied, Lambert was only dimly aware of the scenes taking place only a few metres above his head. His rigger, Corporal Edward Chin, had scaled the mast of the marine recovery vehicle to connect a cable from the M-88 to the statue's neck. So had another marine, Staff Sergeant Dave Sutherland. While Lambert calculated angles of fall and cable strengths, an American flag was draped over the statue's head. A minute later, it was removed, and replaced with an old Iraqi flag from before the first Gulf war.

Moments later, Lambert got the go-ahead from Lt-Colonel Bryan McCoy, the ranking officer in the square that day. Lambert had the driver throttle up the engine in expectation of a heavy load, and started reeling in the cable.

"I was afraid because the cable was wrapped around the head that it was going to break in half," he says. He had no choice but to finish Saddam off. He cleared the square and put the vehicle in reverse, hoisting Saddam off his metallic shins. "That's when it actually fell," he says.

The result was pandemonium. "People had such hatred and anger for this man that, literally before I could take the chain off the statue, they started beating it with the soles of shoes, and they took the sledgehammer and were flailing at it. They were literally tearing apart the statue with their bare hands, and I am talking bronze metal, and all this is is a symbol of him."

The scenes convinced Lambert. America had been right to go to war.

By last June, his own part in the invasion was over, and Lambert went home to await the birth of his first son, also called Leon. He will definitely tell Leon Jr about the Iraq war one day, and show him the tiny piece of metal that is his souvenir of the statue.

For Lambert, it remains a proud moment, but he is equally aware that his son's generation may have a different view of those hours in Firdous Square. "I don't know how my daughter or son are going to perceive it 20 years from now. I know that one day it is going to be in the history books, but how will it be in the history books?" he says.

"There is still so much controversy going on right now, so many allegations, so much stuff still happening over there in Iraq that I don't think this page of history is done being written yet."


Chalabi's Final Victory in Iraq


Picture released by the Iraqi Parliament's press office shows mourners attending the funeral of Ahmed Chalabi, head of parliament's finance committee, on November 4, 2015 in the capital, Baghdad.

It says a lot about man's record in life, that within hours of his death he is widely proclaimed to have shifted the course of history, even though he was never a head of state.

Ahmed Chalabi the man is gone, but his spirit is so strong that even many of his detractors have long held a grudging admiration for a man of legendary intellect and drive. It is no surprise, because here was a man who overcame monumental hurdles to unify the Iraqi opposition in the 1990s, calm tensions in an effort to end the Kurdish civil war and juggle relations with Democrats and Republicans, who often had very different Iraq policies.

During this time, deep uncertainty pervaded American politics as to whether anything could be done about the tyranny of Saddam Hussein -- some in Washington had the ear of governments in the region who tacitly supported Saddam, even after the Kuwait invasion. But Chalabi sold his cause -- shrewdly and with great determination, making a case to end a genocidal regime. This was masterful politics, but not necessarily masterful manipulation.

Even Scott Ritter, the former weapons inspector who eventually stood against the war conceded that Chalabi had "a reliable network" that provided information of "considerable value" to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). This certainly calls into question some of the claims about Chalabi the "fabricator" given that not only was Ritter an expert, but was also opposed to the war.

Historians remain divided over Chalabi's role regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, but this has been overblown -- why else did none other than head U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix report to the U.N. that there were substantial amounts of unaccounted for WMD? Today, Iraqis are not so interested in the nuances of the debate on WMDs because the biggest WMD in Iraq was the genocidal maniac Saddam.

Despite these historical complexities, many still seek to portray Chalabi as the Machiavellian puppet master par excellence. This is not the man I remember.

It is based on a simplistic reading of history that begins with President George W. Bush, 9/11 and the run up to 2003. But it completely overlooks 12 years of bloody Iraqi history after the first Gulf War, so critical to understanding the aftermath of regime change.

A deeper analysis finds a man who saw an opportunity to do what any sane person faced with tyranny would do. He took the drastic action required to bring about its downfall. As Iraq appeared to collapse into chaos after 2003, the dark days of the 1990s period have been largely forgotten.

Of course, Iraq has certainly been through some horrifically bleak chapters, even before the fight against the so called Islamic State (known as ISIS or ISIL) and the anarchic civil war years of 2005 - 2007.

But we cannot forgot the motives of the opposition that sought to finish Saddam: justice for the 200,000 Arab Shi'a killed between February-May 1991 in southern provinces during the Iraq's Uprising (the first popular revolt against dictatorship that preceded all Arab-Springs by 2 decades), 180,000 Kurds massacred during the 1980s "Anfal campaign", and the appalling torture practised in the most notorious police state of modern times.

Men such as Chalabi who pushed for war against Saddam undoubtedly made many mistakes, but lacking moral clarity in the face of tyranny was not one of them.

This clarity gave him the strength to operate amid a maelstrom of conflicting agendas. Among those joining his Iraqi National Congress (INC) was the former head of Iraqi military intelligence Wafiq al-Samarrai, as well as friends capable of bringing down the tyrant who were factionally divided (the Iraqi Kurds.) Other allies were pious religious leaders, sceptical CIA representatives, naive Pentagon officials and Iranian intelligence infiltrators. All offered support to end tyranny, but who could be trusted?

Chalabi had notable success managing these allies against desperate odds, and on many occasions his INC were credited as the peacemakers holding rival Kurdish factions together following the bitter Kurdish in-fighting of the mid-1990s.

In 1995 it was far worse, as the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) withdrew from an attempt to attack the regime at the last minute. A year later, the KDP sided with Saddam in a disaster that saw the CIA lose faith in Chalabi and see the deaths of hundreds of INC fighters in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Incredibly, Chalabi bounced back in Washington, rebuilding political momentum to influence President Bill Clinton to pass the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which cemented support for the INC. But it still wasn't enough to shake the foundations of Saddam's tyranny.

Throughout this time, Iraqi opposition figures saw their people endure immense suffering and destruction (not to mention appalling sanctions). Some say Chalabi helped push the United States to war. But Chalabi was already in a long war with Saddam, one that the United States supported in the 1990s, only far more in word than in deed.

Chalabi knew that cultivating relations with the Republicans was essential not just for the goal of removing Saddam, but merely so that the opposition project could survive. And survival was key: upwards of 500 mass graves were discovered in Iraq after 2003.

But did Chalabi manipulate the entire Bush administration? Paul Wolfowitz, a key figure pushing for tougher action on Saddam, was personal friends with prominent Iraqi dissident and author Kanan Makiya and pro war thinker Christopher Hitchens - these men didn't need defectors with WMD stories to know that a genocidal dictator had to go. That was U.S. policy from 1991 onwards when Bush senior asked the CIA to "create the conditions for Saddam's removal." So, the "master manipulator" portrayal is also exaggerated.

But as the centrepiece of the Iraq opposition, and after much fumbling from the Clinton administration, Chalabi was instrumental in making the project feasible. Without that role, Saddam or his deranged sons would still be in Baghdad.

Imagine being faced with such a task, based only a few miles from a dictator who had already poisoned the Kurdish region with chemical weapons. Chalabi had to allay the fears of defected Baathist officers, divided Kurds and Shi'a opposition groups who knew the U.S. had abandoned them before to Saddam's killing machine.

But while Chalabi's contemporaries in this dark period schemed -- and in the case of KDP leader Masoud Barzani, temporarily joined forces with Saddam, Chalabi's aim was singular: to end a regime that had murdered hundreds of thousands of people, caused one of the bloodiest wars post WW2 with Iran that left two million dead and wounded, forced three million into exile, and at one point planned to fire VX chemical missiles into Tehran, which would have killed tens of thousands of civilians.

Chalabi reached his goal, but soon felt betrayed by the broken U.S. promise to hand over power to Iraqis and hold a democratic election as soon as possible. Chalabi sat almost powerless in the interim governing council, just as Paul Bremer unleashed a series of lamentable mistakes upon the Iraqi people. Just as many people would in this situation, he deepened ties to Iran, but never gave up on his hope of a united, democratic Iraq.

Despite coming close to the political wilderness in 2006, Chalabi followed a more conciliatory role in Iraqi politics than people give him credit for, bringing disparate Shi'a groups together into the National Alliance (including the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front and the Kurdish Alliance) which energised Iraqis to vote in the 2005 elections.

This brings us to another historically divided view of the man: Chalabi the sectarian champion of de-Baathification. This is always a strange accusation, given the quasi fascist nature of the Baath, which had embedded itself in Iraq's institutions through decades of coercion and intensive propaganda. Just as in Germany's de-Nazification after WW2 to uproot the former regime's ideology, Iraq's institutions had to be rehabilitated. The fact that the project was ultimately hijacked to become a politicised witch hunt is no fault of Chalabi.

Despite accusations of sectarianism, it was Chalabi who once took Iraqi Sunnis to the Shi'a Holy Shrine of Imam Ali at the height of sectarian violence in 2006.

The misrepresentation continues: Chalabi the "convicted fraudster" following the Petra Bank scandal, which ignores the fact that the "court" who tried him was a military tribunal. It was a highly controversial case with strong reasons to believe political motivations were behind the charges.

These allegations jar with Chalabi's last role in Iraq, vigorously chasing corruption during his active role in parliament and most recently as head of the Finance Committee despite the immense danger of such a job, leaking information on scandals to local and international media.


Key officials take part in the funeral procession [L-R]: Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jafari, President Fouad Massoum, Parliament Speaker Salim Jabouri, Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, Hashim Chalabi (son) and Tamara Chalabi (daughter).

That's the Chalabi I remember: in our meetings, he was always deeply concerned by corruption and mismanagement in Iraq and abuse of the dollar auctions. He talked about how past administrations lost the golden opportunity of high oil prices whilst failing to diversify Iraq's economy and income streams.

During our last telephone conversation in October, he asked me for advice on Iraq's debts to oil companies and market forecast while working on the 2016 budget. Despite the financial and security challenges Iraq faced, he always talked with a strong belief that "one day, our country, would become a civil state headed by competent technocrats and more responsible administrations." He remained influential to the end, and deeply passionate about his country.

No doubt historians will continue to debate the complex episodes of his life, but many Iraqis are deeply fond of the man and in his passing, it seems his legend will grow. He received nothing less than a state funeral and astonishingly, a final resting place in al-Kadhimiya Holy Shrine, perhaps the ultimate endorsement of Iraq's religious Marjiyah establishment, a fitting end to an epic life. This honour is unprecedented for a liberal Iraqi politician who laid the cornerstone for a democratic, civil Iraqi state. Chalabi fought many battles, but that was his final victory.


Chalabi's final resting place in al-Kadhimiya Holy Shrine (Baghdad, Iraq). First flower bouquet laid from Iraqi former President Jalal Talabani


Watch the video: H κωμικο τραγικη δικη του Saddam Hussein (January 2022).