On March 20, 2003, a large force of United
States and British troops invaded Iraq, leading to the collapse of the
Iraqi government in about three weeks. Ground forces from Australia and
Poland and naval forces from Denmark and Spain also took part. The international
community was divided on the legitimacy of this invasion; see worldwide
government positions on war on Iraq.
The start of hostilities came after the expiration of a 48-hour deadline
which was set by U.S. President George W. Bush, demanding that Saddam Hussein
and his two sons Uday and Qusay leave Iraq, ending the diplomatic Iraq
The U.S. name for the military campaign is Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The UK military operations in this war are being conducted under the name
of Operation Telic. The Australian codename is Operation
The United States, with support from approximately 45,000 British, 2,000
Australian and 200 Polish combat forces, entered Iraq primarily through
their staging area in Kuwait. Coalition forces also supported Iraqi Kurdish
militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 50,000.
The invasion was notably swift, with the collapse of the Iraq government
and the military of Iraq in about three weeks. The oil infrastructure of
Iraq was rapidly secured with limited damage in that time.
Casualties of the invading forces were limited, while Iraq military
casualties are unknown, probably at least in the thousands, and Iraq civilian
casualties are also unknown, most likely on the order of 1,000.
The U.S. Third Division moved westward and then northward through the
desert toward Baghdad, while a U.S. Marine division and a U.K. expeditionary
force moved northward through marshland. U.K. forces secured Iraq's second-largest
city, Basra, following two weeks of conflict, although their control of
the city was limited. Preexisting electrical and water shortages continued
through the conflict and looting began as Iraqi forces collapsed. While
British forces began working with local Iraqi Police to enforce order,
humanitarian aid began to arrive from ships landing in the port city of
Umm Qasr and trucks entering the country through Kuwait.
Three weeks into the invasion U.S. forces moved into Baghdad with limited
resistance, Iraqi government officials either disappearing or conceding
defeat. Looting, including looting of the National Museum of Iraq, took
place in the days following. The F.B.I. was soon called into Iraq to track
down the stolen items. Coalition forces, with help from the local Iraqi
Police officers, quickly began to make efforts to control the looting.
Historians say many artifacts and documents about the old Sumerian time
may be lost forever as a result of looting of the National Museum, which,
unlike the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the Ministry of Interior, wasn't one
of the two buildings protected by U.S. forces against looters.
In the north Kurdish forces under the command of U.S. Special Forces
captured oil-rich Kirkuk on April 10. On April 15, U.S. forces mostly took
control of Tikrit.
Events leading to the invasion
Following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, the George W. Bush administration
declared a War on Terrorism, accompanied by the doctrine of preemptive
military action dubbed the Bush doctrine. In 2002 the Iraq disarmament
crisis arose primarily as a diplomatic situation, with United Nations actions
regarding Iraq culminating in the passage of UN Security Council Resolution
1441 and the resumption of weapons inspections. The United States also
began preparations for an invasion of Iraq, with a host of diplomatic,
public relations and military preparations.
Invasion justification and goals
The stated justification for the invasion included Iraqi production and
use of weapons of mass destruction and human rights violations in Iraq
under the Saddam Hussein government. To that end, the stated goals of the
invasion, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were: to end
the Saddam Hussein government and help Iraq transition to representative
self-rule; to find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction and terrorists;
to collect intelligence on networks of weapons of mass destruction and
terrorists; to end sanctions and to deliver humanitarian support; and to
secure Iraq's oil fields and resources.
No such weapons have been reported as found as of April 24, 2003, though
Saddam's government collapsed, former Palestine Liberation Front leader
Abu Abbas was captured, and the oil fields and resources were rapidly secured.
After the fall of Baghdad, U.S. officials claimed that Iraqi officials
were being harbored in Syria, and several high-ranking Iraqis have since
been detained after being expelled from Syria.
Support and opposition
See Support and opposition for the 2003 invasion of Iraq for the full
The U.S.-led coalition against Iraq is claimed by the Bush administration
to include 49 nations, a group that is frequently referred to as the "coalition
of the willing". The only known combat forces are from the United States,
Britain, Australia, Denmark, and Poland. Ten other countries are known
to have offered small numbers of noncombat forces, mostly either medical
teams and specialists in decontamination.
Popular opposition to war on Iraq led to global protests, and the war
was been criticized by Belgium, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the
Several nations, including Austria, say the attack violates international
law as a war of aggression since it lacks the validity of a U.N. Security
Council resolution that could authorize military force. The Egyptian former
United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called the intervention
a violation of the UN charter.
The United States and Britain maintain it is a legal action which they
are within their rights to undertake. Along with Poland and Australia,
the invasion is supported by the governments of several European nations,
including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, and Spain.
Related slogans and terms
This campaign has featured a variety of new and weighted terminology, much
coined the U.S. government and then repeated by the media. The name "Operation
Iraqi Freedom", for example, expresses one viewpoint of the purpose of
the invasion. Also notable was the exclusive usage of "regime" to refer
to the Saddam Hussein government (see also regime change), and "death squads"
to refer to fedayeen paramilitary forces.
Other terminology introduced or popularized during the war include:
Shock and awe - The strategy of focusing on the enemy's will to fight through
a display of overwhelming force.
"embedding" - process of assigning reporters to particular military units
"coalition of the willing"
untidiness - Rumsfeld's term for the looting and unrest which followed
the government's collapse
of this war was different in certain ways from that
of the Gulf
. The Pentagon established the policy of "embedding" reporters with
military units. Home viewers were able to watch U.S. tanks rolling into
Baghdad live on television, with a split screen image of the Iraqi Minister
of Information claiming that U.S. forces were not in the city.
Another difference was the wide and independent coverage in the World
Wide Web demonstrating that the internet has become mature as an medium,
giving everyone access to different versions of the truth.