On This Day in 2003, the War in Iraq Began

On March 19, 2003, the United States along with a coalition of forces mostly from the UK started the war on Iraq. It would served as the first stage of the war with the air campaign commencing on March 19th followed by the ground campaign on March 20, 2003.

The justifications for the Iraq war started with Iraq’s failure to disarm as the “single trigger.” Over time, the Bush Administration would state Iraqi violation of UN resolutions, the Iraqi government’s repression of its citizens, and violations of the 1991 ceasefire as additional justifications for war. To the disarmament, it was alleged that then-leader/dictator Saddam Hussein possessed or was attempting to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that Hussein had terrorist ties, specifically al-Qaeda.

It would be about three weeks before the Iraqi government and military would collapse. U. S., British, and other coalition forces overwhelmed the Iraqi Army and Iraqi civilians with U.S. soldiers pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in Baghdad.

As for Hussein, he went into hiding and was captured in December 2003 outside his hometown in Tikrit. After standing trial, Saddam Hussein was executed three years later in 2006.

Back to the war in Iraq, on May 1, 2003, President Bush formally declared an end to the military phase to take down the Hussein regime. Bush would speak from the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

However, the Iraq war was quite far from over as loyalists to the Hussein regime went on to lay the foundation of a postwar insurgency. In the meantime, no WMDs were ever found in Iraq and the U.S. would remain in Iraq for eight years before declaring an end to the war on December 15, 2011.

In 2021, the U.S. military completed troop-level drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq; there are reportedly now 2,500 servicemembers each in both areas of operation.

Most recently, U.S. and coalition forces came under a rocket attack in western Iraq on March 3, 2021. No U.S. troops were injured; however, a civilian U.S. contractor died of a heart attack during the attack at Al Asad Air Base.

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