Thursday, March 19, 2009

On This Day In History: War in Iraq begins

War In Iraq: 6 Years, $800 billion, 4,578 coalition deaths
Read More About War Reactions on CNN
On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces primarily from the United Kingdom, initiates war on Iraq. Just after explosions began to rock Baghdad, Iraq's capital, U.S. President George W. Bush announced in a televised address, "At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger." President Bush and his advisors built much of their case for war on the idea that Iraq, under dictator Saddam Hussein, possessed or was in the process of building weapons of mass destruction.

Hostilities began about 90 minutes after the U.S.-imposed deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war passed. The first targets, which Bush said were "of military importance," were hit with Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. fighter-bombers and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf. In response to the attacks, Republic of Iraq radio in Baghdad announced, "the evil ones, the enemies of God, the homeland and humanity, have committed the stupidity of aggression against our homeland and people."

Though Saddam Hussein had declared in early March 2003 that, "it is without doubt that the faithful will be victorious against aggression," he went into hiding soon after the American invasion, speaking to his people only through an occasional audiotape. Coalition forces were able to topple his regime and capture Iraq's major cities in just three weeks, sustaining few casualties. President Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1, 2003. Despite the defeat of conventional military forces in Iraq, an insurgency has continued an intense guerrilla war in the nation in the years since military victory was announced, resulting in thousands of coalition military, insurgent and civilian deaths.

After an intense manhunt, U.S. soldiers found Saddam Hussein hiding in a six-to-eight-foot deep hole, nine miles outside his hometown of Tikrit. He did not resist and was uninjured during the arrest. A soldier at the scene described him as "a man resigned to his fate." Hussein was arrested and began trial for crimes against his people, including mass killings, in October 2005.
On November 6, 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. After an unsuccessful appeal, he was executed on December 30, 2006.

Bush received harsh criticism for the war. Critics claimed his administration primarily sought control of Iraq's vast oil resources, or that the war was in retaliation for an attempt on former President George H.W. Bush's life, ordered by Hussein, in 1990. Revelations that intelligence regarding the Iraq/Niger yellowcake deal was faulty bolstered anti-war sentiment. Bush denied accusations that his administration manipulated intelligence to justify a war and insisted the paramount goal of the war was to rid Iraq of Hussein, stabilize the Middle East and bring democracy to Iraq. U.S. forces successfully captured Hussein, who had gone into hiding shortly after the start of war, on December 15, 2003.

Although Bush announced "mission accomplished" and the end of combat operations on May 1, 2003, Iraq continued to experience ongoing deadly attacks by insurgents while U.S. and coalition troops and civilian contractors attempted to establish an Iraqi army and police force and establish a freely elected government. In the first four years of the war, American casualities stood at more than 3,000 with more than 23,000 wounded, while Iraqi civilian casualties were estimated at more than 50,000.

No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

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