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2003 Invasion of Iraq (page3)

Battle of Najaf

Destroyed Iraqi T-72 tank on Highway 9 outside Najaf

Another fierce battle was at Najaf, where U.S. airborne and armored units with British air support fought an intense battle with Iraqi Regulars, Republican Guard units, and paramilitary forces. It started with U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships setting out on a mission to attack Republican Guard armored units; while flying low the Apaches came under heavy anti-aircraft, small arms, and RPG fire which heavily damaged many helicopters and shot one down, frustrating the attack.[143] They attacked again successfully on 26 March, this time after a pre-mission artillery barrage and with support from F/A-18 Hornet jets, with no gunships lost.[144]

The 1st Brigade Combat Team's air defense battery moved in and after heavy fighting with entrenched Iraqi Fedayeen seized a strategic bridge in Najaf, known as "Objective Jenkins". They then came under fierce counterattacks by Iraqi forces and Fedayeen, who failed to dislodge U.S. forces from their positions. After 36 hours of combat at the bridge at Najaf, the Iraqis were defeated, and the key bridge was secured, isolating Najaf from the north.[145]

The 101st Airborne Division on 29 March, supported by a battalion from the 1st Armored Division, attacked Iraqi forces in the southern part of the city, near the Imam Ali Mosque and captured Najaf's airfield.[146] Four Americans were killed by a suicide bomber. On 31 March the 101st made a reconnaissance-in-force into Najaf. On 1 April elements of the 70th Armored Regiment launched a "Thunder Run", an armored thrust through Najaf's city center, and after several days of heavy fighting and with air support were able to defeat the Iraqi forces, securing the city by 4 April.[147][147]

Basra

The Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr was the first British obstacle. A joint Polish-British-American force ran into unexpectedly stiff resistance, and it took several days to clear the Iraqi forces out. Farther north, the British 7 Armoured Brigade ("The Desert Rats"), fought their way into Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, on 6 April, coming under constant attack by regulars and Fedayeen, while 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment cleared the 'old quarter' of the city that was inaccessible to vehicles. Entering Basra was achieved after two weeks of fierce fighting, which included the biggest tank battle by British forces since World War II when the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks on 27 March.

Elements of 1 (UK) Armoured Division began to advance north towards U.S. positions around Al Amarah on 9 April. Pre-existing electrical and water shortages continued throughout the conflict and looting began as Iraqi forces collapsed. While Coalition forces began working with local Iraqi Police to enforce order, a joint team composed of Royal Engineers and the Royal Logistics Corps of the British Army rapidly set up and repaired dockyard facilities to allow humanitarian aid to begin to arrive from ships arriving in the port city of Umm Qasr.

After a rapid initial advance, the first major pause occurred near Karbala. There, U.S. Army elements met resistance from Iraqi troops defending cities and key bridges along the Euphrates River. These forces threatened to interdict supply routes as American forces moved north. Eventually, troops from the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S Army secured the cities of Najaf and Karbala to prevent any Iraqi counterattacks on the 3rd Infantry Division's lines of communication as the division pressed its advance toward Baghdad.

A total of 11 British soldiers were killed, while 395–515 Iraqi soldiers, irregulars, and Fedayeen were killed.

Battle of Karbala

The Karbala Gap was a 20-25-mile wide strip of land with the Euphrates River to the east and Lake Razazah to the west. This strip of land was recognized by Iraqi commanders as a key approach to Baghdad, and was defended by some of the best units of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The Iraqi high command had originally positioned two Republican Guard divisions blocking the Karbala Gap.[148] Here these forces suffered heavy Coalition air attacks. However, the Coalition had since the beginning of March been conducting a strategic deception operation to convince the Iraqis that the U.S. 4th Infantry Division would be mounting a major assault into northern Iraq from Turkey.[149]

This deception plan worked, and on 2 April Saddam's son Qusay Hussein declared that the American invasion from the south was a feint and ordered troops to be re-deployed from the Karbala front to the north of Baghdad. Lt. Gen. Raad al-Hamdani, who was in command of the Karbala region, protested this and argued that unless reinforcements were rushed to the Karbala gap immediately to prevent a breach, U.S. forces would reach Baghdad within 48 hours, but his suggestions fell on deaf ears. American troops rushed through the gap and reached the Euphrates River at the town of Musayib. At Musayib, U.S. troops crossed the Euphrates in boats and seized the vital al-Kaed bridge across the Euphrates after Iraqi demolitions teams had failed to destroy it in time.

The 10th Armored Brigade from the Medina Division and the 22nd Armored Brigade from the Nebuchadnezzar Division, supported by artillery, launched night attacks against the U.S. bridgehead at Musayib. The attack was repulsed using tank fire and massed artillery rockets, destroying or disabling every Iraqi tank in the assault. The next morning, Coalition aircraft and helicopters fired on the Republican Guard units, destroying many more vehicles as well as communications infrastructure. The Republican Guard units broke under the massed firepower and lost any sense of command and cohesion and the U.S. forces poured through gap on to Baghdad.

Special operations

The northern front during March and April 2003

The 2nd Battalion of the U.S. 5th Special Forces Group, United States Army Special Forces (Green Berets) conducted reconnaissance in the cities of Basra, Karbala and various other locations.

In the North, the 10th Special Forces Group (10th SFG) and CIA paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division had the mission of aiding the Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, de facto rulers of Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991, and employing them against the 13 Iraqi Divisions located near Kirkuk and Mosul. Turkey had officially prohibited any Coalition troops from using their bases or airspace, so lead elements of the 10th SFG had to make a detour infiltration; their flight was supposed to take four hours but instead took ten.

Hours after the first of such flights, Turkey did allow the use of its air space and the rest of the 10th SFG infiltrated in. The preliminary mission was to destroy the base of the Kurdish terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, believed to be linked to al-Qaeda. Concurrent and follow-on missions involved attacking and fixing Iraqi forces in the north, thus preventing their deployment to the southern front and the main effort of the invasion.

Marines from the 15th MEU during a mission in Iraq, 23 March 2003

On 26 March 2003, the 173rd Airborne Brigade augmented the invasion's northern front by parachuting into northern Iraq onto Bashur Airfield, controlled at the time by elements of 10th SFG and Kurdish peshmerga. The fall of Kirkuk on 10 April 2003 to the 10th SFG, CIA Paramilitary Teams and Kurdish peshmerga precipitated the 173rd's planned assault, preventing the unit's involvement in combat against Iraqi forces during the invasion.

The successful occupation of Kirkuk came as a result of approximately two weeks of fighting that included the Battle of the Green Line (the unofficial border of the Kurdish autonomous zone) and the subsequent Battle of Kani Domlan Ridge (the ridgeline running northwest to southeast of Kirkuk), the latter fought exclusively by 3rd Battalion, 10th SFG and Kurdish peshmerga against the Iraqi I Corps. The 173rd Brigade would eventually take responsibility for Kirkuk days later, becoming involved in the counterinsurgency fight and remain there until redeploying a year later.

Further reinforcing operations in Northern Iraq, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), serving as Landing Force Sixth Fleet, deployed in April to Erbil and subsequently Mosul via Marine KC-130 flights. The 26 MEU (SOC) maintained security of the Mosul airfield and surrounding area until relief by the 101st Airborne Division.

After Sargat was taken, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th SFG and CIA paramilitary officers along with their Kurdish allies pushed south towards Tikrit and the surrounding towns of Northern Iraq. Previously, during the Battle of the Green Line, Bravo Company, 3/10 with their Kurdish allies pushed back, destroyed, or routed the 13th Iraqi Infantry Division. The same company took Tikrit. Iraq was the largest deployment of the U.S. Special Forces since Vietnam.

Fall of Baghdad (April 2003)

A T72 Asad Babil abandoned after facing the final U.S. thrust into Baghdad
An American M1 Abrams tank destroyed in Baghdad

Three weeks into the invasion, U.S.-led Coalition forces moved into Baghdad. Units of the Iraqi Special Republican Guard led the defence of the city. The rest of the defenders were a mixture of Republican Guard units, regular army units, Fedayeen Saddam, and non-Iraqi Arab volunteers. Initial plans were for Coalition units to surround the city and gradually move in, forcing Iraqi armor and ground units to cluster into a central pocket in the city, and then attack with air and artillery forces.

This plan soon became unnecessary, as an initial engagement of armored units south of the city saw most of the Republican Guard's assets destroyed and routes in the southern outskirts of the city occupied. On 5 April, Task Force 1–64 Armor of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division executed a raid, later called the "Thunder Run", to test remaining Iraqi defenses, with 29 tanks and 14 Bradley armored fighting vehicles advancing to the Baghdad airport. They met heavy resistance, but were successful in reaching the airport. U.S. troops faced heavy fighting in the airport, and were even temporarily pushed out, but eventually secured the airport.

photograph of three Marines entering a partially destroyed stone palace with a mural of Arabic script
Marines from 1st Battalion 7th Marines enter a palace during the Battle of Baghdad

The next day, another brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division attacked into downtown Baghdad and occupied one of the palaces of Saddam Hussein in fierce fighting. U.S. Marines also faced heavy shelling from Iraqi artillery as they attempted to cross a river bridge, but the river crossing was successful. The Iraqis managed to inflict some casualties on the U.S. forces near the airport from defensive positions but suffered severe casualties from air bombardment. Within hours of the palace seizure and with television coverage of this spreading through Iraq, U.S. forces ordered Iraqi forces within Baghdad to surrender, or the city would face a full-scale assault. Iraqi government officials had either disappeared or had conceded defeat, and on 9 April 2003, Baghdad was formally occupied by Coalition forces. Much of Baghdad remained unsecured however, and fighting continued within the city and its outskirts well into the period of occupation. Saddam had vanished, and his whereabouts were unknown.

On 10 April, a rumor emerged that Saddam Hussein and his top aides were in a mosque complex in the Al Az'Amiyah District of Baghdad. Three companies of Marines were sent to capture him and came under heavy fire from rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and assault rifles. One Marine was killed and 20 were wounded, but neither Saddam or any of his top aides were found. U.S. forces supported by mortars, artillery, and aircraft continued to attack Iraqi forces still loyal to Saddam Hussein and non-Iraqi Arab volunteers. U.S. aircraft flying in support were met with Iraqi anti-aircraft fire. On 12 April, by late afternoon, all fighting had ceased. A total of 34 American soldiers and 2,320 Iraqi fighters were killed.

The April 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square in Baghdad shortly after the capture of the city

Many Iraqis celebrated the downfall of Saddam by vandalizing the many portraits and statues of him together with other pieces of his cult of personality. One widely publicized event was the dramatic toppling of a large statue of Saddam in Baghdad's Firdos Square. This attracted considerable media coverage at the time. As the British Daily Mirror reported,

"For an oppressed people this final act in the fading daylight, the wrenching down of this ghastly symbol of the regime, is their Berlin Wall moment. Big Moustache has had his day."[150]

As Staff Sergeant Brian Plesich reported in On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom,

"The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down. Since we were right there, we chimed in with some loudspeaker support to let the Iraqis know what it was we were attempting to do..." "Somehow along the way, somebody had gotten the idea to put a bunch of Iraqi kids onto the wrecker that was to pull the statue down. While the wrecker was pulling the statue down, there were Iraqi children crawling all over it. Finally they brought the statue down".[151]

The fall of Baghdad saw the outbreak of regional, sectarian violence throughout the country, as Iraqi tribes and cities began to fight each other over old grudges. The Iraqi cities of Al-Kut and Nasiriyah launched attacks on each other immediately following the fall of Baghdad to establish dominance in the new country, and the U.S.-led Coalition quickly found themselves embroiled in a potential civil war. U.S.-led Coalition forces ordered the cities to cease hostilities immediately, explaining that Baghdad would remain the capital of the new Iraqi government. Nasiriyah responded favorably and quickly backed down; however, Al-Kut placed snipers on the main roadways into town, with orders that invading forces were not to enter the city. After several minor skirmishes, the snipers were removed, but tensions and violence between regional, city, tribal, and familial groups continued.

US Marines being welcomed while entering Baghdad in April 2003

U.S. General Tommy Franks assumed control of Iraq as the supreme commander of the coalition occupation forces. Shortly after the sudden collapse of the defense of Baghdad, rumors were circulating in Iraq and elsewhere that there had been a deal struck (a "safqua") wherein the U.S.-led Coalition had bribed key members of the Iraqi military elite and/or the Ba'ath party itself to stand down. In May 2003, General Franks retired, and confirmed in an interview with Defense Week that the U.S.-led Coalition had paid Iraqi military leaders to defect. The extent of the defections and their effect on the war are unclear.

U.S.-led Coalition troops promptly began searching for the key members of Saddam Hussein's government. These individuals were identified by a variety of means, most famously through sets of most-wanted Iraqi playing cards. Later during the military occupation period after the invasion, on 22 July 2003 during a raid by the U.S. 101st Airborne Division and men from Task Force 20, Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay, and one of his grandsons were killed in a massive fire-fight. Saddam Hussein himself was captured on 13 December 2003 by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division and members of Task Force 121 during Operation Red Dawn.

Other areas

The destroyed remains of Iraqi tanks and other armored vehicles litter an Iraqi military complex west of Diwaniyah

In the north, Kurdish forces opposed to Saddam Hussein had already occupied for years an autonomous area in northern Iraq. With the assistance of U.S. Special Forces and air strikes, they were able to rout the Iraqi units near them and to occupy oil-rich Kirkuk on 10 April.

U.S. special forces had also been involved in the extreme south of Iraq, attempting to occupy key roads to Syria and airbases. In one case two armored platoons were used to convince Iraqi leadership that an entire armored battalion was entrenched in the west of Iraq.

On 15 April, U.S. forces took control of Tikrit, the last major outpost in central Iraq, with an attack led by the Marines' Task Force Tripoli. About a week later the Marines were relieved in place by the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

Bush declares "End of major combat operations" (May 2003)

The USS Abraham Lincoln returning to port carrying its Mission Accomplished banner

On 1 May 2003, Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq war. Bush's landing was criticized by opponents as an unnecessarily theatrical and expensive stunt. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating "Mission Accomplished." The banner, made by White House staff and supplied by request of the United States Navy,[152] was criticized as premature. The White House subsequently released a statement that the sign and Bush's visit referred to the initial invasion of Iraq and disputing the charge of theatrics. The speech itself noted: "We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous."[153] Post-invasion Iraq was marked by a long and violent conflict between U.S.-led forces and Iraqi insurgents.[154]

Coalition and Allied contingent involvement

Dispositions of U.S. and allied units in the different occupation zones on 30 April 2004

Members of the Coalition included Australia: 2,000 invasion, Poland: 200 invasion—2,500 peak, United Kingdom: 46,000 invasion, United States: 150,000 to 250,000 invasion. Other members of the coalition were Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Tonga, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.[155] At least 15 other countries participated covertly.[156]

Australia

Australia contributed approximately 2,000 Australian Defence Force personnel, including a special forces task group, three warships and 14 F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.[157] On 16 April 2003, Australian special operations forces captured Al Asad Airbase west of Baghdad. The base would later become the second largest Coalition facility post-invasion.

Poland

Polish GROM troops pose immediately after the port's capture during the Battle of Umm Qasr.

The Battle of Umm Qasr was the first military confrontation in the Iraq War, with its objective the capture of the port. Polish GROM troops supported the amphibious assault on Umm Qasrby with the British 3 Commando Brigade of the Royal Marines, and the US 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.[158] After the waterway was de-mined by a Detachment from HM-14 and Naval Special Clearance Team ONE of the U.S. Navy and reopened, Umm Qasr played an important role in the shipment of humanitarian supplies to Iraqi civilians.[159]

United Kingdom

British troops, in what was codenamed Operation (or Op) TELIC participated in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. The 1st Armoured Division was deployed to the Gulf and commanded British forces in the area, securing areas in southern Iraq, including the city of Basra during the invasion. A total of 46,000 troops of all the British services were committed to the operation at its start, including some 5,000 Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors and 4,000 Royal Marines, 26,000 British Army soldiers, and 8,100 Royal Air Force airmen.

Summary of the invasion

Aircraft of the USAF 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and UK and Australian counterparts stationed together at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in southwest Asia, fly over the desert on 14 April 2003. Aircraft include KC-135 Stratotanker, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-117 Nighthawk, F-16CJ Falcon, British GR-4 Tornado, and Australian F/A-18 Hornet

The U.S.-led Coalition forces toppled the government and captured the key cities of a large nation in only 21 days. The invasion did require a large army build-up like the 1991 Gulf War, but many did not see combat and many were withdrawn after the invasion ended. This proved to be short-sighted, however, due to the requirement for a much larger force to combat the irregular Iraqi forces in the aftermath of the war. General Eric Shinseki, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, recommended "several hundred thousand"[160] troops be used to maintain post-war order, but then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—and especially his deputy, civilian Paul Wolfowitz—strongly disagreed. General Abizaid later said General Shinseki had been right.[161]

The Iraqi army, armed mainly with Soviet-built equipment, was overall ill-equipped in comparison to the American and British forces. Attacks on U.S. supply routes by Fedayeen militiamen were repulsed. The Iraqis' artillery proved largely ineffective, and they were unable to mobilize their air force to attempt a defense. The Iraqi T-72 tanks, the most powerful armored vehicles in the Iraqi army, were both outdated and ill-maintained, and when they were mobilized they were rapidly destroyed, thanks in part to the Coalition air supremacy. The U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Naval Aviation, and British Royal Air Force operated with impunity throughout the country, pinpointing heavily defended resistance targets and destroying them before ground troops arrived. The main battle tanks of the U.S. and UK forces, the U.S. M1 Abrams and British Challenger 2, functioned well in the rapid advance across the country. Despite the many RPG attacks by irregular Iraqi forces, few U.S. and UK tanks were lost, and no tank crew-members were killed by hostile fire. The only tank loss sustained by the British Army was a Challenger 2 of the Queen's Royal Lancers that was hit by another Challenger 2, killing two crew members.

The Iraqi army suffered from poor morale, even amongst the elite Republican Guard. Entire units disbanded into the crowds upon the approach of invading troops, or actually sought out U.S. and UK forces to surrender to. Many Iraqi commanding officers were bribed by the CIA or coerced into surrendering. The leadership of the Iraqi army was incompetent – reports state that Qusay Hussein, charged with the defense of Baghdad, dramatically shifted the positions of the two main divisions protecting Baghdad several times in the days before the arrival of U.S. forces, and as a result the units were confused, and further demoralized when U.S. forces attacked. The invasion force did not see the entire Iraqi military thrown against it; U.S. and UK units had orders to move to and seize objective target points rather than seek to engage Iraqi units. This resulted in most regular Iraqi military units emerging from the war without having been engaged, and fully intact, especially in southern Iraq. It is assumed that most units disintegrated to return to their homes.

According to the declassified Pentagon report, "The largest contributing factor to the complete defeat of Iraq's military forces was the continued interference by Saddam." The report, designed to help U.S. officials understand in hindsight how Saddam and his military commanders prepared for and fought the invasion, paints a picture of an Iraqi government blind to the threat it faced, hampered by Saddam's inept military leadership and deceived by its own propaganda and inability to believe an invasion was imminent without further Iraqi provocation. According to the BBC, the report portrays Saddam Hussein as "chronically out of touch with reality – preoccupied with the prevention of domestic unrest and with the threat posed by Iran."[162]

Casualties

Death toll

A US Navy (USN) Hospital Corpsman and Iraqi doctor, provide medical aid to an Iraqi civilian, injured during fighting near Umm Qasr, Iraq, in March 2003

Estimates on the number of casualties during the invasion in Iraq vary widely. John Tirman, the Executive Director and a Principal Research Scientist at MIT's Center for International Studies, who has reviewed the various data and methodologies,[163][164] has estimated "the number of war-related dead to be at least 600,000 and possibly as much as one million".[165] Estimates on civilian casualties are more variable than those for military personnel. According to Iraq Body Count, a group that relies on press reports, NGO-based reports and official figures to measure civilian casualties, approximately 7,500 civilians were killed during the invasion phase, while more than 60,000 civilians have been killed as of April 2007.[166] The Lancet Survey estimated 654,965 "excess deaths" to June 2006; and the Opinion Research Business Survey estimated 1,033,000 "deaths as a result of the conflict", to April 2009. John Tirman has praised as "most accurate"[167] the review published in Conflict and Health 7 March 2008, "Iraq War mortality estimates: A systematic review".[168]

War crimes and allegations

Fedayeen Saddam militia, Republican Guard and Iraqi security forces were reported to have executed Iraqi soldiers who tried to surrender on multiple occasions, as well as threatening the families of those who refused to fight.[169][170][171] One such incident was directly observed during the Battle of Debecka Pass.[172]

Many incidents of Fedayeen fighters using human shields were reported from various towns in Iraq.[173] Iraqi Republican Guard units were also reported to be using human shields.[174] Some reports indicate that the Fedayeen used ambulances to deliver messages and transport fighters into combat. On 31 March, Fedayeen in a Red Crescent-marked ambulance attacked American soldiers outside of Nasiriyah, wounding three.[174][175] During the Battle of Basra, British forces of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) reported that on 28 March, Fedayeen forces opened fire on thousands of civilian refugees fleeing the city.[176][177]

After the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company during the Battle of Nasiriyah on 23 March, the bodies of several U.S. soldiers who had been killed in the ambush were shown on Iraqi television. Some of these soldiers had visible gunshot wounds to head, leading to speculation that they had been executed. Except for Sgt. Donald Walters, no evidence has since surfaced to support this scenario and it is generally accepted that the soldiers were killed in action. Five live prisoners of war were also interviewed on the air, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.[178][179] Sergeant Walters was initially reported to have been killed in the ambush after killing several Fedayeen before running out of ammunition. However, an eyewitness later reported that he had seen Walters being guarded by several Fedayeen in front of a building. Forensics work later found Walters' blood in front of the building and blood spatter suggesting he died from two gunshot wounds to the back at close range. This led the Army to conclude that Walters had been executed after being captured, and he was posthumously awarded the Prisoner of War Medal in 2004.[180][181] It was alleged in the authorized biography of Pfc. Jessica Lynch that she was raped by her captors after her capture, based on medical reports and the pattern of her injuries, though this is not supported by Ms Lynch.[182] Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, who later helped American forces rescue Lynch, stated that he saw an Iraqi Colonel slap Lynch while she was in her hospital bed.[183] The staff at the hospital where Lynch was held later denied both stories, saying that Lynch was well cared for.[184] While Lynch suffers from amnesia due to her injuries, Lynch herself has denied any mistreatment whilst in captivity.

Also on 23 March, a British Army engineering unit made a wrong turn near the town of Az Zubayr, which was still held by Iraqi forces. The unit was ambushed and Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth became separated from the rest. Both were captured and executed by Iraqi irregular forces. In 2006, a video of Allsopp lying on the ground surrounded by Iraqi irregular forces was discovered.[185]

During the Battle of Nasiriyah, there was an incident where Iraqi irregulars feigned surrender to approach an American Marine unit securing a bridge. After getting close to the Marines, the Iraqis suddenly opened fire, killing 10 Marines and wounding 40.[174] In response, American forces reinforced security procedures for dealing with prisoners of war.[186]

Marine Sergeant Fernando Padilla-Ramirez was reported missing from his supply unit after an ambush north of Nasiriyah on 28 March. His body was later dragged through the streets of Ash-Shatrah and hung in the town square, and later taken down and buried by sympathetic locals. The corpse was discovered by U.S. forces on 10 April.[187][188][189]

Security, looting and war damage

Massive looting took place in the days following the 2003 invasion.[190] According to U.S. officials, the "reality of the situation on the ground" was that hospitals, water plants, and ministries with vital intelligence needed security more than other sites. There were only enough U.S. troops on the ground to guard a certain number of the many sites that ideally needed protection, and so, apparently, some "hard choices" were made.

A M109 howitzer guarding the National Museum of Iraq following the 2003 invasion of Iraq

It was reported that the National Museum of Iraq was among the looted sites. The FBI was soon called into Iraq to track down the stolen items. It was found that the initial allegations of looting of substantial portions of the collection were heavily exaggerated. Initial reports asserted a near-total looting of the museum, estimated at upwards of 170,000 inventory lots, or about 501,000 pieces. The more recent estimate places the number of stolen pieces at around 15,000, and about 10,000 of them probably were taken in an "inside job" before U.S. troops arrived, according to Bogdanos. Over 5,000 looted items have since been recovered.[191] An assertion that U.S. forces did not guard the museum because they were guarding the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Interior is disputed by investigator Colonel Matthew Bogdanos in his 2005 book Thieves of Baghdad. Bogdanos notes that the Ministry of Oil building was bombed, but the museum complex, which took some fire, was not bombed. He also writes that Saddam Hussein's troops set up sniper's nests inside and on top of the museum, and nevertheless U.S. Marines and soldiers stayed close enough to prevent wholesale looting.

More serious for the post-war state of Iraq was the looting of cached weaponry and ordnance which fueled the subsequent insurgency. As many as 250,000 tons of explosives were unaccounted for by October 2004.[192] Disputes within the US Defense Department led to delays in the post-invasion assessment and protection of Iraqi nuclear facilities. Tuwaitha, the Iraqi site most scrutinized by UN inspectors since 1991, was left unguarded and was looted.[193][194]

Zainab Bahrani, professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, reported that a helicopter landing pad was constructed in the heart of the ancient city of Babylon, and "removed layers of archeological earth from the site. The daily flights of the helicopters rattle the ancient walls and the winds created by their rotors blast sand against the fragile bricks. When my colleague at the site, Maryam Moussa, and I asked military personnel in charge that the helipad be shut down, the response was that it had to remain open for security reasons, for the safety of the troops."[195] Bahrani also reported that in the summer of 2004, "the wall of the Temple of Nabu and the roof of the Temple of Ninmah, both sixth century BC, collapsed as a result of the movement of helicopters."[195] Electrical power is scarce in post-war Iraq, Bahrani reported, and some fragile artifacts, including the Ottoman Archive, would not survive the loss of refrigeration.[195]

Media coverage

U.S. media coverage

A study found that in the lead up to the Iraq War, most U.S. sources were overwhelmingly in favor of the invasion.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq was the most widely and closely reported war in military history.[196] Television network coverage was largely pro-war and viewers were six times more likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war.[197] The New York Times ran a number of articles describing Saddam Hussein's attempts to build weapons of mass destruction. The 8 September 2002 article titled "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts" would be discredited, leading The New York Times to issue a public statement admitting it was not as rigorous as it should have been.[198]

At the start of the war in March 2003, as many as 775 reporters and photographers were traveling as embedded journalists.[199] These reporters signed contracts with the military that limited what they were allowed to report on.[200] When asked why the military decided to embed journalists with the troops, Lt. Col. Rick Long of the U.S. Marine Corps replied, "Frankly, our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment."[201]

In 2003, a study released by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting stated the network news disproportionately focused on pro-war sources and left out many anti-war sources. According to the study, 64% of total sources were in favor of the Iraq War while total anti-war sources made up 10% of the media (only 3% of US sources were anti-war). The study stated that "viewers were more than six times as likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war; with U.S. guests alone, the ratio increases to 25 to 1."[202]

A September 2003 poll revealed that seventy percent of Americans believed there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9/11.[203] 80% of Fox News viewers were found to hold at least one such belief about the invasion, compared to 23% of PBS viewers.[204] Ted Turner, founder of CNN, charged that Rupert Murdoch was using Fox News to advocate an invasion.[205] Critics have argued that this statistic is indicative of misleading coverage by the U.S. media since viewers in other countries were less likely to have these beliefs.[206] A post-2008 election poll by FactCheck.org found that 48% of Americans believe Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks, the group concluded that "voters, once deceived, tend to stay that way despite all evidence."[207]

Independent media coverage

Independent media also played a prominent role in covering the invasion. The Indymedia network, among many other independent networks including many journalists from the invading countries, provided reports in a way difficult to control by any government, corporation or political party. In the United States Democracy Now, hosted by Amy Goodman has been critical of the reasons for the 2003 invasion and the alleged crimes committed by the U.S. authorities in Iraq.

On the other side, among media not opposing to the invasion, The Economist stated in an article on the matter that "the normal diplomatic tools—sanctions, persuasion, pressure, UN resolutions—have all been tried, during 12 deadly but failed years" then giving a mild conditional support to the war stating that "if Mr Hussein refuses to disarm, it would be right to go to war".[208]

Australian war artist George Gittoes collected independent interviews with soldiers while producing his documentary Soundtrack To War. The war in Iraq provided the first time in history that military on the front lines were able to provide direct, uncensored reportage themselves, thanks to blogging software and the reach of the internet. Dozens of such reporting sites, known as soldier blogs or milblogs, were started during the war. These blogs were more often than not largely pro-war and stated various reasons why the soldiers and Marines felt they were doing the right thing.[209]

International media coverage

International coverage of the war differed from coverage in the U.S. in a number of ways. The Arab-language news channel Al Jazeera and the German satellite channel Deutsche Welle featured almost twice as much information on the political background of the war.[210] Al Jazeera also showed scenes of civilian casualties which were rarely seen in the U.S. media.

Criticism

Opponents of military intervention in Iraq have attacked the decision to invade Iraq along a number of lines, including calling into question the evidence used to justify the war, arguing for continued diplomacy, challenging the war’s legality, suggesting that the U.S. had other more pressing security priorities, (i.e. Afghanistan and North Korea) and predicting that the war would destabilize the Middle East region. The breadth and depth of the criticism was particularly notable in comparison with the first Gulf War, which met with considerably less domestic and international opposition, although the geopolitical situation had evolved since the last decade.

Rationale based on faulty evidence

The central U.S. justification for launching the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein's alleged development of nuclear and biological weapons and purported ties to al-Qaeda made his regime a "grave and growing"[211] threat to the United States and the world community.[212] During the lead-up to the war and the aftermath of the invasion, critics cast doubt on the evidence supporting this rationale. Concerning Iraq’s weapons programs, prominent critics included Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector who argued in 2002 that inspections had eliminated the nuclear and chemical weapons programs, and that evidence of their reconstitution would "have been eminently detectable by intelligence services ...." Although it is popularly believed that Saddam Hussein had forced the IAEA weapons inspectors to leave Iraq, they were in fact withdrawn at the request of US Ambassador Peter Burleigh in advance of Operation Desert Fox, the 1998 American bombing campaign. After the build-up of U.S. troops in neighboring states, Hussein welcomed them back and promised complete cooperation with their demands. Experienced IAEA inspection teams were already back in Iraq and had made some interim reports on its search for various forms of WMD.[213][214][215][216][217] Joseph C. Wilson, an American diplomat investigated the contention that Iraq had sought uranium for nuclear weapons in Niger and reported that the contention had no substance.[218][219]

Similarly, alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda were called into question during the lead up to the war, and were discredited by an 21 October 2004 report from U.S. Senator Carl Levin, which was later corroborated by an April 2006 report from the Defense Department’s inspector general.[220] These reports further alleged that Bush Administration officials, particularly former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith, manipulated evidence to support links between al-Qaeda and Iraq.[221]

Lack of a U.N. mandate

One of the main questions in the lead-up to the war was whether the United Nations Security Council would authorize military intervention in Iraq. It became increasingly clear that U.N. authorization would require significant further weapons inspections. Many criticized their effort as unwise, immoral, and illegal. Robin Cook, then the leader of the United Kingdom House of Commons and a former foreign secretary, resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet in protest over the UK’s decision to invade without the authorization of a U.N. resolution. Cook said at the time that: "In principle I believe it is wrong to embark on military action without broad international support. In practice I believe it is against Britain's interests to create a precedent for unilateral military action."[222] In addition, senior government legal advisor Elizabeth Wilmshurst resigned, stating her legal opinion that an invasion would be illegal.[citation needed]

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an interview with the BBC in September 2004, "[F]rom our point of view and from the Charter point of view [the war] was illegal."[223] This drew immediate criticism from the United States and was immediately played down.[224] His annual report to the General Assembly for 2003 included no more than the statement: "Following the end of major hostilities which resulted in the occupation of Iraq..."[225] A similar report from the Security Council was similarly terse in its reference to the event: "Following the cessation of hostilities in Iraq in April 2003..."[226] The United Nations Security Council has passed nearly 60 resolutions on Iraq and Kuwait since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The most relevant to this issue is Resolution 678, passed on 29 November 1990. It authorizes "member states co-operating with the Government of Kuwait... to use all necessary means" to (1) implement Security Council Resolution 660 and other resolutions calling for the end of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwaiti territory and (2) "restore international peace and security in the area."

Military intervention vs diplomatic solution

Criticisms about the evidence used to justify the war notwithstanding, many opponents of military intervention objected, saying that a diplomatic solution would be preferable, and that war should be reserved as a truly last resort. This position was exemplified by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who responded to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's 5 February 2003 presentation to the U.N Security Council by saying that: "Given the choice between military intervention and an inspections regime that is inadequate because of a failure to cooperate on Iraq's part, we must choose the decisive reinforcement of the means of inspections."[227]

The direct opposition between diplomatic solution and military intervention involving France and the United States which was personified by Chirac versus Bush and later Powell versus de Villepin, became a milestone in the Franco-American relations. Anti-French propangada exploiting the classic Francophobic clichés immediately ensued in the United States and the United Kingdom. A call for a boycott on French wine was launched in the United States and the New York Post covered on the 1944 "Sacrifice" of the GIs France would had forgotten. It was followed a week later, on 20 February, by the British newspaper The Sun publishing a special issue entitled "Chirac is a worm" and including ad hominem attacks such as "Jacques Chirac has become the shame of Europe".[228] Actually both newspapers expressed the opinion of their owner, U.S. billionaire Rupert Murdoch, a military intervention supporter and a George W. Bush partisan as argued by Roy Greenslade in The Guardian published on 17 February.[228][229]

Distraction from the war on terrorism and other priorities

Both supporters and opponents of the Iraq War widely viewed it within the context of a post–11 September world, where the U.S. has sought to make terrorism the defining international security paradigm. Bush often described the Iraq War as a "central front in the war on terror".[230] Some critics of the war, particularly within the U.S. military community, argued pointedly against the conflation of Iraq and the war on terror, and criticized Bush for losing focus on the more important objective of fighting al-Qaeda. As Marine Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, the Pentagon's former top operations officer, wrote in a 2006 TIME article, "I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat—al-Qaeda."[231]

Critics within this vein have further argued that containment would have been an effective strategy for the Hussein government, and that the top U.S. priorities in the Middle East should be encouraging a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, working for the moderation of Iran, and solidifying gains made in Afghanistan and Central Asia. In an October 2002 speech, Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Central Command for U.S. forces in the Middle East and State Department's envoy to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, called Iraq "maybe six or seven," in terms of U.S. Middle East priorities, adding that "the affordability line may be drawn around five."[232] However, while commander of CENTCOM, Zinni held a very different opinion concerning the threat posed by Iraq. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2000, Zinni said: "Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf region. This is primarily due to its large conventional military force, pursuit of WMD, oppressive treatment of Iraqi citizens, refusal to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR), persistent threats to enforcement of the No Fly Zones (NFZ), and continued efforts to violate UN Security Council sanctions through oil smuggling."[233] However, it is important to note that Zinni specifically referred to "the Persian Gulf region" in his Senate testimony, which is a significantly smaller region of the world than the "Middle East", which he referred to in 2007.

Potential to destabilize the region

Besides arguing that Iraq was not the top strategic priority in the war on terrorism or in the Middle East, critics of the war also suggested that it could potentially destabilize the surrounding region. Prominent among such critics was Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Advisor to George H. W. Bush. In an 15 August 2002 Wall Street Journal editorial entitled "Don't attack Saddam," Scowcroft wrote that, "Possibly the most dire consequences would be the effect in the region... there would be an explosion of outrage against us... the results could well destabilize Arab regimes", and, "could even swell the ranks of the terrorists."[234]

Related phrases

This campaign featured a variety of new terminology, much of it initially coined by the U.S. government or military. The military official name for the invasion was Operation Iraqi Liberation (White House Press Release). However this was quickly changed to "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Also notable was the usage "death squads" to refer to Fedayeen paramilitary forces. Members of the Saddam Hussein government were called by disparaging nicknames – e.g., "Chemical Ali" (Ali Hassan al-Majid), "Baghdad Bob" or "Comical Ali" (Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf), and "Mrs. Anthrax" or "Chemical Sally" (Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash).

Terminology introduced or popularized during the war include:

  • "Axis of evil", originally used by Bush during a State of the Union address on 29 January 2002 to refer to the countries of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.[235]
  • "Coalition of the willing", a term that originated in the Clinton era (e.g., interview, Clinton, ABC, 8 June 1994), and used by the Bush Administration for the countries contributing troops in the invasion, of which the U.S. and UK were the primary members.
  • "Decapitating the regime", a euphemism for killing Saddam Hussein.
  • "Embedding", United States practice of assigning civilian journalists to U.S. military units.
  • "Mother of all bombs", a bomb developed and produced to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Its name echoes Saddam's phrase "Mother of all battles" to describe the first Gulf War.[236]
  • "Old Europe", Rumsfeld's term for European governments not supporting the war: "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe."
  • "Regime change", a euphemism for overthrowing a government.
  • "Shock and Awe", the strategy of reducing an enemy's will to fight through displays of overwhelming force.

Many slogans and terms coined came to be used by Bush's political opponents, or those opposed to the war. For example, in April 2003 John Kerry, the Democratic candidate in the presidential election, said at a campaign rally: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States."[237] Other war critics use the name "Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)" to subtly point out their opinion as to the cause of the war, such as the song "Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)" by David Rovics, a popular folk protest singer.

Author:Bling King
Published:Mar 24th 2013
Modified:Mar 24th 2013
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