Shelby: Today is an important day in recent American history. Exactly ten years ago, U.S.-led forces were launching a war on the country of Iraq.
So, here is a pop quiz question for you.
Who was the president of Iraq at the start of the Iraq War? Was it:
A. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
B. Saddam Hussein
C. Hamid Karzai
D. Hosni Mubarak
You have got ten seconds!
Time is up! The right answer is “B,” Saddam Hussein.
Saddam Hussein served as president of Iraq from 1979 until 2003.
During that time, he modernized the country’s roads, schools and health care systems, but many considered him a dictator. He was protected by the often violent Republican Guard which was known for torturing, and even killing, people who spoke against Saddam.
On March 19th, 2003, under President George W. Bush, U.S. forces began their air assault attack on Iraq called shock and awe.
President George Bush: On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war.
Shelby: In a radio address days later, President George W. Bush said the U.S. was invading the country…
President Bush: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism and to free the Iraqi people.
Shelby: The Bush administration insisted Saddam was working with al-Qaeda, the extremist terrorist group behind the 9/11 attacks in 2001. And the White House said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, WMDs, that could kills thousands, even millions, of people.
But invading Iraq was a controversial decision that put the U.S. at odds with some of its international allies.
It was also supposed to be an easy win and, at first, that seemed the case. The air assault on Baghdad was followed by the ground invasion carried out by a coalition of forces from the U.S., Britain, Australia and Poland. By April 9th, 2003, most of the Iraqi military was defeated. A U.S. Marine vehicle helped men pull down a huge statue of Saddam Hussein while the people celebrated. And in December of 2003, the U.S. caught Saddam cowering in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit. He was later found guilty of crimes against humanity and executed by the Iraqi people.
But the war was far from over. Feuds that had been brewing for centuries erupted between different groups – the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds. Rebel groups began attacking U.S. forces and what little security they had crumbled. And because of the heavy bombing from the U.S., the country was left in shambles. Buildings were totaled and many Iraqis had no water or electricity.
Both here in the U.S. and abroad, the war became very unpopular very quickly, especially when the U.S. was not able to find any WMDs to prove the reason for the invasion.
By 2007, almost four years after the start of the war, things looked bleak. So the Bush administration made a controversial decision to send in more troops, a surge of 30,000, to stop the violence and secure the country. And it seemed to work; attacks against U.S. troops dropped. By December 2011, under President Obama, the last of the U.S. troops left Iraq.
It is hard to tell if we won the war or not. Some argue it was important to take Saddam out of power, but the cost of the Iraq war has been high. The defense department says more than 4,400 American soldiers died. Another 32,000 were wounded. And according to a Brown University report released last week, the Iraq War also killed 134,000 Iraqi civilians. As far as money goes, $800 billion were spent on the military effort. Another 60 billion spent on rebuilding.
More than a year since the U.S. left Iraq, there are continuing reports of suicide bombings and violence. And the country is still struggling to define its future.
- What kind of leader was Iraq’s former president, Saddam Hussein?
- What are the most important lessons the U.S. has learned since invading Iraq in 2003?