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May 2003 in Iraq - History

May 2003 in Iraq - History


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May 2003 in Iraq
US Casualties

May 1- President Bush announces end of Major Combat operations. Bush Speech

May 4-6th Five seperate shooting incidents took place in which American troops were the targets. One American was wounded but the ishootings did not bode will for the future.

May 8th- An American soldier part of the V corps was killed when a gunment came up to him as he directed traffic.

May 12 Paul Bremer arrives in Iraq to replace General Jay Garner as the head of the newly formed Coalition Provisional ÊAuthority Bremer Statement

May 27 A number of coalition forces were killed in different parts of Iraq - indicating continued opposition to US forcees. Article on violence

May 2003 in Iraq - History


For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 1, 2003

President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended
Remarks by the President from the USS Abraham Lincoln
At Sea Off the Coast of San Diego, California

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment -- yet, it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other, made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free. (Applause.)

Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before. From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division, or strike a single bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground, in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history. You have shown the world the skill and the might of the American Armed Forces.

This nation thanks all the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. We thank the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, who shared in the hardships of war. We thank all the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country. And tonight, I have a special word for Secretary Rumsfeld, for General Franks, and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States: America is grateful for a job well done. (Applause.)

The character of our military through history -- the daring of Normandy, the fierce courage of Iwo Jima, the decency and idealism that turned enemies into allies -- is fully present in this generation. When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our servicemen and women, they saw strength and kindness and goodwill. When I look at the members of the United States military, I see the best of our country, and I'm honored to be your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)

In the images of falling statues, we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred of years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale. In defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Allied forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation.

Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent. (Applause.)

In the images of celebrating Iraqis, we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies and intimidation could not make the Iraqi people love their oppressors or desire their own enslavement. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear. (Applause.)

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq. (Applause.)

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the "beginning of the end of America." By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed. (Applause.)

In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists, and the camps where they trained. We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals, and educate all of their children. Yet we also have dangerous work to complete. As I speak, a Special Operations task force, led by the 82nd Airborne, is on the trail of the terrorists and those who seek to undermine the free government of Afghanistan. America and our coalition will finish what we have begun. (Applause.)

From Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al Qaeda killers. Nineteen months ago, I pledged that the terrorists would not escape the patient justice of the United States. And as of tonight, nearly one-half of al Qaeda's senior operatives have been captured or killed. (Applause.)

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more. (Applause.)

In these 19 months that changed the world, our actions have been focused and deliberate and proportionate to the offense. We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th -- the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got. (Applause.)

Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. (Applause.)

Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes.

Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world -- and will be confronted. (Applause.)

And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Click here for a USS Abraham Lincoln photo essay.

Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition -- declared at our founding affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms asserted in the Truman Doctrine and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire. We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope. When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life. American values and American interests lead in the same direction: We stand for human liberty. (Applause.)

The United States upholds these principles of security and freedom in many ways -- with all the tools of diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence, and finance. We're working with a broad coalition of nations that understand the threat and our shared responsibility to meet it. The use of force has been -- and remains -- our last resort. Yet all can know, friend and foe alike, that our nation has a mission: We will answer threats to our security, and we will defend the peace. (Applause.)

Our mission continues. Al Qaeda is wounded, not destroyed. The scattered cells of the terrorist network still operate in many nations, and we know from daily intelligence that they continue to plot against free people. The proliferation of deadly weapons remains a serious danger. The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. Our government has taken unprecedented measures to defend the homeland. And we will continue to hunt down the enemy before he can strike. (Applause.)

The war on terror is not over yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide. No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, or alter their fate. Their cause is lost. Free nations will press on to victory. (Applause.)

Other nations in history have fought in foreign lands and remained to occupy and exploit. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home. And that is your direction tonight. (Applause.) After service in the Afghan -- and Iraqi theaters of war -- after 100,000 miles, on the longest carrier deployment in recent history, you are homeward bound. (Applause.) Some of you will see new family members for the first time -- 150 babies were born while their fathers were on the Lincoln. Your families are proud of you, and your nation will welcome you. (Applause.)

We are mindful, as well, that some good men and women are not making the journey home. One of those who fell, Corporal Jason Mileo, spoke to his parents five days before his death. Jason's father said, "He called us from the center of Baghdad, not to brag, but to tell us he loved us. Our son was a soldier."

Every name, every life is a loss to our military, to our nation, and to the loved ones who grieve. There's no homecoming for these families. Yet we pray, in God's time, their reunion will come.

Those we lost were last seen on duty. Their final act on this Earth was to fight a great evil and bring liberty to others. All of you -- all in this generation of our military -- have taken up the highest calling of history. You're defending your country, and protecting the innocent from harm. And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope -- a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out,' -- and to those in darkness, 'be free.'"

Thank you for serving our country and our cause. May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless America. (Applause.)


December 2003 and After: CPA Head Refuses Oversight, Operates on Own Initiative

Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer (see May 1, 2003) asserts his independence from US government oversight, a stance assisted by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Bremer is formally slated to report to Rumsfeld, but says Rumsfeld has no direct authority over him. Instead, Bremer insists, he reports directly to the White House. Rumsfeld, usually jealously protective of his bureaucratic prerogatives, tells National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: “He doesn’t work for me. He works for you” (see Late September, 2003). But Bremer is not willing to report to either Rice or the National Security Council (NSC) either. The White House had already announced that it had no intention of playing a large role in guiding the reconstruction of Iraq, and the NSC’s Executive Steering Group, set up in 2002 to coordinate war efforts, has been dissolved. Finally, Bremer flatly refuses to submit to Rice’s oversight. As a result, Bremer has already made fundamental policy shifts on his own authority that are at odds with what Pentagon planners had intended (see May 16, 2003 and May 23, 2003), with what many feel will be—or already have caused—disastrous consequences. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 128-129]


May 2003 in Iraq - History

By MARK OLIVA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 27, 2003

It’s unnerving, realizing the staccato machine-gun fire across the street no longer startles you.

I looked up from my perch in the shade at a military hospital next to the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and saw that none of the Marines around me were too concerned, either.

After a while, you just learn to tell whether rounds are coming in, going out, or are far enough away that there’s no need to worry. That’s what war does to a man. It sharpens the senses and dulls the nerves at the same time.

It wasn’t always this way. Three weeks before, I hunkered behind Humvees in the Kuwaiti desert, sweat pouring down my face as I breathed through the filter of my gas mask. Iraqi forces were launching Scuds, and each time one went up, we went to the ground.

I first met the Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines at Camp Coyote, Kuwait. They were Spartans living in Spartan conditions. Looking back though, it seemed like the lap of luxury. Large tan tents, electricity, two meals a day and water-bottle showers at the camp became sweet memories after we crossed the border into Iraq.

That was March 20, the day the battalion drove through the “breach” and into history. We packed like sardines into the back of 7-ton trucks, sweltered in the desert heat and choked on the dust kicked up by never-ending convoys. This was the last time I actually knew what the date was until we arrived in Baghdad. Keeping track of actual dates became futile, if not impossible.

Instead, things revolved around events. Like the day the company drove through Nasiriyah, the same town where Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch and five other soldiers were captured and Marines were slugging it out with Fedayeen Saddam forces. Nervous fingers on rifle triggers replaced the boredom of bouncing in truck beds.

There was reason to be scared. The city looked like a picture straight out of Hue City, Vietnam, scene of the infamous street battle more than 30 years ago. It wasn’t until the convoy was well on the other side of the city that the Marines realized most of the gunfire was outgoing. And it wasn’t until then I realized I had never put down the borrowed M-16 to pick up my camera.

The road north was a constant run-and-gun. Mortar fire seemed nonstop. The Marines lived in their chemical suits. Feet rotted because no one dared to sleep without rubber overboots. Gas warnings came at all hours, night and day, and everyone learned to live in the shadow of death.

There are sights, sounds and smells that never disappear after combat. Bodies of dead Iraqis, twisted, torn in half and mangled, littered the roads. The sickening, sweet smell of burned flesh lingers in the nostrils for days. Hands crack and bleed because they’re so dry. Skin peels off in thick layers and hair is thick with grit and oil.

T-shirts and underwear are worn for days, long enough that Marines joked they were carrying their own biohazard weapons in the seat of their pants. There are no inhibitions on the battlefield. You take a buddy when you relieve yourself because the last place you want to get shot is in the backside while you squat over a hole in the ground.

But these are the times that make Marines. They learn about each other’s dreams, each other’s families. Cpl. Van Bayless left behind a wife who is carrying his first child. Capt. Paul Wendler has seen only an e-mail photo of his newborn son, Paul Wendler IV. Letters received before the war are dog-eared and tattered. Mail hasn’t come. Even chows are cut to one a day for a while and water is as precious as bullets.

Wedding rings get strapped to watchbands because they no longer stay on the fingers. They’ve lost too much weight.

They’d kill for a cold beer, and just once they’d love to get their hands on the hamburger Meal Ready to Eat.

Just one more day

Expectations dwindle. They just want to wake up in the morning. They just want to make it until the end of the day.

And there are heartbreaking scenes. Civilians killed. News of Marines killed from neighboring units filtered in. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Tom Wiegmann, a corpsman in the company, knelt on the side of a road to treat an Iraqi baby suffering from respiratory arrest.

There was nothing he could do but wrap the child in damp cloth and send its mother off to the local hospital where he knew there would be no pediatric antibiotics.

“The baby will be dead by the morning,” he said with a heavy sigh. Even more heartbreaking for Wiegmann. He and his wife have tried for years to have a child of their own.

But this is combat. This is war. Car horns send terror through the rib cage. It might be a passing Iraqi, but it’s also the sound that warns of gas. No one says the “G” word. That sends everyone scrambling for gas masks.

What little Marines do say to each other is a language so peppered with expletives, mothers would cry if they knew. They live in holes scraped out of the parched ground. They can’t stand the thought of another day in back of the truck, but would do anything to get out of the scorching sun. Their skin is the shade of a coconut, partly because of the sun, but mostly from dirt. And that’s OK, because at least it isn’t raining.

Every day is a conflict of morals. The dawn brings another day the Marines might have to kill someone. Or they might be killed themselves. And they’re ready for that. They pray for their safety, but beg to get into a fight.

Each Marine carries enough firepower to decimate a small village. They want to get into the mix. They want the enemy to stand and fight. Not shoot and run. Or hide behind children. They’re trained to kill, but civilian deaths make them wince.

Mostly, they just want to get it over with. They want to go home, but home is on the other side of Baghdad, so when the convoy creeps to the city limits, there’s renewed vigor.

This is combat

But this is combat. The night before entering the city, a neighboring company takes heavy fire, and it’s up to the Marines of Golf Company to hit the headquarters of the Special Republican Guard in Baghdad the following morning.

Baghdad. Significant enough for me to dig out a calendar and figure it out. It’s April 9.

A promise of 15 minutes of artillery fire falls through. Only seven rounds land before tanks start blasting holes in the wall and Marines fire rockets into guard towers. By now, the thunder of gunfire no longer stops Marines in their tracks.

They press on, kicking open doors. Beyond the headquarters is the U.N. compound, and Iraqis are looting everything that isn’t bolted down. People who can’t afford shoes are carrying out flat-screen computer monitors by the armload until Marines flush them out. And do it again at the hospital next door.

One Marine left a note on a desk in the U.N. compound.

“Sorry your offices were trashed,” it read. “We did what we could.”

This is as far north as I go.

I leave the Marines after gathering up a couple dozen e-mail messages I promise to send out. The staccato machine guns sound, but no one is rattled. I hug the Marines I call brothers before I go. We take a few pictures and within a couple days I’m back with my family.

And that’s heartbreaking, too. At the airport, my 3-year-old son, not old enough to understand war, tells me, “I lost you, Daddy.”

“But you found me,” I tell him. My 10-year-old daughter says nothing. Her tears say it all.

Leaving them behind

I’m happy to be home, but feel guilty. Guilty that my wife kept the house spotless in case someone came knocking on the door to tell her something went wrong. Guilty for not being able to tell her not to worry. Guilty that I could finally take a shower. Guilty that I no longer have to sleep with a gas mask next to my head and guilty that the Marines I called brothers haven’t yet had their own welcome home.

I am a Marine. A gunnery sergeant to be exact, and Marines don’t leave Marines behind. I miss the sound of the Marines calling me “Gunny.” The men with whom I shared the war are my brothers, not because we wear the same uniform, but because I trusted them with my life, and they trusted me with theirs.

They trusted me to tell their story. I ate with them and slept beside them. I hunkered behind trucks in a gas mask praying Scuds wouldn’t land on us next and hugged them when I left while machine-gun fire rattled away in the distance.

I noticed, only then, how unnerving it was that gunfire no longer startled me.

Marines stand guard over wounded enemy prisoners during the whipping winds of a sandstorm north of Nasiriyah, Iraq.
MARK OLIVA / S&S


History Bytez

The 2003 invasion of Iraq lasted from 20 March to 1 May 2003 and signalled the start of the Iraq War, which was dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the United States (prior to 19 March, the mission in Iraq was called Operation Enduring Freedom, a carry over from the War in Afghanistan). The invasion consisted of 21 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and deposed the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. The invasion phase consisted primarily of a conventionally fought war which concluded with the capture of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad by American forces.

160,000 troops were sent by the Coalition into Iraq, during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 9 April 2003. About 130,000 were sent from the USA alone, with about 28,000 British Soldiers, Australia (2,000), and Poland (194). 36 other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops were assembled in Kuwait by 18 February. The coalition forces also received support from Kurdish irregulars in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme NATO Allied Commander and Joint Chiefs of Staff Director of Strategy and Policy, describes in his 2003 book, Winning Modern Wars, his conversation with a military officer in the Pentagon shortly after the 11 September attacks regarding a plan to attack seven Middle Eastern countries in five years:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”

Others place a much greater emphasis on the impact of the 11 September 2001 attacks, and the role this played in changing U.S. strategic calculations, and the rise of the freedom agenda. According to Blair, the trigger was Iraq’s failure to take a “final opportunity” to disarm itself of alleged nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that U.S. and British officials called an immediate and intolerable threat to world peace.

In a January 2003 CBS poll, 64% of Americans had approved of military action against Iraq however, 63% wanted Bush to find a diplomatic solution rather than go to war, and 62% believed the threat of terrorism directed against the U.S. would increase due to war. The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Germany, and New Zealand. Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading the country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC’s 12 February 2003 report. On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally. According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.

Ed.

There were no WMD’s. I would argue that (in the future, if not now) the actions of the US and its allies will be seen as one of the great foreign policy disasters of the 21st Century. The world is arguably a much more dangerous and unstable place than it was before the US reacted to the 11 September 2001 attacks.


Iraq Timeline: 2002?2003

By Borgna Brunner

In President George W. Bush's state of the union speech, he identifies Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, as an "axis of evil." He vows that the U.S. "will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

The UN Security Council revamps the sanctions against Iraq, now eleven years old, replacing them with "smart sanctions" meant to allow more civilian goods to enter the country while at the same time more effectively restricting military and dual-use equipment (military and civilian).

President Bush publicly introduces the new defense doctrine of preemption in a speech at West Point. In some instances, the president asserts, the U.S. must strike first against another state to prevent a potential threat from growing into an actual one: "Our security will require all Americans?[to] be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.

President Bush addresses the UN, challenging the organization to swiftly enforce its own resolutions against Iraq. If not, Bush contends, the U.S. will have no choice but to act on its own against Iraq.

Congress authorizes an attack on Iraq.

The UN Security Council unanimously approves resolution 1441 imposing tough new arms inspections on Iraq and precise, unambiguous definitions of what constitutes a "material breach" of the resolution. Should Iraq violate the resolution, it faces "serious consequences," which the Security Council would then determine.

UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq, for the first time in almost four years.

Iraq submits a 12,000-page declaration on its chemical, biological and nuclear activities, claiming it has no banned weapons.

President Bush approves the deployment of U.S. troops to the Gulf region. By March an estimated 200,000 troops will be stationed there. British and Australian troops will join them over the coming months.

UN inspectors discover 11 undeclared empty chemical warheads in Iraq.

The UN's formal report on Iraqi inspections is highly critical, though not damning, with chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix stating that "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it."

In his state of the union address, President Bush announces that he is ready to attack Iraq even without a UN mandate.

In a February UN report, chief UN inspector Hans Blix indicated that slight progress had been made in Iraq's cooperation. Both pro- and anti-war nations felt the report supported their point of view.

Massive peace demonstrations take place around the world.

Hans Blix orders Iraq to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles by March 1. The UN inspectors have determined that the missiles have an illegal range limit. Iraq can have missiles that reach neighboring countries, but not ones capable of reaching Israel.

The U.S., Britain, and Spain submit a proposed resolution to the UN Security Council that states that "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441," and that it is now time to authorize use of military force against the country.

France, Germany, and Russia submit an informal counter-resolution to the UN Security Council that states that inspections should be intensified and extended to ensure that there is "a real chance to the peaceful settlement of this crisis," and that "the military option should only be a last resort."

Iraq begins to destroy its Al Samoud missiles.

The U.S. and Britain's intense lobbying efforts among the other UN Security Council members yield only four supporters (in addition to the U.S. and Britain, Spain and Bulgaria) nine votes (and no vetoes from the five permanent members) out of fifteen are required for the resolution's passage. The U.S. decides not to call for a vote on the resolution.

All diplomatic efforts cease when President Bush delivers an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave the country within 48 hours or else face an attack.

President Bush declares war on Iraq.

The war against Iraq begins 5:30 AM Baghdad time (9:30 PM EST, March 19), when the U.S. launches Operation Iraqi Freedom. Called a "decapitation attack," the initial air strike of the war attempted to target Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders in Baghdad.

The U.S. launches a second round of air strikes against Baghdad, and ground troops enter the country for the first time, crossing into southern Iraq from Kuwait. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claims that the initial phase of the war is mild compared to what it to come: "What will follow will not be a repeat of any other conflict. It will be of a force and a scope and a scale that has been beyond what we have seen before."

The major phase of the war begins with heavy aerial attacks on Baghdad and other cities. The campaign, publicized in advance by the Pentagon as an overwhelming barrage meant to instill "shock and awe," is in actuality more restrained.

Troops march within 60 miles of Baghdad. They encounter much stronger resistance from Iraqi soldiers and paramilitary fighters along the way, particularly in towns such as Nassiriya and Basra.

About 1,000 paratroopers land in Kurdish-controlled Iraq to open a northern front.

U.S. Marines and Army troops launch first attack on Iraq's Republican Guard, about 65 miles outside Baghdad. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld deflects criticism that the U.S. has not deployed enough Army ground troops in Iraq.

Special operations forces rescue Pfc. Jessica Lynch from a hospital in Nasiriya. She was one of 12 members of the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company captured by Iraqi troops on March 23.

U.S. tanks roll into the Iraqi capital and engage in firefights with Iraqi troops. Resistance weaker than anticipated. Heavy Iraqi casualties.

British forces take control of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

The fall of Baghdad: U.S. forces take control the city, but sporadic fighting continues throughout the capital.

Kirkuk falls to Kurdish fighters.

Marines rescue five U.S. soldiers captured by Iraqi troops on March 23 in Nasiriya, and two pilots who had been shot down on March 24 near Karbala.

Major fighting in Iraq is declared over by the Pentagon, after U.S. forces take control of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's birthplace and the last city to exhibit strong Iraqi resistance. Saddam Hussein's whereabouts remain unknown.

Gen. Jay Garner, appointed by the United States to run post-war Iraq until a new government is put in place, met with various Iraqi leaders to begin planning the new Iraqi federal government.

The U.S. declares an end to major combat operations.

A new civil administrator takes over in Iraq. Paul Bremer, a diplomat and former head of the counter-terrorism department at the State Department, replaces Jay Garner, who was seen as ineffective in stemming the continuing lawlessness and violence taking place throughout Iraq.

The UN Security Council approves a resolution lifting the economic sanctions against Iraq and supporting the U.S.-led administration in Iraq.

In separate speeches, U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell and British prime minister Tony Blair deny that intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was distorted or exaggerated to justify an attack on Iraq. Both administrations face mounting questions because no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have been found. Each had claimed that Iraq's WMD were an imminent threat to world security.

Operation Desert Scorpion launched, a military campaign meant to defeat organized Iraqi resistance against American troops. U.S. and British troops face continued attacks about one American soldier has been killed per day since the end of combat was declared.

Bush administration concedes that evidence that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapons program by seeking to buy uranium from Africa, cited in January State of the Union address and elsewhere, was unsubstantiated and should not have been included in speech. Over summer Tony Blair faces even stronger criticism than his American counterpart concerning flawed intelligence.

Iraq's interim governing council, composed of 25 Iraqis appointed by American and British officials, is inaugurated. The council has power to name ministers and will help draw up a new constitution for the country. The American administrator Paul Bremer, however, retains ultimate authority.

Gen. John Abizaid, commander of allied forces in Iraq who replaced retiring general Tommy Franks on July 7, calls continued attacks on coalition troops a "guerrilla-type campaign" and says soldiers who will replace current troops may be deployed for year-long tours.

U.S. combat deaths in Iraq reach 147, the same number of soldiers who died from hostile fire in the first Gulf War 32 of those deaths occurred after May 1, the officially declared end of combat.

Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, die in a firefight in a Mosul palace.

U.S. combat and noncombat casualties reach 255 at 100-day mark after declared end of combat on May 1 43 British have died.

Suicide bombing destroys UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 24, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and wounding more than 100.

A bomb kills one of Iraq's most important Shi'ite leaders, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, as well as about 80 others, and wounds 125.

Continued violence and slow progress in Iraq lead to President Bush's announcement that $87 billion is needed to cover additional military and reconstruction costs.

According to an interim report by David Kay, the lead investigator searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no WMDs have been found as yet.

White House reorganizes its reconstruction efforts in Iraq, placing National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in charge and diminishing the role of the Pentagon.

The UN Security Council unanimously approves the U.S. and UK resolution on Iraq's reconstruction, which supports an international force in the country under U.S. authority. Several countries originally opposed the resolution unless Washington agreed to a faster timetable for transferring power to the Iraqis, but in the end voted for the resolution without requiring changes.

The Madrid Conference, an international donors' conference of 80 nations to raise funds for the reconstruction of Iraq, yielded $13 billion in addition to the $20 billion already pledged by the United States. This amount fell short of the overall target of raising $56 billion, the figure the World Bank and the UN estimated that Iraq needs over the next four years.

Four coordinated suicide attacks in Baghdad kill 43 and wounded more than 200. Targets included the headquarters of the Red Crescent (Islamic Red Cross) and three police stations.

In the single deadliest strike since the Iraq war began, guerrillas shoot down an American helicopter, killing 16 U.S. soldiers and injuring 21 others.

Other attacks over the course of the month make it the bloodiest since the war began: at least 75 U.S. soldiers die.

The Bush Administration reverses policy and in a deal with the Iraqi Governing Council, agrees to transfer power to an interim government in early 2004.

A directive issued by Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, bars France, Germany, Canada, Mexico, China, and Russia from bidding on lucrative contracts for rebuilding Iraq, creating a diplomatic furor.

Iraq's deposed leader Saddam Hussein is captured by American troops. The former dictator was found hiding in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit and surrendered without a fight.


If the Americans co-opted the Baathists after the 2003 invasion of Iraq?

The Shia and Kurds who democracy was going to put in office would never accept the Sunni officer corps as it stood as it had a habit of couping civilians leaders.

It needed at least the real veneer of a new army. Not as much as we changed, but not as much as the no change advocates supported.

The Iraqi Army had a pretty good logistics system that worked for them they used paper notes for. We ‘helped’ by bringing in NATO computers we use for logistics for them to use. They couldn’t use them and their logistics went belly up.

As for conscription I support it for armies. It would be a good idea for Iraq today, but the 40s Red Army is probably not a model they should return to.

It might have made sense to progress the old army (reclassified somewhat) to something closer to 80s Soviet while slowly building a shell of a new one like NATO wanted under their specifications.

Strategos' Risk

Jmc247

The ordinary soldiers just want competent people who won’t kick the shit about of them for stupid stuff. They don’t care if they are Sunni or Shia. The political elite want protection that a cabal of officers isn’t going to kill them. There were ways to make it all happen while shifting some of the more problematic or threatening officers to paramilitary units outside of the army.

We sort of did create units such as the ERU’s or Emergency Response Units for problematic people. We needed a place for Republican Guard and former militia it took some time to think of and execute the idea.

The US Congress blacklisted the force because of their issues violating the rules of war. We made compromises as time went on with the war on who we would work with.

Reggieperrin

As someone nominally pretty negative about Bremer’s decisions when we entered Iraq their army had fallen apart during the war and there were a few US generals on the ground who also argued to start from scratch.

The Saddam era security forces also were in truth a war crimes machine and not very competent to boot. The Iraqi Army not even getting into that of the Republican Guard or militias had committed crimes every bit comparable to the German Army on the Eastern front. Being seen as bending over backwards to them would have caused a Shia revolt.

Jmc247

I am not sure what you mean?

On some level I think it’s best to just have Ryan Crocker who was the best of our various ambassadors to Iraq discuss his vantage point on the situation in May 2003.

I think many of our diplomats were not quite as hard as the unforgiving political landscape of Iraq tends to reward, but it’s important to see their take.

Bakich: I’ve got my timeline right here. How far after CPA Orders 1 and 2 are we, or are we right there?
R. Crocker, 9/9–10/2010 58

Crocker: One and 2 were about the time I arrived so that was the first half of May. Riley: What was your reaction?
Crocker: I wasn’t much involved in the process because this was basically decided when Bremer took over. On the dissolution of the army, that to me was and still is a no-brainer. The army had already dissolved itself. If we wanted Saddam’s army to be a factor, we would have had to take active steps to reconstitute it. Had we done that we would have had that Shi’a revolt. This was Saddam’s army and if the signal we were sending is that those who have murdered and oppressed you are once again going to bear arms and be the dominant force in this country, we would have gotten it from both Shi’a and the Kurds. No question.
Riley: Was 1 consistent with the main thrust of the Future of Iraq planning? Crocker: On the dissolution of the army?
Riley: Yes.
Crocker: I’d have to look at the papers again. The Security Working Group, as I recall, said that we would have to move very quickly to stand up a new Iraqi security architecture, and that’s what we failed to do. We failed to do two things. Meghan O’Sullivan really worked hard at this to convince the American leadership that we had to move immediately and generously on pensions, and we didn’t. That was one mistake. The second mistake was that we were way too slow in organizing to establish that new force because again there was nothing in the order dissolving the Iraqi army. In fact, there was some explicit language saying they would be eligible to return to a new Iraqi security force. We were way too slow in making that happen.
Riley: How would that most logically have been constituted? If you decided that the old army is not—that that is a no-brainer as you say, is the only alternative to build it one person at a time?
Crocker: No, I think in a sense you use a few mirrors and a little bit of smoke. You immediately staff up for a mega military-training mission, open recruiting offices throughout the country. Say “you all come” with the expectation that a whole lot of former members of the Iraqi military would indeed come. You have a vetting process and then a command structure that ensures you haven’t just handed over the new corps to the former corps commander.
Riley: How realistic is it to assume that an enterprise that large could be stood up under those circumstances in a short period of time?
Crocker: It is to create the impression of momentum, that something positive is happening that could have really taken the heat out of the proto-insurgency. Because to actually organize this into a trained force is going to take years.
Riley: But I’m thinking not so much in terms of training it, but the virtue of keeping the same force in effect is that you have the manpower you need by reconstituting something. You’ve identified the deficiency in that avenue, which I take it is persuasive. But I’m wondering how realistic it is to assume that—how large was the military force at the time? Was it several hundred thousand people?
R. Crocker, 9/9–10/2010 59

Crocker: Oh, goodness, no, it was close to a million with reserves factored in.
Riley: So knowing what we know about the administration, how was it possible to identify a
million people and vet them in any kind of—
Crocker: There were two deficiencies: failure to pay pensions swiftly and failure to move to recruit a new force quickly. By establishing recruiting offices and pension offices you address both. For 90 percent of that million-man army there were no issues. These are the rank and file and junior enlisted who didn’t have a political orientation.
Bakich: And Shi’a.
Crocker: Yes, the bulk of Saddam’s army was Shi’a. That’s what we didn’t do.
Riley: But would it have been possible to have used the framework—the second order was the one about the Ba’athist—
Crocker: Right.
Riley: Could you not have taken that framework and applied it to the military?
Crocker: Of course, that would have been part of the vetting process. As far as Order Number 2, I looked at it at the time, and there were all sorts of exceptions and exemptions and processes for appeal. The problem was not in the order, the problem was in the implementation of the order, and the problem with the implementation is that it was an early transfer of sovereignty, if you will, that was largely given to the Iraqis to implement. And I’m not sure there’s any recourse to that for us. The profound impact of Ba’athism on the national psyche was so extraordinarily intense that if we were to have said, “We will decide whether your mother’s killer deserves redemption or not,” that could have opened up a huge host of problems. As it played out, this was not about accountability, it was about vengeance and political gain. How much risk are you ready to absorb in order to achieve the goals you can foresee? I’m not sure there was any way of handling the legacy of Ba’athism that would have led to different or better outcomes. Several may have led to worse outcomes.
Bakich: Was Chalabi at all involved in the implementation of the orders? Crocker: Yes.
Bakich: To what extent?
Crocker: He chaired the commission.
Riley: And the commission was responsible for setting up the guidelines or for actually—? Crocker: The order was ours, for implementing the order.
Bakich: Chalabi went beyond his writ.
Crocker: Let’s say he was well outside the spirit of the order.
R. Crocker, 9/9–10/2010 60


Bush makes historic speech aboard warship

ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CNN) -- The following is an unedited transcript of President Bush's historic speech from the flight deck of the USS Lincoln, during which he declared an end to major combat in Iraq:

Thank you. Thank you all very much.

Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.

In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment, yet it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other made this day possible.

Because of you our nation is more secure. Because of you the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.

Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before.

From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division or strike a single bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground in one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in history.

You have shown the world the skill and the might of the American armed forces.

This nation thanks all of the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. We thank the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland who shared in the hardships of war. We thank all of the citizens of Iraq who welcomed our troops and joined in the liberation of their own country.

And tonight, I have a special word for Secretary Rumsfeld, for General Franks and for all the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States: America is grateful for a job well done.

The character of our military through history, the daring of Normandy, the fierce courage of Iwo Jima, the decency and idealism that turned enemies into allies is fully present in this generation.

When Iraqi civilians looked into the faces of our service men and women, they saw strength and kindness and good will. When I look at the members of the United States military, I see the best of our country and I am honored to be your commander in chief.

In the images of fallen statues we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred of years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale.

In defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Allied forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation.

Today we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime.

With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians.

No device of man can remove the tragedy from war, yet it is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.

In the images of celebrating Iraqis we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies and intimidation could not make the Iraqi people love their oppressors or desire their own enslavement.

Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear.

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.

We are helping to rebuild Iraq where the dictator built palaces for himself instead of hospitals and schools.

And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by and for the Iraqi people.

The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done and then we will leave and we will leave behind a free Iraq.

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001 and still goes on.

That terrible morning, 19 evil men, the shock troops of a hateful ideology, gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the beginning of the end of America.

By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve and force our retreat from the world.

In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists and the camps where they trained. We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals and educate all of their children.

Yet we also have dangerous work to complete. As I speak, a special operations task force lead by the 82nd Airborne is on the trail of the terrorists and those who seek to undermine the free government of Afghanistan.

America and our coalition will finish what we have begun.

From Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down Al Qaida killers.

Nineteen months ago I pledged that the terrorists would not escape the patient justice of the United States. And as of tonight nearly one half of Al Qaida's senior operatives have been captured or killed.

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of Al Qaida and cut off a source of terrorist funding.

And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.

In these 19 months that changed the world, our actions have been focused and deliberate and proportionate to the offense. We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th, the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got.

Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all.

Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country and a target of American justice.

Any person, organization or government that supports, protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world and will be confronted.

And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America.

Our commitment to liberty is America's tradition, declared at our founding, affirmed in Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, asserted in the Truman Doctrine and in Ronald Reagan's challenge to an evil empire.

We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq and in a peaceful Palestine.

The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. Where freedom takes hold, hatred gives way to hope.

When freedom takes hold, men and women turn to the peaceful pursuit of a better life.

American values and American interests lead in the same direction. We stand for human liberty.

The United States upholds these principles of security and freedom in many ways: with all of the tools of diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence and finance.

We are working with a broad coalition of nations that understand the threat and our shared responsibility to meet it.

The use of force has been and remains our last resort. Yet all can know, friend and foe alike, that our nation has a mission: We will answer threats to our security, and we will defend the peace.

Our mission continues. Al Qaida is wounded, not destroyed. The scattered cells of the terrorist network still operate in many nations and we know from daily intelligence that they continue to plot against free people. The proliferation of deadly weapons remains a serious danger.

The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. Our government has taken unprecedented measures to defend the homeland and we will continue to hunt down the enemy before he can strike.

The war on terror is not over, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide.

No act of the terrorists will change our purpose, or weaken our resolve, or alter their fate. Their cause is lost free nations will press on to victory.

Other nations in history have fought in foreign lands and remained to occupy and exploit. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home. And that is your direction tonight.

After service in the Afghan and Iraqi theaters of war, after 100,000 miles on the longest carrier deployment in recent history, you are homeward bound.

Some of you will see new family members for the first time 150 babies were born while their fathers were on the Lincoln. Your families are proud of you, and your nation will welcome you.

We are mindful as well that some good men and women are not making the journey home. One of those who fell, Corporal Jason Mileo, spoke to his parents five days before his death. Jason's father said, "He called us from the center of Baghdad, not to brag but to tell us he loved us. Our son was a soldier."

Every name, every life is a loss to our military, to our nation and to the loved ones who grieve. There is no homecoming for these families. Yet we pray in God's time their reunion will come.

Those we lost were last seen on duty.

Their final act on this Earth was to fight a great evil and bring liberty to others.

All of you, all in this generation of our military, have taken up the highest calling of history: You were defending your country and protecting the innocent from harm.

And wherever you go, you carry a message of hope, a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, come out and to those in darkness, be free."


2007 [ edit | edit source ]

Sheikh Abdul Sittar who helped spark the Anbar Awakening Movement

In early 2007 US and Iraqi tribal forces secured Ramadi, as well as other cities such as Hit, Haditha, Rutbah, and Al Qaim. During the summer the US turned its attention to eastern Anbar and secured the cities of Fallujah and Al-Karmah.

The majority of the fighting was over by September 2007, although US forces would maintain a stability and advisory role for over two more years. Celebrating the victory, President George W. Bush flew to Anbar in August 2007 to congratulate Sheik Sattar and other leading tribal figures.


Did the Bush Invasion of Iraq “Create” ISIS?

Brian Glyn Williams worked for the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center and the US Army’s Information Operations team at ISAF HQ in Afghanistan and is Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and author of “Predators. The CIA’s Drone War on Al Qaeda(Washington DC, Potomac 2013).

It was one of those moments that politicians dread. An unscripted incident last month when a voice in a crowd pinned down a candidate on an issue he could not squirm away from and made news in the process. With the media recording every word, a 19 year old college student at University of Nevada, Reno named Ivy Ziedrich took Jeb Bush to task for moments earlier saying that Obama had created ISIS. As the cameras rolled she told candidate Bush “Your brother created ISIS…It was when 30,000 individuals who were part of the Iraqi military were forced out — they had no employment, they had no income, and they were left with access to all of the same arms and weapons.”[1] Bush responded by accusing her of “rewriting” history.

The incident set off a new round of acrimony as to who had created the pre-conditions for the rise of ISIS in post-US Iraq and the student who asked the question became an instant celebrity on numerous talk shows. But is there any validity to Ms. Ziedrich’s bold claim that George W. Bush “created” ISIS by firing the Iraqi army in 2003?

A journey back into the tumultuous post-invasion months and years sheds a rare historic light on this highly contentious issue and answers the question as to whether Bush’s invasion inadvertently created the conditions for the rise of the hybridized jihadi army/terror group known as ISIS out of the ashes of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Iraq.

How to Create a Jihadi Insurgency

In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion and toppling of the Socialist Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, the Bush White House sent a civilian official to take charge of post-invasion Iraq named Paul Bremer. On May 11, 2003 Bremer became governor of American-occupied Iraq in his role as head of the Coalition’s Provisional Authority. This made him perhaps the most powerful American abroad since General Douglas MacArthur took control of post-World War II Japan. But Bremer’s initial decisions lacked the sagacity of MacArthur’s policies during the occupation of Japan. In fact the architects of Bremer’s missteps were the Neo-Cons who called for total De-Baathification in Iraq based on the model of De-Nazification in Post World War II Germany.

Paul Bremer’s first step was Provisional Authority Order Number 1, issued on May 16th. Order Number 1 banned the Sunni-dominated Baathist Party which had run Iraq for decades. The previous temporary governor of Iraq, General Jay Garner, and his staff were appalled by the decision and warned Bremer “It was too deep.” One of Garner’s staff recalled saying “if you do this, you're going to drive 30,000 to 50,000 Ba'athists underground by nightfall. And the number's closer to 50,000 than it is 30,000."[2] The CIA Station Chief in Baghdad agreed with the number of 50,000 Baathists being driven underground and said “In six months you will regret this.”[3] By banning the Baathist Party, which had as many as 700,000 members who were used to being in power, Bremer turned this mass of powerful leaders and their dependents against the US occupation overnight.[4]

The majority of those to be disenfranchised with Order Number 1 were of course Sunni Muslims who had held the grip on power in the country for five centuries. This act had a negative impact on everyone from civil servants to the technocrats who ran government ministries. In some Sunni areas, such as Fallujah, there were no schoolteachers left after Order Number 1 was promulgated because most of them were fired as members of the Baath party. Far from helping to stabilize Iraq, this act led to unemployment and economic hardship for tens of thousands of Iraqis who had joined the Baath party often just to get a job.

Bremer’s second step compounded matters and might have been a play from a manual on how to ignite an insurgency. His second step was Order Number 2 which disbanded the Iraqi army on May 23rd 2003. This step went against the suggestions of a group of security experts at the National Defense University who had also warned against “top down de-Baathification.” This group had warned that the Iraqi military was one of the rare unifying institutions in Iraq that stressed national identity. According to this group of experts “To tear apart the army in the war’s aftermath could lead to the destruction of one of the only forces for unity within the society.”[5]

The Iraqi military, which consisted of 385,000 men in the army and 285,000 in the Ministry of Defense, was a much respected institution in Iraq and its disbandment shocked Iraqi society. The tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers who had taken their weapons home instead of fighting the American invasion felt betrayed when they were fired. This created a recruitment pool of armed, organized and disaffected soldiers. In one fell swoop these Iraqi soldiers lost their careers, their paychecks, their pensions and their source of pride. General Daniel Bolger would claim that de-Baathification “guaranteed Sunni outrage.”[6] One American colonel was to subsequently recount the almost simultaneous ramp up in violence following the firing of the Sunni-dominated army as follows: “Who knows how many [Iraqi army] folks got disgruntled and went to the other side? I will tell you this, 72 hours after the decision was made, the first major attack from the airport road took place. And I got two of my military police killed. And it's sort of been downhill from there.”[7]

Another Army colonel said “When Bremer did that, the insurgency went crazy. May was the turning point.”[8] The US military, CIA and State Department were all against these Neo-Con-inspired policies and one US general furiously said, “You guys just blindsided Centcom. We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and created an insurgency.”[9] Another expert on Iraq stated “We made hundreds of thousands of people very angry at us and they happened to be the people in the country best acquainted with the use of arms.”[10]

Prior to this act, the US military had hoped to work with the Iraqi military to rebuild Iraq. Their aim was to provide thousands of Iraqi soldiers with jobs, pride and a stake in building a new Iraq. That option was now gone.

Combined together, Orders Number 1 and 2 essentially fired and disenfranchised/disempowered two million people who had weapons, respect and built-in communication networks. The Iraqi military was especially furious and Iraqi soldiers who had lost their jobs, source of pride and incomes took to holding daily protests at the gates to the Green Zone (i.e. the fortified district in downtown Baghdad that the US-led government occupied). During these protests, one Iraqi officer stated “We are all very well trained soldiers and we are armed. We will start ambushes, bombings and even suicide bombings.”[11] Another humiliated Iraqi would state “We’re against the occupation, we refuse the occupation—not one hundred percent, but one thousand percent. They’re walking over my heart. I feel like they are crushing my heart.”[12] During one protest against the mass firings, two Iraqi officers were shot by US troops thus further infuriating this laid off pool of potential recruits for the insurgency.[13]

These angry Iraqis, a majority of whom were the previously ruling Sunnis, felt they had no stake in the new Iraq that the US was building and resented what they saw as de-Sunnification. One Sunni’s anguished complaint captures the sentiment of this group that felt it had been arbitrarily removed from power by the Americans after ruling Iraq since the 1500s. This source stated “We were at the top of the system. We had dreams. Now we are losers. We lost our positions, our status, the security of our families, stability. Curse the Americans, curse them.”[14]

Historian Ahmed Hashim has written, “Dissolving the army meant also driving a stake through a Sunni identity that had relied on the armed forces as a primary institutional and symbolic support of identity.”[15]Fulfilling the law of unintended consequences, this pool of marginalized Sunnis would become known in US military parlance as POIs (Pissed Off Iraqis). Many of them would go on to join the Sunni insurgency which began to take shape by the summer of 2003. The insurgents offered unemployed ex-soldiers or ex-Baathists salaries of up to $100 to shoot Americans or plant landmines. If they filmed the killing of an American they got a bonus.

Within a matter of weeks the Sunni insurgents would begin to wage a classic guerilla war via roadside bomb attacks on US patrols, mortar attacks, sniper ambushes and suicide bombings. They had no problem accessing weapons and explosives since many of them were previously in the military. One Iraqi general spoke of the decision by scores of fired Iraqi soldiers to join the insurgency and fight the American occupation: “The Americans bear the biggest responsibility. When they dismantled the army what did they expect those men to do? They [the fired Sunni Iraqi soldiers] were out in the cold with nothing to do and there was only one way out for them to put food on the table… They didn’t de-Baathify people’s minds, they just took away their jobs.”[16]

The rest is history. The Sunni insurgents went on to form Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2004 (the CIA has stated there was no Al Qaeda presence before this, despite the president’s claims), which then morphed into the Islamic State (IS) after its leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was killed in the summer of 2006. When the U.S. pulled out its troops in December 2011 in fulfillment of President Bush’s December 2008 SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with the Iraqi government, the down-but-far-from-out IS insurgents took advantage of the American-installed, Shiite-dominated Iraqi government’s continued repression of disenfranchised Sunnis to regain momentum and recruits.

All it took was the start of another war between ruling Shiites and repressed Sunnis in neighboring Syria starting in 2011/12 and IS began to send fighters across the border to fight there as well. Thus IS became a transnational insurgent group known as ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and began to seize territory in both Iraq and neighboring Syria. The jihadi “infection” had spread from the US-occupied Sunni Triangle of 2003/4 into neighboring Baathist Syria where formerly secular Sunnis similarly began to grow their beards long and join the spreading Islamist insurgent movement.

Today ISIS fighter-terrorists rule over millions of Iraqis (many of whom were formerly secular Baathists under Hussein) and Syrians in a region larger than the U.K. and twice the size of Israel. It goes without saying (well except by the likes of Ms. Ziedrich) had Bush, or more correctly Paul Bremer, not fired both the Iraqi Army and Baathist Party after the 2003 invasion of Iraq there would be no ISIS today. It has been widely demonstrated that the Baathists fired by Bremer in 2003 play a major operational role in ISIS today. The Washington Post, for example, has reported that “almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes.”[17]

Operation Iraqi Freedom thus fulfilled the Law of Unintended Consequences in this unpredictable part of the world that had been previously been tenuously held together by Hussein’s Baathist Socialist regime and opened the Pandora’s Box that would ultimately lead to creation of ISIS. For the Americans who had overthrown one Medieval regime in Afghanistan, only to inadvertently create the conditions for the rise of another in oil rich Iraq and Syria out of the ashes of what had once been the two most secular regimes in the Arab Middle East, it was one step forward and two steps back.

[1] “College Student to Jeb Bush. Your Brother Created ISIS.” New York Times. May 15, 2015 .

[2] “Bush’s War. Night Two.” Frontline. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/bushswar/etc/script2.html

[3] Thomas. Fiasco. The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York Penguin Press. 2006. Page 159.

[6] Daniel Boulger. Why We Lost. New York Houghton and Miflin. 2014. Page 161.

[7] “Bush’s War.” Frontline. PBS. March 24, 2008.

[8] Thomas Ricks. The Gamble. General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008. New York Penguin. 2009. Page 164.

[10] Terry Anderson. Bush’s Wars. Oxford Oxford University Press. 2011. Page 156.

[13] Ali Allawi. The Occupation of Iraq. New Haven Yale University Press. 2007. Page 158.

[15] Ahmed Hashim. Insurgency and Counter Insurgency in Iraq. Ithaca Cornell University Press. 2006. Page 94.

[16] “The Hidden Hand Behind the Islamic State Militants? Saddam Hussein.” The Washington Post. April 4, 2015.


Watch the video: U S MARINES IN IRAQ REAL COMBAT HEAVY CLASHES WAR IN IRAQ (May 2022).