On this day in 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom is formally commenced against Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government. The initial invasion involved 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 after significant aerial bombing.The invasion phase consisted primarily of a conventionally fought war including the capture of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad by American forces with the implicit assistance of the United Kingdom alongside Australia and Poland.
The George W. Bush administration based its rationale for the war principally on the assertion that Iraq, which had been viewed by the US as a rogue state since the Persian Gulf War, possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that the Iraqi government posed an immediate threat to the United States and its coalition allies. Select US officials accused Saddam of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda, while others cited the desire to end a repressive dictatorship and bring democracy to the people of Iraq.
After the invasion, no substantial evidence was found to verify the initial claims about WMDs, and assertions of Iraqi officials collaborating with al-Qaeda proved false. The rationale and misrepresentation of US prewar intelligence faced heavy criticism both domestically and internationally, with President Bush declining from his record-high approval ratings following 9/11 to become one of the most unpopular presidents in US history. The march of time after Bush II would reveal the true bottom of the POTUS barrel.
US casualties in the conflict, aspects of which are still ongoing, top nearly 5,000 deaths; total Iraqi deaths have been estimated as high as 600,000. Notwithstanding the causes and effects of this awful episode, it is right and just to remember and honor the men and women of the coalition forces who sacrificed all intending to uphold the ideals of democratic self-governance; as well, we mourn the innocents who perish in any theater of war, victims of the pathetic fools and frauds history finds at the head of various governments all too often.