Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

On this day: When the US first invaded Iraq in 2003

It was on this day 17 years ago that the Iraq War was first sparked

A convoy of US Marine Corps vehicles arrived in northern Iraq during a sandstorm in March 2003. Alamy
A convoy of US Marine Corps vehicles arrived in northern Iraq during a sandstorm in March 2003. Alamy

Explosions rocked Baghdad on March 19 and 20, 2003, as US forces bombed the city. “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger,” George W Bush, the US president at the time, said in a televised address.

And so began the US-led invasion of Iraq, which led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime and years of conflict that left hundreds of thousands dead (the specific total is still widely disputed) and many more wounded.

The coalition of nations, which sent 177,194 troops – mainly American – included the UK, Australia and Poland. This famous image shows a convoy of US Marine Corps vehicles arriving in northern Iraq during a sandstorm six days after it all began.

The initial phase of the conflict ended on May 1. That’s when Mr Bush gave another televised address, this time on the USS Abraham Lincoln, with a banner that read “Mission Accomplished” displayed above his head. “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” he said. “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

However, it was eight years, eight months and 28 days, before the US formally declared the conflict over, in December 2011. It was widely unpopular and an infamous justification for the conflict was that Mr Bush and then British prime minister Tony Blair insisted Hussein was hiding or building weapons of mass destruction. These claims have yet to be substantiated.

Updated: March 19, 2020 04:05 PM

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