A decade ago, the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Despite worldwide protest and a lack of UN authorization, 200,000 thousand troops deployed into Iraq in March of 2003, following massive airstrikes. The coalition faced minimal opposition, and Baghdad quickly fell. For years after President George W. Bush's "mission accomplished" speech, the war raged on, fueled by sectarian conflicts, al Qaeda insurgencies, outside agencies, and mismanagement of the occupation. Ten years later, we look back in a three-part series. Today's entry focuses on the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq, and the weeks immediately following.
Smoke covers Saddam Hussein's presidential palace compound during a massive US-led air raid on Baghdad, Iraq on March 21, 2003. Allied forces unleashed a devastating blitz on Baghdad, triggering giant fireballs and deafening explosions and sending huge mushroom clouds above the city center. Missiles slammed into the main palace complex of President Saddam Hussein on the bank of the Tigris River, and key government buildings.
(Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President George W. Bush, watched by Vice President Dick Cheney, speaks before signing a $355 billion military spending bill in the Rose Garden of the White House October 23, 2002. The bill gave the Pentagon a nearly $40 billion boost as it prepared for possible war with Iraq, the White House said. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, center, talks with elite Republican Guard officers in Baghdad, on March 1, 2003. Iraq began destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles Saturday as ordered by the United Nations and agreed with weapons inspectors on a timetable to dismantle the entire missile program, U.N. and Iraqi officials said.
Protests against war in Iraq erupted around the world in March of 2003. This combination photo shows (from top left) large demonstrations in Madrid, New York, Jakarta, Calcutta, Rome, (2nd row) London, Berlin, Marseille, San Francisco, and Montevideo. (Credit, in same order: Reuters, AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, Reuters/Pipit Prahara, Reuters/Sucheta Das, Reuters/Giampiero Sposito, Reuters/Peter Macdiarmid, AP Photo/Franka Bruns, AP Photo/Claude Paris, AP Photo/Noah Berger, and AP Photo/Marcelo Hernandez)
U.S. President George W. Bush announced the start of war between the United States and Iraq during a televised address from the Oval Office, on March 19, 2003. The United States said it had began its war against Iraq just minutes after several explosions were heard over Baghdad.
An aviation ordnance man observes rows of bombs on the hangar bay of the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in the northern Gulf, on March 30, 2003. The carriers airwing flew 104 total sorties over Iraq on March 29, and dropped bombs on targets including air defense sites, a train loaded with tanks and a surface-to-air missile site.
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf reads a message to the Iraqi people from President Saddam Hussein broadcast on Iraqi television, April 1, 2003. In the message Saddam said that jihad was a religious duty and he urged the Iraqi people to fight invading U.S. and British troops wherever they found them.
U.S. Marine Lt. Ben Reid from 1/2 Charlie Company of Task Force Tarawa waits to be medivaced after being hit with shrapnel and a machine gun round, in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, on March 23, 2003. The Marines suffered a number of deaths and casualties during gun battles throughout the city.
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
An Iraqi soldier fires his AK-47 rifle into reeds on the banks of the Tigris river in Baghdad, on March 23, 2003 after reports that U.S. or British pilots may have ejected over the city. Television reports showed Iraqi soldiers shooting into the Tigris river and in boats, apparently searching the water for pilots.
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman HM1 Richard Barnett, assigned to the 1st Marine Division, holds an Iraqi child in central Iraq, on March 29, 2003. Confused front line crossfire ripped apart an Iraqi family after local soldiers appeared to force civilians towards positions held by U.S. Marines.
A U.S. Army soldier atop a Humvee armed with a heavy machine gun secures an area by a burning oil well in Iraq's vast southern Rumaila oilfields, on March 30, 2003. U.S. engineers moved through the oilfields on Sunday shutting down wellheads in an operation that could take months to complete.
A wounded Iraqi girl is treated by U.S. marines in central Iraq, on March 29, 2003. The four-year old girl, blood streaming from an eye wound, was screaming for her dead mother, while her father, shot in a leg, begged to be freed from the plastic wrist cuffs slapped on him by U.S. marines, so he could hug his other terrified daughter.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks to the press at a Pentagon briefing in Washington, April 9, 2003. Rumsfeld praised the progress of American-led forces fighting in Iraq but warned the fighting would continue and the military still needed to account for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Six-year-old Tyler Jordan is hugged by his mother Amanda while U.S. Army Chaplain Captain David Nott looks on during the funeral of the boy's father, United States Marine Gunnery Sgt. Philip Jordan, at Holy Family Church in Enfield, Connecticut, on April 2, 2003. Sgt. Jordan was killed during fighting outside Nasiriyah on March 23 in the early days of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.
Iraqi Kurds wave banners and U.S. and British flags in the northern Iraqi town of Dohuk, on April 9, 2003, to celebrate the arrival of U.S. led coalition forces' in Baghdad. Iraqi Kurds shouted for joy and fired in the air on Wednesday after U.S. forces entered Baghdad. "It's all over in Baghdad," said 29-year-old Rafiq Baway, who heard the news on satellite TV in the city of Sulaimaniya. He believed it would lead to the fall of Kirkuk, the northern oil hub where Kurds accuse Saddam of expelling Kurdish inhabitants and replacing them with Arabs.