War in Iraq begins 2003
On this day in 2003, the United States, along with coalition forces primarily from the United Kingdom, initiates war on Iraq. Just after explosions began to rock Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, U.S. President George W. Bush announced in a televised address, “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.” President Bush and his advisors built much of their case for war on the idea that Iraq, under dictator Saddam Hussein, possessed or was in the process of building weapons of mass destruction.
Hostilities began about 90 minutes after the U.S.-imposed deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war passed. The first targets, which Bush said were “of military importance,” were hit with Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. fighter-bombers and warships stationed in the Persian Gulf. In response to the attacks, Republic of Iraq radio in Baghdad announced, “the evil ones, the enemies of God, the homeland and humanity, have committed the stupidity of aggression against our homeland and people.”
Though Saddam Hussein had declared in early March 2003 that, “it is without doubt that the faithful will be victorious against aggression,” he went into hiding soon after the American invasion, speaking to his people only through an occasional audiotape. Coalition forces were able to topple his regime and capture Iraq’s major cities in just three weeks, sustaining few casualties. President Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1, 2003. Despite the defeat of conventional military forces in Iraq, an insurgency has continued an intense guerrilla war in the nation in the years since military victory was announced, resulting in thousands of coalition military, insurgent and civilian deaths.
After an intense manhunt, U.S. soldiers found Saddam Hussein hiding in a six-to-eight-foot deep hole, nine miles outside his hometown of Tikrit. He did not resist and was uninjured during the arrest. A soldier at the scene described him as “a man resigned to his fate.” Hussein was arrested and began trial for crimes against his people, including mass killings, in October 2005.
In June 2004, the provisional government in place since soon after Saddam’s ouster transferred power to the Iraqi Interim Government. In January 2005, the Iraqi people elected a 275-member Iraqi National Assembly. A new constitution for the country was ratified that October. On November 6, 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging. After an unsuccessful appeal, he was executed on December 30, 2006.
No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
(More Events on This Day in History)
- 1734 Thomas McKean is born
- 2005 Maverick auto exec John DeLorean dies
- 1865 Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina
- 1949 East Germany approves new constitution
- 1999 Bodies found in Yosemite serial killer case
- 1971 Peruvian town wiped out
- 1916 First U.S. air combat mission begins
- 1931 Nevada legalizes gambling
- 1953 DeMille wins Oscar
- 1953 First Academy Awards telecast on NBC
- 1842 Balzac botches a publicity stunt
- 1957 Elvis Presley puts a down payment on Graceland
- 1864 Artist Charlie Russell born
- 2003 Bush announces the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom
- 1966 Texas Western defeats Kentucky in NCAA finals
- 1966 Seoul agrees to send additional troops
- 1970 National emergency declared in Cambodia
World War I
- 1916 First U.S. air-combat mission begins
World War II
- 1945 General Fromm executed for plot against Hitler