Iraq war 2003 - what really happened
The War Poetry Website
The Iraq war of 2003 was an unprovoked attack on a weak and almost
defenceless country. It was illegal under international law. [See
quotations from the Judgement of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal on
the Quotations page.]
The conquest took just 21 days. The occupation of the country by mainly
American forces lasted over seven years
- officially until
August 2010, although some 50,000 American soldiers and military
contractors stayed on after this date.
It is commonly understood that the 2003 - 2010 Iraq war started
with the bombing of Iraq’s capital city, Baghdad on 20 March 2003. It
might be more accurate to say that the war began with the first Gulf War
of 1991 when the US bombed and devastated Iraq’s vital facilities. The
bombing put out of action, for example, eighteen out of twenty of Iraq’s
power generating plants. The war continued through sanctions which
attempted to limit the power of Iraq.
Sanctions had been put in place by mainly western countries
acting through the United Nations Security Council. What they did was
put strict and sometimes devastating limit on supplies to Iraq
including, for example, chemicals necessary for water purification.
These caused many thousands of deaths and a terrible weakening of the
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For more information on this please see the article on the
warpoetry website, entitled Lessons from Iraq and a report there based
on an interview with a former assistant Secretary General of the United
Alongside the sanctions was a little publicised and now forgotten
bombing campaign by US and UK forces from 1991 to 2002.
The years of bombing caused enormous damage, loss of life and the
destruction of the Iraqi airforce. Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister, and
George Bush, President of the United States, sought to portray Iraq to
the world as an enormous threat, but it didn't even have an air force.
hadn't always been like this. In the 1980s United States was an
enthusiastic backer of Saddam Hussein, supplying him with a great deal
of military equipment including materials useful for developing nuclear
weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons. For example, some
seventeen bacterial and viral cultures were licensed to be sold by
American companies to Saddam Hussein. During 1985 and 1986 Iraq used
chemical weapons on four occasions against Iran. Nevertheless, America
continued to assist Saddam Hussein in his chemical and biological
In 1987 the Iraqi army was carrying out atrocities against the
Kurdish population in the North, sometimes erasing whole villages. In
1988 came the strafing of Halabja with mustard gas and nerve toxins. It
was estimated that 5000 people were massacred. Military equipment from
America, France, Germany, Britain and others continued and the US
blocked a sanctions proposal against Iraq following the Halabja
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Saddam Hussein was capable of utter ruthlessness and brutality. Yet,
extraordinarily, he had another side to his character. He did a great
deal to further the well-being of the majority of
At one time Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, had been a prosperous
country with an enviable free National Health Service and an outstanding
national education system – free up to and including university level.
But by 2003 - has consequence of the first Gulf War in 1991, the
punitive sanctions and eleven years of bombing, Iraq was a weak,
impoverished, and almost defenceless country
- an easy
victim of an aggressive superpower.
In America George Bush, suggested a connection between the
destruction of the twin towers - the two skyscrapers of the world trade
centre in New York - and Saddam Hussein. As everyone knows the twin
towers had been destroyed by terrorists on 11 September 2001. In his
State of the Union address to Congress on 28 January 2003 George Bush
said, "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists including members of
Al Qaeda . . . before
September 11 many in the world believed Saddam Hussein could be
contained.” The terrorists that destroyed the twin towers had no known
connection with Iraq. Nevertheless, George Bush made that connection.
Like Blair in Britain, Bush tried to create fear of Iraq as if it
were a terrifying enemy. He said, "the United States and our friends and
allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the
peace with weapons of mass murder."
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In Britain, Tony Blair used the alleged threat of weapons of mass
destruction to try to justify an attack on Iraq. He claimed that Iraq
had these weapons (nuclear, biological, and chemical) and weapons
factories across Iraq. Saddam Hussein and Iraq, he said, were a threat
to Iraq’s neighbours, to Britain, and the whole world.
The text of Tony Blair’s speech to the UK Parliament can be read
on the war poetry Web site.
On 5 February 2003 Colin Powell, United States Secretary of
State, presented a dossier of evidence to the UN Security Council
purporting to prove a massive programme of illegal weapons building by
Iraq. Colin Powell’s totally misleading information was supplied to the
world's press and in the UK and US it was faithfully disseminated, often
with corroboration by experts who should have known better, but for some
reason not justified by evidence, offered instant analysis supporting
the idea of a massive Iraqi threat to the world.
The evidence presented by Colin Powell and the media included
maps showing the countries most at risk from Iraq’s missiles and weapons
of mass destruction.
This barrage of pseudo-evidence may have convinced many in the
United States and Britain but it did not convince the leaders of the
supposedly threatened neighbouring countries. All of Iraq's neighbours,
even Kuwait and Iran, opposed to US bombing of Iraq.
The United Nations would not support the war. All the countries
neighbouring Iraq would not support the war. The majority of countries
in the world would not support the war. The majority of people in
Britain would not support the war.
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In countries across Europe and around the world there were
numerous and enormous protests
- especially on 15
February 2003. That day saw
what was by far the largest and most numerous protest demonstrations the
world had ever seen. In the UK in London alone 2,000,000 people marched
to protest against the proposed bombing.
In Rome the largest of all anti-war demonstrations saw three
million people on the streets.
Yet all the wishes of the great majority of people in the western
world was ignored by Bush and Blair and their supine supporters. The
British Parliament, as if unaware of the truth, as if unaware of the
views of the British people, voted for war. The bombing went ahead with
an enormous barrage of missiles raining down on Baghdad. A few of these
came from the UK. Most were American.
Between March 20 and May 2
- the US dropped
over 30,000 bombs on Iraq, +20,000 precision guided cruise missiles. All
this was to be part of a beneficial process
- according to
George Bush. He had stated in his eve of war speech, "America has no
ambition in Iraq except to remove a threat and to restore it to its
people." It was also to "remove weapons of mass destruction."
The absurdity of the claims of Bush and Blair has seldom
challenged how do you find weapons of mass destruction or remove the
threat of a defenceless and impoverished country, or restore a country
to itself by dropping 50,000 bombs and missiles.
Donald Rumsfeld, U.S
Secretary of State, described the purpose of the bombing as shock and
SHOCK AND AWE
This was only part of his purpose, a tactic to overwhelm the
Iraqi defence forces and people psychologically.
BAGHDAD UNDER FIRE
But the missiles did not fall at random on Baghdad. They were targeted
at government ministries -
all of them, except the oil Ministry. The purpose of this
targeting could only have been to destroy the records, tools, and
facilities essential to administer a modern state. Without these
facilities and records there could only be social chaos, a country in
turmoil, an ungovernable state.
It is inconceivable that those who planned the bombing would
believe they were making Iraq easier to govern all safer or likely to
turn Iraq towards greater democracy.
Within 21 days Iraq was subdued, police forces and the Iraqi Army were
dismissed. The inevitable consequence was violence in the street faction
against faction fighting for control, wholesale murder, robbery, gangs
and individuals fighting for survival
- and the impossibility of coordinated resistance to the invader
- all of this was
part of the US plan. It was not, as is often claimed, something that
took the invaders by surprise.
The result of this planned chaos was that the door was open for
the US to install its own governor, Paul Bremmer, who could rule by
edict, reorganise the state, privatise state-owned assets such as the
banks and the oil industry, and contract America’s own companies and
corporations to reconstruct Iraq and be paid with Iraq’s oil revenues.
Corporation tax was dropped from 40% to 15%. Iraq’s major
Commercial assets could be sold off at fire-sale prices to foreign
investors without any restrictions. Profits would be taken straight out
Most countries in the world were horrified by the behaviour of
the United states. But 36 of them were persuaded to send troops in
support of the US occupation. Numbers of troops were sometimes token
only, and the stay of many was short-lived.
The effect on terrorist organisations was that they had a huge surge in
support. They were angered by the violent treatment of the people they
identify with and reacted by threatening retaliation against UK and
especially US citizens and US interests around the world. The war was a
major stimulus to anti-American and anti-British feeling. From this time
security of parliament buildings of belligerent powers and airports
throughout the world was massively increased to cope with a terrorist
threat which may well be exaggerated but which was vastly stimulated by
America’s invasion and takeover of Iraq.
Over seven years after the war, which was supposed to make Iraq
and the world a safer place, Iraq is a country wracked by sectarian
violence. Britain and America live in a state of paranoia with
politicians telling us we live under a constant threat of terrorist
Politicians and media provide one view of the Iraq war. The
stories of the people of Iraq remain, as yet, unpublished in the West.
Astonishingly few photographs of the seven-year war have appeared in the
Western media. But quite a lot is known about the experiences and
responses of US and UK soldiers and the general populations of Britain
and America. A small part of this has appeared in the form of poetry and
reflects the feelings people had about the war, opinions held about the
buildup to the war and the way the war was run, and the experiences of
the war. The war poetry website is one place you can read some of this
8 December 2010 -
Revised 23 July 2011
Iraq War videos and poetry of the war are available on this
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