Flag of Iraq
  1. Iraq Main Page
  2. Iraq Gains Independence
  3. Rise of the Baath Party
  4. Saddam Hussein's Ascendancy Brings Series of Wars
  5. After 9/11, the U.S. Launches War in Iraq
  6. No Evidence of Weapons in Iraq
  7. Insurgency Gathers Steam
  8. Iraqi Leadership Struggles in Effort to Form a Government
  9. U.S. Strategy Under Fire
  10. Bush Orders a Surge of U.S. Troops to Iraq
  11. Iraqi Parliament Gets Down to Business
  12. Political Veterans Fare Well in 2010 Parliamentary Elections
  13. War in Iraq Is Officially Over but Political Unrest and Violence Continue as ISIS Emerges
  14. 2014 Parliamentary Elections Unexpectedly Peaceful Despite Rise of ISIS
  15. New Prime Minister Forms a Power-Sharing Government
  16. Mixed Bag in the Fight Against ISIS
  17. Blackwater Guards Convicted
  18. Prime Minister Calls for Overhaul of Government
No Evidence of Weapons in Iraq

Months of searching for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction yielded no hard evidence, and both administrations and their intelligence agencies came under fire. There were also mounting allegations that the existence of these weapons was exaggerated or distorted as a pretext to justify the war. In fall 2003, President Bush recast the rationale for war, no longer citing the danger of weapons of mass destruction, but instead describing Iraq as “the central front” in the war against terrorism. A free and democratic Iraq, he contended, would serve as a model for the rest of the Middle East.

Continued instability in 2003 kept 140,000 American troops (at a cost of $4 billion a month), as well as 11,000 British and 10,000 coalition troops in Iraq. The U.S. launched several tough military campaigns to subdue Iraqi resistance, which also had the effect of further alienating the populace. The rising violence prompted the Bush administration to reverse its Iraq policy in Nov. 2003; the transfer of power to an interim government would take place in July 2004, much earlier than originally planned.

After eight months of searching, the U.S. military captured Saddam Hussein on Dec. 13. The deposed leader was found hiding in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit and surrendered without a fight. Found guilty of crimes against humanity for the execution of 148 Shiite men and boys from the town of Dujai, Saddam Hussein was hung in Dc. 2006. He was executed before being tried for innumerable other crimes associated with his rule.

In Jan. 2004, the CIA's chief weapons inspector, David Kay, stated that U.S. intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction “was almost all wrong.” When the final report on the existence of these weapons in Iraq was issued in Oct. 2004, Kay's successor, Charles Duelfer, confirmed that there was no evidence of an Iraqi weapons production program.

The turmoil and violence in Iraq increased throughout 2004. Civilians, Iraqi security forces, foreign workers, and coalition soldiers were subject to suicide bombings, kidnappings, and beheadings. By April, a number of separate uprisings had spread throughout the Sunni triangle and in the Shiite-dominated south. In September alone there were 2,300 attacks by insurgents. In October, U.S. officials estimated there were between 8,000 and 12,000 hard-core insurgents and more than 20,000 “active sympathizers.” Loosely divided into Baathists, nationalists, and Islamists, all but about 1,000 were thought to be indigenous fighters.

Reconstruction efforts, hampered by bureaucracy and security concerns, had also fallen far short of U.S. expectations: by September, just 6% ($1 billion) of the reconstruction money approved by the U.S. Congress in 2003 had in fact been used. Electricity and clean water were below prewar levels, and half of Iraq's employable population was still without work. In April, the U.S. reversed its policy of banning Baath Party officials from positions of responsibility—the U.S. had previously fired all high-ranking members and disbanded the Iraqi army, affecting about 400,000 positions, depleting Iraq of its skilled workforce, and further embittering the Sunni population.

In late April, the physical and sexual abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad came to light when photographs were released by the U.S. media. The images sparked outrage around the world. In August, the Schlesinger report's investigation into Abu Ghraib (the furthest reaching of many Pentagon-sponsored reports on the subject) called the prisoner abuse acts of “brutality and purposeless sadism,” rejected the idea that the abuse was simply the work of a few aberrant soldiers, and asserted that there were “fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon.”

Next: Insurgency Gathers Steam
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