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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. The UN Steps In With Sanctions and Weapons Inspections
  6. The U.S. Launches War in Iraq
  7. With No Evidence of Weapons in Iraq, Bush Calls Iraq the Focal Point of War on Terror
  8. War Does Little to Improve Infrastructure or Security in Iraq
  9. Insurgency Gathers Steam
  10. Iraqi Leadership Struggles in Effort to Form a Government
  11. U.S. Strategy Under Fire
  12. President Bush Hopes Surge of U.S. Troops Will Change Course of War
  13. Iraqi Parliament Gets Down to Business
  14. Iraqi Government Shows Signs of Stability
  15. U.S. Role Diminishes in Iraq
  16. Political Veterans Fare Well in Parliamentary Elections
  17. War in Iraq Is Officially Over
  18. Political Unrest and Violence Continue
War Does Little to Improve Infrastructure or Security in Iraq

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.”

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