An Overview of the War in Iraq

An Overview of the War in Iraq

The war in Iraq has been the focus of global attention since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. The initial phase of the conflict leading up to regime change met with little resistance but the subsequent rebuilding phase and institution of democracy have been marked by a myriad of violence that has kept Iraq on the brink of civil war, and committed U.S. and coalition forces to an indefinite occupation.

The invasion and stabilization of Iraq was cast as part of the broader war against terrorism by the Bush administration. In the build-up to the war, President Bush, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and other top officials made the case that Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, was linked to international terrorism and had the capability to deploy weapons of mass destruction. Liberating Iraqis from tyranny and building democratic institutions were the dominant themes in the administration's justification for the war and its direction.

Critics to the Iraq invasion pointed out that the link between Iraq and international terrorism, particularly the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group al-Qaeda, had not been substantiated, and that the United Nations-backed weapons inspections required more time. Moreover, they argued that the invasion had not been authorized by international law because it was not sanctioned by a vote of the U.N. Security Council. As post-invasion inspections and intelligence has revealed no weapons of mass destruction, acceptance of the Bush administration's rationale for the invasion has declined. Some have suggested that the war was undertaken for the hidden motive of gaining control of Iraq's oil resources.

The suffering of the Iraqi population has grown more acute since the downfall of Saddam Hussein. It is estimated that some 900,000 Iraqis have fled the country, mostly to Jordan and Syria, since the 2003 invasion. Though coalition forces were at first welcomed by a portion of the population, the ongoing occupation, violence, incidences of human rights violations on the part of U.S. forces, and significant setbacks in the rebuilding process has alienated many Iraqis.

Basic Concepts and Definitions Related to the Iraq War

Coalition: An alliance for the purpose of joint action, as of military forces. Coalition forces in Iraq are comprised of U.S., United Kingdom, and Australian military personnel, among others.

Imperialism: A form of government in which power and influence are extended over another territory with the purpose of subjugating and controlling it.

Extraordinary Rendition: An extra-judicial procedure by which alleged terrorists are brought without trial to countries outside of the U.S. for interrogation, imprisonment and possibly torture.

Terrorism: The systematic use of terror or the threat of terror against civilian populations or governments as a coercive instrument, generally with political aims.

Tyranny: A form of government in which a ruler exercises absolute power over a population.

War Crime: A crime committed during a time of war. War crimes include genocide, torture, and use of certain weapons.


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