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2003 - Detail
March 19, 2003 - The War in Iraq begins with the bombing of Baghdad after additional measures and mandates from the United Nations and the United States coalition fail to gain concessions or the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. The U.S. coalition, upon failure to extract authority from the U.N. for action due to the veto power of France, begin land operations one day later with participation from U.S., British, Australian, and Polish troops.
The resolutions of the past fall had been insufficient to garner Saddam Hussein's removal, and France, now, would provide the veto to prevent a United Nations Security Council vote to begin authorized action from the body. President George Bush, and the remainder of the Allied coalition, had waited long enough. They wouldn't allow erstwhile and often ally France to provide the blockage for action. It was time to move. It was time to act. It was time to act quickly and remove Hussein and the threat of Iraq from power in the Middle East.
Operation Iraqi Freedom would begin on March 19 after a strong push at the United Nations for concerted action. Secretary of State Colin Powell urged the body to act in February, stating his case against the Iraq regime, including ties to Al-Qaeda. President George W. Bush stated in his State of the Union address that there were reports of biological weapons in Iraq which must be dealt with, although subsequent post-war investigations proved that to be false.
By mid-March, the United States, Great Britain, and Spain had abandoned their attempt to secure a second resolution at the United Nations to authorize force. That same day, March 17, President Bush issued an ultimatum. Saddam Hussein and his two sons had forty-eight hours to leave the nation. Great Britain joined the coalition with a vote of 412 to 149 in the House of Commons on March 18. Other nations in Europe had not been expected to join the coalition in a substantial way, unconvinced of the evidence that there were proven connections to the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York City between Hussein and the terrorist group. President Bush and the allies did not wait long to act; the bombing began on the night of March 19, 10:30 p.m. EST without authorization from the United Nations. Tanks would roll one day later.
Timeline of First Days of the Iraq War
March 19, 2003
9:00 P.M. EST (1:00 A.M. March 20) UCT (Universal Coordinated Time, Iraq) - President Bush ultimatum for Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq expires.
10:30 P.M. EST (2:30 A.M. March 20) UCT - Assault begins on military installations in Iraq with thirty-six Tomahawk missiles and two GBU-27 bombs.
11:15 P.M. EST (3:15 A.M. March 20) UCT - President Bush announces to the nation and the world that Operation Iraqi Freedom has begun. The bombing would be known as "shock and awe."
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gives address on Iraq state television, although speculation about when the address had been created were reported and whether Hussein had been killed begin to circulate.
Iraq sends missiles into Kuwait; several are intercepted with limited or no damage inflicted.
Announcement that special forces from the United States, Great Britain, and Australia were now inside Iraq.
March 20, 2003
1:34 A.M. EST (5:34 A.M. March 20) UCT - Ground invasion of Iraq begins led by United States General Tommy Franks. Coalition forces from the south, plus Kurdish Peshmerga troops in the north, begin push toward Baghdad. Main troops involved include 248,000 from the United States; 45,000 from Great Britain; 2,000 from Australia; 194 from Poland; and a Multi-National force from forty-eight nations of the "Coalition of the Willing." Thirty-seven nations of the coalition provided troops after the invasion was complete with others providing support or material, but they did not participate in the invasion itself.
Subsequent Days of the War
The mission objectives were seemingly clear, and the invasion, while encountering significant resistance, had less resistance than the troops of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Poland thought in preparation.
Mission Objectives (According to General Tommy Franks): 1) Ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. 2) Identify, isolate, and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. 3) Search for, capture, and drive out terrorists from Iraq. 4) Collect intelligence on terrorist networks. 5) Collect intelligence on global network of weapons of mass destruction. 6) End sanctions and immediately deliver humanitarian support to the Iraqi citizens. 7) Secure Iraq's oil fields and resources. 8) Help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to a representative self-government.
While many of the objectives were secured, including the fall of Baghdad on April 9, which ended the Hussein rule of twenty-four years, and later in December, the capture of Saddam Hussein himself, others were not. Weapons of mass destruction, for the most part, were not found. After the establishment of an elected Iraqi government and new constitution, terrorists and insurgency fighters against the transition to a stable Iraqi government were able to disrupt the government and nation for over a decade. Many of the oil fields were destroyed prior to their security.
Info source: United Nations; BBC.com; U.S. Department of Defense Fact Sheet; The National Security Archive; Wikipedia Commons. Photo source above: United States tanks from the 35th Army Regiment deployed in Baghdad, November 2003. Courtesy National Archives via Wikipedia Commons. Below: Saddam Hussein's pistol found during his capture on exhibit at the George Bush Presidential Library.
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