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Michael R. Gordon

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U.S.-Iraq War of 2003

I INTRODUCTION


U.S.-Iraq War of 2003, military action led by the United States against the regime of Saddam Hussein, the authoritarian leader of Iraq. Announcing the beginning of the war in March 2003, U.S. president George W. Bush explained that the goals were to “disarm Iraq [and] to free its people.” President Bush had threatened war for months, arguing that Saddam Hussein's regime posed a grave threat to U.S. security and peace in the region because of its alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

The conflict began in March 2003 when U.S. and British forces (and smaller numbers of Australian and Polish soldiers) invaded Iraq. The major fighting ended about three weeks later after U.S. troops entered Baghd?d and toppled the Hussein regime. The military campaign was short and one-sided, but hard fought.

The victorious forces, however, soon had to contend with wide-scale looting, difficulties in restoring electricity and other basic services, a guerrilla war, and a series of terrorist bombings. As a result, more U.S. forces were deployed for a longer period than the U.S. government anticipated, and the casualty toll rose. In all, 138 U.S. service personnel were killed from the start of the war until President Bush declared an end to major combat operations on May 1, 2003. Of these, 115 died in combat while the rest died due to traffic accidents, drowning, illness, or other causes. Coalition forces continued to suffer casualties after May 1.

The total U.S. death toll doubled by late August and reached more than 750 by early May 2004, a year after President Bush proclaimed an end to major combat operations. Of these more than 550 were killed in action. On the British side, 33 military personnel died between March 2003 and May 1, 2003, and 26 others were killed from May 1, 2003, to May 3, 2004.

Thousands of Iraqis were believed killed in the war, although U.S. military officials did not maintain a count of enemy dead or civilian casualties. Following the war, The Brookings Institution began keeping a record of casualties in Iraq and reported that 2,610 Iraqi civilians were killed from June 2003 through April 2004. An Associated Press survey of about half of Iraq's hospitals found that at least 3,240 Iraqi civilians died from March 20, 2003, to April 20, 2003. The British-based Iraq Body Count put the number at about 10,000 Iraqi civilian deaths from March 2003 to early May 2004.

II BACKGROUND TO THE WAR


The seeds for the U.S.-Iraq War of 2003 were sown by the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which took place during the administration of U.S. president George Herbert Walker Bush, George W. Bush's father. During the Persian Gulf War, allied forces evicted Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which Iraq invaded in 1990. After allied forces defeated the Iraqi army, armed rebellion against Hussein's rule broke out among the Shia Muslims of the south, who had suffered years of oppression under Hussein's Sunni Muslim regime (see Shia Islam; Sunni Islam). The Bush administration had encouraged Iraqis to rebel in the hope that Hussein would be overthrown, but removing him from power was not an explicit objective of the allies. The administration was wary of involving itself in the fighting inside Iraq and was apprehensive about the consequences of a Shia victory. It decided not to intervene. Lacking international aid, the rebellion was crushed by Hussein's remaining forces.

A UN Weapons Inspections


As part of the cease-fire arrangements after the Persian Gulf War, the United Nations (UN) Security Council ordered Iraq to eliminate its programs to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. A system of UN inspections was established to oversee this process. Over the next decade UN inspectors made important strides in disarming Iraq, but faced resistance from Iraqi authorities. Iraq denied inspectors access to some sites within the country, and much of the information Iraq provided about its weapons programs was incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading.

Frustrated by Iraq's refusal to cooperate, U.S. president Bill Clinton ordered a series of air strikes in 1998 aimed at destroying Iraq's weapons-making capability. UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn shortly before the United States and Britain carried out three days of air attacks. Following the air strikes, Iraq resisted the resumption of UN inspections. No inspections were conducted for four years, a development that led to considerable uncertainty in the international community about the status of Iraq's weapons programs.

B Making the Case for War


Ever since the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. military had contingency plans to invade Iraq. Military planning began in earnest, however, in the months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon, near Washington, D.C. (see September 11 Attacks). The U.S. intelligence community quickly concluded that the attacks were the work of al-Qaeda, an international terrorist organization led by Saudi Arabian millionaire Osama bin Laden and based in Afghanistan. In October a U.S.-led international coalition invaded Afghanistan and within weeks overthrew the ruling Taliban regime, which had supported al-Qaeda. Emboldened by the success, the Bush administration turned its attention to Iraq.

President Bush began to make the case for military action against Iraq in his January 2002 State of the Union speech in which he identified Iraq as a member of an “axis of evil” threatening global security. The Bush administration viewed Iraq as a rogue state and Hussein as a regional troublemaker in the volatile Middle East. Iraq, like many Arab states, opposed Israel and supported the Palestinian cause (see Arab-Israeli Conflict) and Hussein was known to pay thousands of dollars to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

The administration's principal concern, however, was over Iraq's alleged program to develop weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration asserted that Iraq possessed chemical weapons, had accelerated its program to make biological weapons, and was actively seeking materials to make nuclear weapons. The administration feared that with such an arsenal, Hussein could provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for use against the United States.

In subsequent speeches and reports Bush and his administration made the case for preemptive military action to avoid such a potential threat. “If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long,” Bush said in June 2002. In his January 2003 State of the Union address, Bush cited reports that Hussein had attempted to buy “significant quantities of uranium from Africa” as well as special aluminum tubes in order to produce nuclear weapons. Bush administration officials also asserted that the establishment of a new, democratic government in Iraq could pave the way for peace in the Middle East and the spread of democracy among Arab nations.

Opponents of military action against Iraq challenged the Bush administration's case. They argued that an invasion to overthrow Hussein would pull resources away from the U.S. campaign against terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. Critics pointed to an October 2002 assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which concluded that Hussein was unlikely to cooperate with terrorist groups unless he felt that his regime was in peril. Critics also said that information about Iraq's weapons programs was uncertain, that Iraq could be pressured to readmit UN weapons inspectors, and that the Hussein regime did not present an imminent threat. War opponents also argued that the Bush administration had not developed an effective “exit strategy” under which U.S. troops could be withdrawn from Iraq after the war.

Opposition to a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was widespread among European political leaders, but with the United States still shaken by the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration won the domestic debate. In October 2002 the U.S. Congress voted to authorize the use of military force to defend the United States against “the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” The Bush administration had pushed for the vote to be held prior to congressional elections in November, which placed increased political pressure on the lawmakers to support military action against Iraq.

C International Debate


After receiving congressional support for military action against Iraq, the Bush administration turned to the UN. British prime minister Tony Blair, the White House's staunchest foreign ally in its campaign against Hussein, had urged Bush to seek UN approval. Blair believed that he needed UN backing in order to build support in Britain for the operation.

Most UN member states, however, hoped to avoid a conflict by pressuring Iraq to let UN inspectors return. On October 8 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1441, stating that Iraq was in “material breach of its obligations” for failing to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. The Security Council measure demanded that Iraq provide a complete accounting of its weapons programs and unrestricted access to all buildings, equipment, and records. The resolution also called for Iraq to allow UN inspectors to transport Iraqi scientists and their families outside of Iraq. That way the scientists would not be subject to intimidation by the Iraqi government when they were interviewed. In November Iraq agreed to allow inspectors to reenter the country and resume their work.

The UN inspections produced a mixed record. On one hand, Iraq granted access to former and suspected weapons sites that had previously been concealed. The Iraqi government also agreed to destroy certain missiles that were capable of hitting targets more than 150 km (90 mi) away (a range prohibited by previous disarmament agreements). On the other hand, Iraq did not facilitate private interviews with Iraqi scientists and weapon makers, and the government was not forthcoming about the details of its earlier weapons programs. In a February 28, 2003, report Hans Blix, the head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), concluded that Iraq had cooperated with the process for conducting inspections but had not provided sufficient information or tried hard enough to resolve the considerable uncertainties about the status of Iraq's weapons program.

The UN Security Council was sharply divided about what action to take next and faced an impasse. In order for a Security Council resolution to pass, 9 out of 15 members must vote for it. However, any of the 5 permanent members may veto it. The United States and Britain (permanent members of the Security Council) and Spain (a nonpermanent member) favored a second resolution that would have set a March 17, 2003, deadline for Iraq to disarm or face the consequences. But France, Russia, and China (permanent members) and Germany (nonpermanent member) were opposed, arguing that it was too soon to give up on the inspections. Most of the other nonpermanent members also opposed military action. The opposition of France and Germany, longtime U.S. allies, particularly troubled the Bush administration.

This was not the only foreign policy complication that the United States faced. The United States had hoped to open a northern front against Iraq from neighboring Turkey. The plan was to use Turkish soil as a staging area for a drive south by the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, which would complement a larger ground attack mounted from Kuwait, in the southeast. However, the newly elected Turkish government was reluctant to agree to this due to overwhelming opposition from the Turkish public. The United States offered $6 billion in grants and additional billions in credits if Turkey agreed to its plan, but Turkey's parliament rejected the plan. Turkey's decision represented a major setback for the Bush administration, not only because it interfered with U.S. military strategy. It also deprived the United States of the support of a largely Muslim nation, which would have helped lend additional credibility to an invasion of Iraq in the Islamic world.

D Last Moves


Faced with opposition in the Security Council and reluctance on the part of Turkey, the United States and Britain remained determined to take military action and assembled a coalition force in Kuwait. The coalition force consisted of a U.S. force that initially numbered about 200,000 personnel (eventually expanding to 290,000), as well as about 50,000 British personnel, about 2,000 Australian troops, and about 200 Polish soldiers. Allied military planners wanted to move quickly. A major factor was the weather: In the summer, the temperature in Iraq can soar to more than 50C (120F), a factor that would hamper military operations.

On March 17 Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his immediate family 48 hours to leave the country or face a military attack. Hussein, however, had no intention of leaving Iraq. He and his two sons, both powerful and feared members of the Iraqi administration, were determined to fight and seemed resolved to tie up invading forces in urban warfare. As UN weapons inspectors evacuated Iraq on March 18, UNMOVIC head Blix indicated that he believed the inspectors should have been given more time to investigate Iraq's weapons programs.

On March 19 the United States conducted an air strike in an attempt to kill Hussein. It involved an attack on the Dora Farms area of Baghd?d where Hussein was believed to be holding a meeting in a bunker. After the war the U.S. military determined that there was no bunker at this location.

The war began on March 20. The invasion of Iraq, dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the White House, was led by General Tommy Franks, then head of the U.S. Central Command.

III OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM


The military plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom differed from that for the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Unlike the Persian Gulf War, coalition military commanders did not plan for a long bombing campaign prior to introducing ground forces. The plan was for the air campaign and a ground attack to begin nearly simultaneously. In the 2003 war the United States also used a far smaller ground force than it used in 1991. When the war began, the coalition ground force consisted primarily of two U.S. Army divisions, a Marine Expeditionary Force, and a British Armored Division. This approach derived from a new way of thinking about warfare advocated by U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld sought to move away from the traditional U.S. war strategy of deploying huge numbers of infantry forces and tank columns to overwhelm the adversary. Instead, he envisioned a more mobile military that would use U.S. airpower to stagger the enemy. The strategy called for more flexible conventional forces and a larger role for special operations troops in winning battles on the ground. Theoretically, Rumsfeld's military would be more responsive to situations requiring U.S. military action.

Considerable debate about this approach took place among military specialists in the United States. It broke with the doctrine of overwhelming force used by U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell when he planned the Persian Gulf War as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 12 years earlier. As a result, some Persian Gulf War commanders asserted that the ground force was too small given the need to protect supply lines from Kuwait, secure Baghd?d, and occupy much of the country. Rumsfeld insisted the force was more than adequate since the coalition also had unrivaled control of the air, superior military technology, and, Rumsfeld assumed, the cooperation of much of the Iraqi population. The U.S. military made much greater use of precise, high-tech weaponry than in the Persian Gulf War. In 2003 it used satellite-guided bombs and advanced drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for reconnaissance. In addition, according to most reports, the Iraqi military had grown much weaker over the years, although it still consisted of about 400,000 soldiers.

To hedge their bets, U.S. military planners arranged for additional forces to flow into Kuwait as the battle began. These forces included the 1st Armored Division and the 4th Infantry Division, which the United States had originally hoped to deploy in Turkey. These units would act as reinforcements if the fighting proved to be tough or act as peacekeepers if a victory was quickly achieved.

After the March 19 bombing attack, which was intended to kill Hussein, Iraqi forces responded by firing surface-to-surface missiles at U.S. bases in Kuwait. Iraqis also set fire to a small number of oil wells in the Ar Rumaylah oil field in southeastern Iraq. Coalition officials were concerned that Iraq might set the entire oil field ablaze. This would have been a major setback for the coalition, which wanted to preserve Iraq's oil wells to benefit a future Iraqi government and to help pay for Iraq's reconstruction. As a result, plans for the allied ground invasion were advanced one day and took place on March 20 before the main air assault, which came a day later.

On the night of March 21, as coalition forces streamed into southern Iraq, the United States unleashed air strikes against Baghd?d. The air attack, referred to as a “shock-and-awe campaign,” was intended to provoke an Iraqi surrender early in the conflict. Bombs destroyed key targets in the capital, but the bombardment failed to lead to the collapse of the Hussein regime. Also on March 21, U.S. special operations forces seized two airfields in western Iraq in an effort to prevent the Iraqis from attacking Israel with Scud missiles, as they had done during the Persian Gulf War. The Bush administration feared that if Israel entered the war, it would be more difficult to maintain the quiet support of some Arab and Muslim nations. No Scud missiles were found.

A Southern Front


The initial goal of the U.S. Army ground force was to secure a bridge west of An N??ir?yah, in southern Iraq. After that, the Army planned to conduct a feint east of the Euphrates River to give the Iraqis the impression that the Army planned to advance up Iraqi highways 1 and 8, the major routes leading to Baghd?d. The main Army force, in fact, would stay well west of highways 1 and 8 and would advance toward the capital through the Karbal?' Gap, a narrow area west of the central Iraqi city of Karbal?'. U.S. Army forces involved in this phase of the invasion included the 3rd Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment. A portion of the 82nd Airborne was initially held back as a reserve but later committed to the Army attack.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Marines and British forces carried out a supporting attack to the east, in which they established control over the Ar Rumaylah oil field. The British took control of the port of Umm Qa?r and eventually the southern city of Al Ba?rah. The Marines were then to advance past An N??ir?yah on several courses before moving on Baghd?d.

A1 Expectations and Reality


Allied military strategy in Iraq was based on several expectations. All along, the intent of coalition commanders had been to bypass most of the major cities in the south and focus on taking Baghd?d, the seat of Hussein's power, where the regime appeared determined to make a final stand. Six of Hussein's elite Republican Guard divisions guarded the approaches to the city, while a division of the Special Republican Guards, among other security forces, protected its interior. Military planners expected that advancing forces would be met by grateful, cheering Iraqis, especially among the Shia Muslims of the south. In addition, coalition commanders also believed that Iraq would use chemical or biological weapons as U.S. troops closed in on Baghd?d. For this reason, U.S. soldiers had received vaccinations against smallpox and anthrax before the war and donned protective suits as they advanced.

None of these expectations proved accurate. The Hussein regime sought to block the coalition advance by ordering paramilitary-style attacks using fighters based in An N??ir?yah, An Najaf, and other southern towns. These irregular troops, in fact, played a more important role in Iraq's strategy than did the Republican Guard. The paramilitary's presence in the south, combined with the memory of the U.S. failure to support the 1991 Shia rebellion, discouraged the population there from welcoming coalition forces and rising up against Hussein. In addition, Iraqi forces never used chemical or biological weapons during the fighting, and none were found in the months following the war.

A2 Change in Tactics


The unexpected Iraqi strategy led to a change of tactics on the coalition side. The coalition decided that it needed to defeat the paramilitary forces in and around the southern cities before taking Baghd?d. This delayed for several days the push toward Baghd?d, but military officials said the step was necessary to protect the coalition's lengthening supply lines.

By and large, the coalition forces proved adept at urban warfare in the southern cities. But they faced setbacks and confusion. For example, an Army transportation unit lost its way and blundered into an enemy-controlled area of An N??ir?yah on March 23. After a firefight, 11 U.S. soldiers were killed and 6 captured. On March 29 a suicide bomber in the outskirts of An Najaf killed four U.S. soldiers. On March 31, near Karbal?', American soldiers fired on a van after it failed to slow down at a checkpoint, killing ten civilians, five of them children.

B Northern Front


Coalition forces were unable to invade northern Iraq from Turkey, but stabilizing the north was critical to the war's success. Kurdish forces, whose leaders pledged their support for the U.S. invasion, controlled much of the north.

On March 26 more than 1,000 American soldiers from the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted into northern Iraq. They quickly secured an airfield about 300 km (about 200 mi) north of Baghd?d. Controlling the airfield allowed the United States to use air transport to deploy tanks and other fighting vehicles in the area. The main aim was to stabilize the region and discourage ethnic violence and Turkish intervention. But the forces were also able to open a second, northern front.

Encountering very little resistance, Kurdish fighters and a small number of U.S. Special Operations forces took control of the northern city of Kirk?k on April 10. Iraqi army units retreated in the face of the coalition advance after confronting an uprising among the city's Kurds. Kurdish and U.S. forces continued to advance rapidly, taking Mosul, the largest city of the north, on April 11. In the absence of local government or police forces, Mosul descended into chaos, with rampant looting and violence.

C Fall of Baghd?d


In early April the U.S. force, its supply lines secured, moved in on Baghd?d. On April 4 Army forces seized Saddam International Airport, west of the city, and renamed it Baghd?d International Airport. On April 5 a battalion from the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division drove through Baghd?d in a raid. More than 1,000 Iraqis were reported killed during the operation, according to a U.S. estimate. On April 7 the 2nd Brigade attacked into central Baghd?d. The same day, U.S. B-1 bombers dropped four 900-kg (2,000-lb) bombs on a building in western Baghd?d where Hussein was believed to be hiding. Local residents later reported that neither Hussein nor his family were present at the time of the attack, which leveled the building and reportedly killed 14 civilians.

Nevertheless, Hussein's grip on power was gone. U.S. Marines arrived in Baghd?d on April 9 and helped Iraqi civilians tear down a massive statue of Saddam Hussein that towered over a major city square. Within a few days Marines captured Tikr?t, a city north of Baghd?d and Hussein's ancestral home, with little struggle.

With the fall of government control came widespread looting in many cities, particularly Baghd?d. Overstretched U.S. forces were unable to stop the looting, undermining two key aspects of U.S. strategy. First, while most Iraqis were glad to see Hussein deposed, the disorder and lack of services undermined popular support for U.S. intervention. In addition, the United States had limited its air strikes to avoid extensive damage to Iraq's electrical system and other infrastructures that would be needed for Iraq's recovery. But in the increasing chaos, many important infrastructures and related government offices were looted or destroyed. Iraqi saboteurs, presumably loyalists of Hussein's Baath Party, also attacked power plants, oil pipelines, and bridges. After the war, a document from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, dated January 23, was found in Al Ba?rah. It called for a guerrilla campaign of economic sabotage—against power plants, communication lines, water purification plants, and many more targets—in the event the regime was toppled. Coalition forces were also the targets of suicide bombings, sniper fire, and other acts of hostility.

President Bush declared an end to combat operations on May 1. Nevertheless, the guerrilla war against the coalition occupation continued.

IV AFTERMATH


Under the Bush administration's initial postwar plan, the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), a newly created Defense Department organization, was to oversee the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq. The organization had anticipated dealing with famine, refugees, and other humanitarian crises in Iraq—none of which emerged. Faced with continued hostilities and unexpected, severe problems in restoring electricity and oil production, it made modest progress toward rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure and political institutions. ORHA was soon replaced by a new organization, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which was headed by L. Paul Bremer III, a former counterterrorism official at the State Department.

Bremer made a number of controversial policy decisions. He dissolved the Iraqi army and organized a program to create a new Iraqi military, which was intended to be only 40,000-personnel strong after two years. Bremer also excluded about 30,000 former high-level Baath Party members from employment in the Iraqi public sector. Coalition officials said the move was necessary to break the Baath Party's hold on power once and for all, but critics said it was too sweeping and deprived the governing authority of experts needed to run the country. Eventually, the CPA made exceptions to the policy. Additionally, Bremer put off the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi governing authority. Bremer argued that a new constitution needed to be drawn up before elections could be organized for a new Iraqi government, which would control its own affairs.

As a temporary step, a 25-member Iraqi governing council was installed on September 1 with seats distributed among different religious and ethnic groups. However, the council had only limited authority, and the Iraqi ministries were supervised by a coalition adviser.

By September coalition forces had achieved considerable success in restoring order in and around the northern city of Mosul and across much of the south. But establishing order over the so-called Sunni Triangle, a central region that included Baghd?d and the areas that stretched north to Tikr?t and west to Ar Ram?d?, remained a challenge. Terrorist bombings became the weapon of choice for Iraqis who opposed the coalition occupation. In Baghd?d, car bombs ripped apart the Jordanian Embassy on August 7 and blew up the UN compound on August 19, killing Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN secretary general's special representative in Iraq. A car bomb attack in An Najaf on August 29 killed a leading Shia Muslim cleric who had cooperated with the U.S.-led occupation. The following month, gunmen killed a member of the governing council in an attack near her Baghd?d home.

During combat operations and in the subsequent months, U.S. and coalition forces succeeded in capturing or killing many of the leading members of Saddam Hussein's government. Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, were both killed in a July 22 firefight in Mosul. However, Saddam Hussein himself remained at large for months.

By the end of the summer of 2003, the Bush administration was faced with continued instability in Iraq and the prospect of a prolonged deployment of substantial U.S. forces. In September Bush requested from the U.S. Congress and subsequently received an additional $87 billion for combat and reconstruction, almost all of the money earmarked for Iraq. Bush also began a new effort to win UN backing for its occupation in the hope that more foreign nations might be encouraged to contribute troops. Concerned about the slow pace of the Iraqi governing council in drawing up a new constitution and the continued resistance, the Bush administration also changed its political strategy. Reversing course, in November the administration decided that a provisional government should be established prior to the drafting of a new constitution and nationwide elections.

Critics of the Bush and Blair administrations grew more vocal as months went by without coalition forces unearthing evidence of Iraq's alleged chemical or biological weapons stockpiles or its suspected program to develop nuclear weapons. A U.S. team called the Iraq Survey Group, which was charged with surveying Iraq's weapons programs, released an interim report in October stating that it had so far failed to find any chemical or biological weapons in Iraq, or any evidence that Iraq was actively developing nuclear weapons. The team's leader, David Kay, resigned in January 2004, telling a congressional committee that Iraq probably had no weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration also came under fire for Bush's assertion in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Hussein had attempted to buy uranium from Africa. In July 2003 the Bush administration admitted that the statement was inaccurate and based on forged documents. On September 17, 2003, Bush also conceded there was no evidence that the Iraqi regime had ties to al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Bush had previously linked al-Qaeda to the Hussein regime.

The coalition's morale lifted in December 2003 when U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein in a nighttime raid on a farmhouse near Tikr?t. Hiding in a small, underground chamber, the deposed leader was apprehended without a fight. Members of the Iraqi Governing Council pledged to try Hussein for crimes against humanity in a public trial. President Bush welcomed the end of “a dark and painful era” but cautioned that Hussein's capture did not mean an end to the violent insurgency against U.S. forces in Iraq.

As if to underscore that warning, the Iraqi insurgency staged its most violent attacks to date in April 2004. Following the killing and mutilation of four civilian U.S. contractors in the city of Al Fall?jah, the U.S. military laid siege to the city. The resulting conflict, which spread to other parts of Iraq and included an uprising of Shia Muslims led by the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, led to the deadliest month of the war for both sides. About 1,361 Iraqi civilians and 1,000 insurgents were killed, while 136 U.S. troops died in April.

Public opinion polls showed that a majority of Iraqis opposed the U.S. occupation and wanted U.S. troops to leave. Those poll numbers were expected to worsen following the disclosure that U.S. military and civilian personnel had abused some Iraqi prisoners by subjecting them to sexual humiliation and other acts of degradation.

United States military commanders announced in early May that they planned to keep about 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq until the end of 2005. The U.S.-led coalition remained largely intact with the exception of Spain, which began withdrawing its 1,300 troops in April 2004.

Contributed By:

Michael R. Gordon

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