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The American ultimatum, demanding the departure of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, expired in the early hours of March 20, 2003, but there was silence in Baghdad.

“Let’s go!”: 10,000 kilometers further from the White House, George W. Bush gave the order to launch the operation against Saddam Hussein and immediately a cloud of cruise missiles hit a quarter of the Iraqi capital.

Shock and Awe»

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At 05:35 local time the war began with the Code name: “Iraqi Freedom” and the tactics of “sok and awe” – the “rapid capture tactic” with the participation of an overwhelming military force that, with a spectacular display, directly demoralizes the opponent on the battlefields.

About 150,000 Americans and 40,000 Britons had been deployed to Iraq for Operation Lightning, which sparked protests in many Western capitals.

Three weeks were enough to capture Baghdad on April 9. A preventive war, which the Americans and British justified by claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), biological, chemical or nuclear. These were never found.


Iraqi air defenses responded to the first US and British bombings. Within an hour the sky had turned into a ball of fire.

On television, Hussein, in military uniform and a black beret, calls on Iraqis to “resist the invaders.”

In the evening tens of thousands of American and British soldiers enter Iraq from the south, through Kuwait.

Twenty-four hours later, the bombings are relentless, including the presidential palace.

Land advance

On March 25, about 4,000 Marines reach the city of Nasiriyah, a crucial stage on the road to Baghdad, 370 kilometers away, crossing the Euphrates River after heavy fighting.

Six days later US soldiers clashed with Iraqi Republican Guard units near the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

They occupy the international airport of Baghdad on April 4 and on the 7th of the same month they reach the heart of the regime, occupying three presidential palaces.

The regime is collapsing

On April 9, the regime collapses. One image remains in everyone’s memory: the toppling of the huge statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad.

After a US armored personnel carrier pulls it off its plinth, dozens of Iraqis trample the statue in front of television cameras from around the world.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared this event to “the fall of the Berlin Wall”. Residents of Baghdad tell stories about the “torturer” Hussein.

Scenes of chaos

Baghdad descends into chaos. People are looting ministries, houses of officials, taking whatever they find. The national museum, where 7,000 years of history were kept, was not spared.

Kirkuk and Mosul, cities in northern Iraq, fall without much resistance to the Kurds, who then withdraw in favor of the Americans. Then Tikrit, 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, Hussein’s stronghold, surrenders.

On May 1, the American president declares “the end of the fighting”, but the “war on terror” continues.

Saddam in a basement

Until then, no one had located Saddam Hussein. Washington claimed him in July for $25 million.

After a nine-month manhunt, Hussein, who ruled by terror for 24 years, was captured on December 13, 2003, hiding in the basement of a farm near Tikrit.

“We have him,” said the head of the US civilian administration in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

In the video, Hussain appears with a scruffy and tired face, with a beard. He was tried and convicted and executed by hanging in late 2006.

Weapons of mass destruction

In early October 2003, David Kay, head of the US mission to investigate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, states that no such weapons have been found.

Accusations of intelligence manipulation are mounting against Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

And when American forces complete their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, after eight years and nine months of presence in the country, the toll is enormous: years of international war, fighting in the streets of Fallujah, atrocities against prisoners at Abu Ghraib …

From 2003 to 2011 more than 100,000 civilians were killed, according to the organization Iraq Body Count, with the US reporting nearly 4,500 deaths in its ranks.