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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

6 - The Third Iraq War, 2003–? – A Revolution Denied?


Liberation to Occupation

On May 1, 2003, President Bush, wearing full flight gear, made a dramatic landing on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln off the California coast to declare the end of major combat operations in Iraq. The setting was stirring, the sailors applauded, and the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner hung prominently in the background. Although careful to warn that work remained, Bush's message was clear: the difficult part of Operation Iraqi Freedom was over. Saddam had been deposed and few Americans lost their lives in bringing him down. There was every reason to think the troops would start to come home before long. No one on that deck would have predicted that American forces would still be fighting in Baghdad half a decade later.

Two weeks later, Paul Bremer, the former diplomat Rumsfeld tapped to head the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), arrived in Baghdad and began issuing a series of controversial orders. The first related to the “de-Baathification of Iraqi society” and eliminated tens of thousands of Baath Party members from positions throughout the government, regardless of whether they were oil ministry engineers, hospital administrators, or university professors. The second order followed a week later and disbanded the Iraqi Army and much of country's police and internal security forces. Although precise numbers are difficult to verify, Bremer's orders left several hundred thousand Iraqis, many with military training and weapons, jobless and angry. Both orders surprised military commanders in Iraq, many of whom objected strenuously.

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