- Sputnik International, 1920
20 Years Since US Invasion of Iraq
In March of 2003, the US, aided by the UK, invaded Iraq, having accused the country’s leader Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction. US-led forces swiftly overran and occupied Iraq but, despite searching, no WMDs were found and the country was plunged into chaos for years to come.

How Saddam Hussein’s Execution Scarred Iraq and Changed US Foreign Policy Forever

© AP Photo / Chris HondrosIn this Dec. 6, 2006 file photo, former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein sits in court in Baghdad, Iraq, during the "Anfal" trial against him
In this Dec. 6, 2006 file photo, former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein sits in court in Baghdad, Iraq, during the Anfal trial against him - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2022
Friday marks the anniversary of the December 30, 2006 execution of Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader reviled by Iranians for his 1980s war of aggression, but respected by many Iraqis for standing up to Western imperialism. How did Hussein’s hanging by the American occupation regime affect Iraq and alter US foreign policy? Sputnik explains.
“Long live the people! Long live the Arab nation! Long Live the Ummah! Damn sellout dogs like you! Let the traitors be devastated! God is great!...<>…The end is near, you will see. This homeland is ours!...Don’t think this is over. This is just the beginning!”
President Saddam Hussein in 2002 - Sputnik International
Saddam Hussein
Former President of Iraq
Those were the words shouted by Saddam Hussein on November 5, 2006 as a judge read out a verdict finding him guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide for the Iraqi government’s execution of 148 Shiite rebels in Dujail, Iraq in July 1982 in response to an attempt on Hussein’s life.
Hussein remained obstinate, sarcastic and uncooperative throughout the October 2005-December 2006 trial, insisting that he was the constitutionally-elected president of Iraq, and saying he didn’t "recognize the body that designated and authorized" the trial, "nor the aggression" behind it. Hussein repeatedly laughed in the judge’s face, and compared the Dujail incident to the US crackdown on Fallujah in 2004, which a defense witness said had been “wiped off the map” after four Americans were killed by insurgents.
Hussein’s execution was hailed by US and European media as an "end to an era" for Iraq, a “grim end for the 69-year-old leader who had vexed three US presidents” and “ruled Iraq in a reign of fear for three decades.”

Iraq Destabilized

But whatever personal gratification President George W. Bush and his staff may have felt during that moment – which marked the culmination of the US war on Iraq begun under Bush’s father, it didn’t provide any long-term sense of solace to ordinary Iraqis, nor to the US occupation forces who were facing the worst period insurgency since the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. The Pentagon closed out 2006 as one of its bloodiest years in US history, with 823 troops killed, and 904 more the following year. By the time the US withdrew from Iraq in 2011, some 4,492 troops were dead, 32,222 injured, and tens of thousands more left with debilitating psychological problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation. A devastating 2021 study found that some 30,177 US active-duty troops and Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had taken their own lives between 2001 and 2021.
As for Iraqi casualties, they were so severe that fierce debate over their scale continues to this day, with estimates ranging from 461,000 to over one million. For perspective, Iraq had a total pre-war population of 25.6 million people. The ‘shock and awe’ invasion, combined with fierce fighting between US forces and pro-Saddam Baath Party loyalists, plus Sunni and Shia insurgents (who also fought and ethnically cleansed each other), forced up to six million people to flee their homes, with Iraq’s already weakened pre-war infrastructure turned into rubble and tens of thousands of homes destroyed or severely damaged. Hospitals and schools were left without running water, the electricity grid and sanitation networks were smashed, and the country suffered outbreaks of cholera, typhoid and other deadly diseases.
US Use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq War Resulting in Civilian Contamination – NGO Report

Middle East Destabilized

“Obviously, the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, alright?...We spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives, we don’t even have it. Iran is taking over Iraq with the second largest oil reserves in the world. Obviously it was a mistake. George Bush made a mistake. We can make mistakes, but that one was a beauty. We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East,” then-presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a debate with Jeb Bush during the 2016 race.
Donald Trump - Sputnik International
Donald Trump
Former President of the United States
Love him or hate him, on this issue, the real estate mogul was right. The collapse of the centralized government in Iraq, made worse by the US’s decision to dismantle all Baath-led institutions, including the military and police, sparked an insurgency that would mutate into Daesh (ISIS)*, a fanatical Sunni militia challenging al-Qaeda* as the Middle East’s top terror group. Between 2013-2014, Daesh spread across much of western Iraq, made its way into northeastern Syria, and gained a foothold, or individual militants pledging allegiance to the group in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Turkey, Egypt, France, and much of North and West Africa, including Nigeria.
It took the combined military and intelligence capabilities of the Syrian and Iraqi governments, Russian and Iranian airpower/advisors, Hezbollah fighters, and US coalition forces to push the terrorists back.
The war against Daesh displaced over ten million Syrian and Iraqi civilians, with over 45,000 civilians in the two countries killed – up to 13,000 of them in US-led coalition airstrikes, and the humanitarian situation in both countries deteriorating further.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared final victory over Daesh in December 2017, with Trump proclaiming victory over the terrorists in Syria in December 2018 and announcing a withdrawal (which never took place).
Temple in Hatra - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.09.2022
Iraq’s Ancient Hatra Ruins Reopen for First Tourists Since Daesh Rule Amid Instability

How Iraq Forced US to Change Its Policy

Saddam Hussein’s “This is just the beginning!” cry during his verdict proved prophetic. Since the Iraq invasion, his ouster and public execution, the US never again launched a large-scale invasion of another country. Instead, Washington has shifted its operations to large-scale bombings (Libya in 2011), drone strikes (Yemen from 2002-2020), funding terrorist insurgencies and proxy armies (Syria, Ukraine), fomenting color revolutions and coups (2000 to present in countries including Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Myanmar, Tunisia, Egypt, and Bolivia), and limited, often secret, troop deployments.
Things could have been much worse. Had the Iraq War become the resounding success the Bush White House hoped it would be, it’s entirely possible that the invasion of the ancient Mesopotamian cradle of civilization may have turned out to be just a stepping stone in a strategy to endow the US with total control over the entire Middle East.
“About ten days after 9/11 I went to the Pentagon and saw Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary [of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people in the Joint Staff who used to work for me and one of the generals called me in and said ‘sir you gotta come in and talk to me a second…We’ve made the decision, we’re going to war with Iraq’. This was on or about the 20th of September,” former US Army general and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Wesley Clark recalled in an interview in 2007.
“I said ‘well did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda? ‘No, no,’ he says, ‘there’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.’ He said ‘I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists but we got a good military and we can take down governments,’” the retired officer continued.
“I came back to see him a few weeks later and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan and I said ‘are we still going to war with Iraq?’ and he said ‘oh it’s worse than that.’ He reached over on his desk and picked up a piece of paper and said ‘I just got this down from upstairs,’ (meaning secretary of defense’s office) today, and said ‘this is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finishing off – Iran,” Clark said.
General Wesley Clark - Sputnik International
Wesley Clark
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Given the human carnage, material devastation and geopolitical dislocation which rocked Iraq and the broader Middle East as a result of the US invasion in our timeline, it can only be imagined how much worse things would have been had Iraq fallen easily and the Bush administration proceeded with the rest of its playbook.
* Terrorist Groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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