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2003 invasion of Iraq
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2003 invasion of Iraq

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

2003 Invasion of Iraq

Date

02:30 UTC March 20, 2003 – April 15, 2003

Place

Prelude

Mission

neutralizing weapons of mass destruction, deposition of Ba'ath Party regime government.

Targets

alleged weapons of mass destruction, President Saddam Hussein and his government cabinet/military officers.

Results

2003 occupation of Iraq.
Capture of Hussein & loyalists.
Opposing parties
Invaders Defendants
Coalition led by the United States of America Iraqi Army
Commands
General Tommy Franks
CENTCOM
Iraqi Republican Guard
Strength
250,000 troops 300,000 troops
Casualties
157 KIA (approximation), 4,524 U.S. troops wounded in action [1] an estimated 10.000 civilians [1], between 4,895 and 45,000 Iraqi soldiers, cf. Casualties in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq

The 2003 invasion of Iraq began on March 19, 2003, when forces belonging primarily to the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq. Ground forces from Australia and Poland and naval forces from Denmark and Spain also took part. After approximately three weeks of fighting, Iraq's Ba'athist government was toppled and a U.S.-led occupation of Iraq began. The international community was divided on the legitimacy of this invasion; see worldwide government positions on war on Iraq.

The start of hostilities came after the expiration of a 48-hour deadline which was set by U.S. President George W. Bush, demanding that Saddam Hussein and his two sons Uday and Qusay leave Iraq, ending the diplomatic Iraq disarmament crisis.

The US military operations in this war were conducted under the name of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The UK military operations in this war were conducted under the name of Operation Telic. The Australian codename was Operation Falconer.

250,000 United States troops, with support from approximately 45,000 British, 2,000 Australian and 200 Polish combat forces, entered Iraq primarily through their staging area in Kuwait. Plans for an invasion force from the north were abandoned when Turkey refused the use of their territory for such purposes. Coalition forces also supported Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 50,000. Included in these forces were groups of Australian SAS and Commando Personnel who performed Recon and combat search and rescue mission along side American and British SF units.

Table of contents
1 Timeline of the invasion
2 Events leading to the invasion
3 Invasion justification and goals
4 Support and opposition
5 Saddam's Family Whereabouts
6 Related slogans and terms
7 Media coverage
8 Iraq
9 War casualties
10 See also
11 External links and references
12 Related Amnesty International articles

Timeline of the invasion

See 2003 invasion of Iraq timeline for a detailed timeline

Prior to invasion, the United States and other coalition forces involved in the 1991 Gulf War had been engaged in a low-level conflict with Iraq, enforcing the Iraqi no-fly zones where Iraqi air-defense installations were engaged on a fairly regular basis. In mid-2002, the U.S. began to change its response strategy, more carefully selecting targets in the southern part of the country in order to disrupt the military command structure in Iraq. A change in enforcement tactics was acknowledged at the time, but it was not made public that this was part of a plan known as Operation Southern Focus.

The invasion was swift, with the collapse of the Iraq government and the military of Iraq in about three weeks. The oil infrastructure of Iraq was rapidly secured with limited damage in that time. Securing the oil infrastructure was considered important in order to prevent Saddam Hussein's forces from using it as a smokescreen to disguise the movement of his troops. The tactic was used in the first Gulf War, with the result many Iraqi soldiers were able to evade the US Airforce which was unwilling to fly through the smoke and attack ground troops. However the method used created many environmental problems.

Casualties of the invading forces were not limited to the Iraqi military as civilian men, women and children residents within the combat zones were also casualties but numbers are unknown, probably in the thousands. A study from the Project on Defense Alternatives [1], a Boston-based think tank, numbered the Iraqi casualties between 11,000 and 15,000 ( PDF file ), and the Iraq Body Count project estimated the number of civilian Iraqis injured at 20,000 [1]. However, the Iraq Body Count project's numbers have been the subject of much debate.

The U.S Third Division moved westward and then northward through the desert toward Baghdad, while the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and a UK expeditionary force moved northward through marshland. UK forces entered Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, following two weeks of conflict, although their control of the city was limited. Preexisting electrical and water shortages continued through the conflict and looting began as Iraqi forces collapsed. While British forces began working with local Iraqi Police to enforce order, humanitarian aid began to arrive from ships landing in the port city of Umm Qasr and trucks entering the country through Kuwait.

Landsat 7 image of Bagdad, April 2, 2003.]]

Three weeks into the invasion U.S. forces moved into Baghdad with limited resistance, Iraqi government officials either disappeared or conceded defeat. On April 9, 2003 Baghdad was formally secured by US forces and the regime of Saddam Hussein was declared to be ended. Saddam had previously vanished, and his whereabouts were unknown. Many Iraqis celebrated the downfall of Saddam by vandalizing his many portraits, statues and other pieces of his personality cult. One widely-publicized event was the dramatic toppling of a large statue of Saddam in central Baghdad by a US tank, while crowds of Iraqis apparently cheered the soldiers on. This event has been hotly disputed [1], with some pointing out that the flag placed over the face was one flown over the Pentagon on September 11th and appeared indicative of a staged event [1], and one picture from the event was allegedly doctored to make the crowd appear larger [1]. Wider shots of the square showed the crowd was quite sparse (less than two hundred individuals), and the area had been ringed off by US troops, suggesting the crowd consisted of hand-picked people. A recent internal study by the US Army confirms that the event was effectively stage-managed by a US psychological operations unit, and the decision to pull down the Saddam statue was taken by a Marine colonel.[1] General Tommy Franks assumed control of Iraq as Supreme commander of occupation forces.

Shortly after the sudden collapse of the defense of Baghdad, rumors were circulating in Iraq and elsewhere that there had been a deal struck (a "safqua") wherein the US had bribed key members of the Iraqi military elite and/or the Baath party itself to stand down.

In late May, 2003, Tommy Franks announced his retirement. Shortly thereafter, he confirmed in an interview with Defense Week that the US had paid Iraqi military leaders to defect. The extent of the defections and their effect on the war were not clear as of this writing (May 24, 2003).

Looting took place in the days following. It was reported that the National Museum of Iraq was amongst the looted sites. Many in the arts and antiquities communities briefed policymakers in advance of the need to secure Iraqi museums. Despite the looting being somewhat less worse than initially feared, the cultural loss of items from ancient Sumeria is significant. The idea that US forces did not guard the museum because they were guarding the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Interior is apparently true. According to U.S. officials the "reality of the situation on the ground" was that hospitals, water plants, and ministries with vital intelligence needed security more than other sites. There were only enough US troops on the ground to guard a certain number of the many sites that ideally needed protection, and so some "hard choices" were made.

The FBI was soon called into Iraq to track down the stolen items. It was found that the initial claims of looting of substantial portions of the collection were somewhat exaggerated and for months people have been returning objects to the museum. Yet, as some of the dust has settled, thousands of antiquities are still missing including dozens from the main collection.

There has been speculation that some objects still missing were not taken by looters after the war, but were taken by Saddam Hussein or his entourage before or during the fighting. There have also been reports that early looters had keys to vaults that held rarer pieces, and some have speculated as to the systematic removal of key artifacts.

In the north Kurdish forces under the command of U.S. Special Forces captured oil-rich Kirkuk on April 10. On April 15, U.S. forces mostly took control of Tikrit.

Coalition troops began searching for the key members of Saddam Hussein's regime. These individuals were identified by a variety of means, most famously through sets of most-wanted Iraqi playing cards.

On May 1, 2003 George W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, in a Lockheed S-3 Viking, where he gave a speech announcing the end of major combat operations in the Iraq war. Clearly visible in the background was a banner stating "Mission Accomplished". Bush's landing was criticized by opponents as an overly theatrical and expensive stunt by a chicken-hawk president. The banner, made by White House personnel (according to a CNN story [1] and placed there by the U.S. Navy, was criticized as premature - especially later as the guerrilla war dragged on.

It was soon found that "major combat" being over did not mean that peace had returned to Iraq. The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq was marked by ongoing violent conflict between the Iraqi resistance and the occupying forces. As of March 5, 2004, the total deaths of American soldiers as a direct result of the Iraq invasion, had reached over 500 mostly young men. Of these deaths the majority lost their lives after the so called end of major hostilities announced by president Bush on May 1. At the time there is growing concern being voiced from some in the U.S. comparing the situation to previous wars such as the Vietnam War.

The ongoing resistance in Iraq was concentrated in, but not limited to, an area referred to by Western media and the occupying forces as the Sunni triangle and Baghdad [1]. Critics point out that the regions where violence is most common are also the most populated regions. This resistance may be described as guerrilla warfare. The tactics is use were to include mortars, suicide bombers, roadside bombs, small arms fire, and RPGs, as well as purported sabotage against the oil infrastructure. There are also accusations about attacks toward the power and water infrastructure, but these are rather questionable in nature. In the only widely covered example of what some considered an attack on the power system, two US soldiers were killed, indicating that they may instead have been the target. In the purported attack against a water main, some witnesses reported seeing an explosion on the pipe, but US soldiers and repair crews on the scene stated that it did not appear to have been caused by an explosion.

There is evidence that some of the resistance was organized, perhaps by the fedayeen and other Saddam Hussein or Baath loyalists, religious radicals, Iraqis angered by the occupation, and foreign fighters. [1]

After the war, information began to emerge about several failed Iraqi peace initiatives, including offers as extensive as allowing 5,000 FBI agents in to search the country for weapons of mass destruction, support for the US-backed Roadmap For Peace, and the abdication of Saddam Hussein to be replaced under UN elections.

Events leading to the invasion

Since the end of the Gulf War of 1991, relations between the United States and Iraq remained poor. Hopes that Saddam Hussein's government would be overthrown from within had never come to pass, and fears that he was developing weapons of mass destruction in violation of UN Sanctions remained. In 1998 the United States Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act which stated "It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." During the Clinton administration, economic sanctions against Iraq were used to pressure the Iraqi regime.

The Republican Party's campaign platform in the U.S. presidential election, 2000 called for "full implementation" of the act and removal of Saddam Hussein with a focus on rebuilding a coalition, tougher sanctions, reinstating inspections, and support for the pro-democracy, opposition exile group, Iraqi National Congress.

In September 2000, in the Rebuilding America's Defenses report [1], the conservative Project for the New American Century thinktank advocated that the United States take a stronger military position against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Upon the election of George W. Bush as president, many hawkish advocates of such a policy (including some of those who wrote the 2000 report) were included in the new administration's foreign policy circle. According to former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, the attack was planned since the inauguration, and the first security council meeting discussed plans on invasion of the country. One year later, on the day of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is reported to have written in his notes, "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]". Shortly thereafter, the George W. Bush administration announced a War on Terrorism, accompanied by the doctrine of preemptive military action dubbed the Bush doctrine. At some point after September 11th, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States that Iraq was planning terrorist attacks in the US. In 2002 the Iraq disarmament crisis arose primarily as a diplomatic situation. In October 2002, the United States Congress granted President Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq. The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq was worded so as to encourage, but not require, UN Security Council approval for military action. In November 2002, United Nations actions regarding Iraq culminated in the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and the resumption of weapons inspections. The United States also began preparations for an invasion of Iraq, with a host of diplomatic, public relations and military preparations.

Invasion justification and goals

The stated justification for the invasion included Iraqi production and use of weapons of mass destruction, links with terrorist organizations and human rights violations in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein government. To that end, the stated goals of the invasion, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were to:

Many of the so-called neo-conservatives within the Bush administration had other, more ambitious goals for the war as well. Many hoped that the war could act as a catalyst for democracy and peace in the Middle East, and that once Iraq became democratic and prosperous other nations would quickly follow suit, and thus the social environment that allowed terrorism to flourish would be eliminated. U.S. officials frequently alleged ties between Iraq and al Qaeda, but little evidence was presented. Much of that evidence turns out to have been misinformation coming from several sources, most notably an associate of Ahmed Chalabi who was given the code name "Curveball" and captured al Qaeda leader Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. The Chalabi source has been thoroughly discredited, and the al Qaeda source has since recanted his story. Other al Qaeda leaders have confirmed that there was no operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, and indeed that Osama bin Laden had forbidden such a relationship with the Iraqi leader, whom he considered an infidel.

Ultimately, however, the war was presented as largely being a case of removing banned weapons from Iraq. Administration officials, especially with the United States Department of State led by Colin Powell were eager to make the cause for war as universally acceptable to as many nations as possible. Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense stated in an interview on May 28, 2003 in Vanity Fair that 'For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction'.

No weapons of mass destruction were found by the Iraq Survey Group, headed by inspector David Kay. Kay, who resigned as the Bush administration's top weapons inspector in Iraq, said U.S. intelligence services owed President Bush an explanation for having concluded that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. [1] However, the team claims to have found evidence of low-level WMD programs - a claim hotly disputed by many, with the Biosecurity Journal referring to the BW claims as a "worst case analysis" [1].

Documents that have turned up indicate that the Baath party was attempting to distance itself from jihadi fighters instead of working with them [1], and that any connection is new. The Bush administration has argued that the invasion was still justified, and that accomplishments of the invasion include the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government, the capture of former Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas, and securing of Iraq's oil fields and resources. Also included in the list of postwar justifications is Libya's agreement to abandon its WMD programs, but Flynt Leverett (former senior director for Middle Eastern Affairs at the NSC) and Martin S. Indyk (former Clinton administration official) argue that the agreement was a result of good-faith negotiations. Libya had agreed to surrender its programs in 1999.

The Iraq Survey Group under Bush-appointed inspector David Kay in October reported discovering the following key points: "We have not yet found stocks of weapons", difficulty in explaining why, clandestine laboratories suitable for "preserving BW expertise" which contained equipment subject to UN monitoring, a prison laboratory complex which Kay describes as "possibly used in human testing of BW agents", strains of bacteria kept in one scientists home (including a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B), 12-year old documents and small parts concerning uranium enrichment kept found in a scientist's home [1], partially declared UAVs, capability to produce a type of fuel useful for SCUD missiles, a scientist who had drawn plans for how to make longer-range missiles [1], and attempts to acquire missile technology from North Korea, and destroyed documents of unknown significance. [1]. Most topics concerning biological agents are discussed as "BW-applicable" or "BW-capable"; the report mentions nothing that was being used in such a context. Chemical weapons are referred to in a similar fashion. The nuclear program, according to the report, had not done any work since 1991, but had attempted to retain scientists and documentation from it in case sanctions were ever dropped.

However, Kay himself has since stated (concerning Iraqi WMDs): "We were almost all wrong - and I certainly include myself here", and has since been in the media trying to explain why the US believed Iraq was a threat when it actually had minimal to no programs (let alone weapons) concerning weapons of mass destruction. He has stated that many intelligence analysts have come to him "in apology that the world we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed" [1]. He has also directly contradicted since then much of the October report. David Kay is a Republican who donated money to both the RNC and the campaign of president George W. Bush. Before David Kay came out about this, many of his scientists had already done so. [1].

Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his oral report the following though: "Based on the intelligence that existed, I think it was reasonable to reach the conclusion that Iraq posed an imminent threat. Now that you know reality on the ground as opposed to what you estimated before, you may reach a different conclusion — although I must say I actually think what we learned during the inspection made Iraq a more dangerous place, potentially, than, in fact, we thought it was even before the war."

Dr. Kay's team has established that the Iraqi regime had the production capacity and know-how to produce a great deal more chemical and biological weaponry when international economic sanctions were lifted, a policy change which was actively being sought by France, Germany and Russia.

The current situation concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction seems similar to that portrayed by Hussein Kamel in 1995 and that of Imad Khadduri [1], that Iraq had almost completely destroyed its programs, but sought to retain as much knowledge and information that, should sanctions ever end, the programs would not have to start over from scratch.

After the fall of Baghdad, U.S. officials claimed that Iraqi officials were being harbored in Syria, and several high-ranking Iraqis have since been detained after being expelled from Syria.

When the debate about the justification resumed given that no weapons of mass destructions were found, it was argued that the invasion was however justified because of human rights abuses committed by Saddam Hussein. Critics raise the question why the US government did not do much to prevent or to punish those crimes when they happened but use them years later for a war initially explained with different reasons. The use of chemical weapons against Kurds in 1983 was known by US intelligence, Donald Rumsfeld, at the time presidential envoy of Ronald Reagan, however spoke of "his close relationship" with Saddam Hussein at that time and visited him. After the Gulf War the US government encouraged rebellions by the Shiites but did not intervene when Hussein crushed the rebels. [1] [1]

Human Rights Watch has issued a report stating that the justification of "human rights" for the war does not meet appropriate standards for the level of suffering that it causes in the case of Iraq even.

The United Nations announced a report on March 2nd, 2004 from the weapons inspection teams stating that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction of any significance after 1994. [1]

Support and opposition

See Support and opposition for the 2003 invasion of Iraq for the full article.

The Bush administration claimed that the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq included 49 nations, a group that was frequently referred to as the "coalition of the willing". These nations provided combat troops, support troops, and logistical support for the invasion. The nations contributing combat forces were, roughly: United States (250,000), United Kingdom (45,000), Australia (2,000), Denmark (200), and Poland (54). Ten other countries were known to have offered small numbers of noncombat forces, mostly either medical teams and specialists in decontamination. In several of these countries a majority of the public was opposed to the war. In Spain polls reported at one time a 90% opposition to the war.

Popular opposition to war on Iraq led to global protests, and the war was criticized by Belgium, Russia, France, the People's Republic of China, Germany, Switzerland, The Vatican, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico, the Arab League, the African Union and others.

There is a controversy about the question whether the US intervention broke international law. The Bush administration thinks that the UN Security Council Resolutions authorizing the 1991 invasion gave legal authority to use "...all necessary means...", which is diplomatic code for going to war. This war ended with a cease fire instead of a permanent peace treaty. Their view was that Iraq had violated the terms of the ceasefire by breaching two key conditions and thus made the invasion of Iraq a legal continuation of the earlier war. To support this stance, one has to "reactivate" the war resolution from 1991; if a war resolution can be reactivated ten years after the fact, it would imply that almost any nation that has ever been at war that ended in a ceasefire (such as Korea) could have the war restarted if any other nation felt at any time that they were no longer meeting the conditions of the ceasefire that ended that war. Since the majority of the United Nations security council members (both permanent and rotating) did not support the attack, it appears that they viewed the attack as not being valid under the 1991 resolution.

Resolution 1441, drafted and accepted unanimously the year before the invasion, threatened "serious consequences" to Iraq in case Iraq did not comply with all conditions. Russia, People's Republic of China, and France made clear in a joint statement that this did not authorize the use of force but a further resolution was needed.

Several nations say the attack violated international law as a war of aggression since it lacked the validity of a U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize military force. The Egyptian former United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali called the intervention a violation of the UN charter.

The United States and United Kingdom claim it was a legal action which they were within their rights to undertake. Along with Poland and Australia, the invasion was supported by the governments of several European nations, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, and Spain. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said U.S. military could not use Saudi Arabia's soil in any way to attack Iraq. [1] After ten years of U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, cited among reasons by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden for his al-Qaeda attacks on America on September 11, 2001, most of U.S. forces were withdrawn in 2003. [1] According to the New York Times, the invasion secretly received support from Saudi Arabia, which provided some airbases and tens of millions of dollars in discounted oil, gas, and fuel. [1]

Many people regarded the attack on Iraq to be hypocritical, when other nations such as Israel are also in breach of UN resolutions and have nuclear weapons; this argument is controversial [1], as Iraq's history of actually using chemical weapons (against Iran and the Kurdish population in Iraq) suggested at the time that Iraq was a far greater threat. Some claim, however, that this in turn is hypocritical, since the USA delivered the chemicals in the first place, even when well aware of what it was being used for. It is questionable whether these crimes were a mere excuse for the war so many years later and given that no weapons of mass destruction can be found.

Although Iraq was known to have pursued an active nuclear weapons development program previously, as well tried to procure materials and equipment for their manufacture, these weapons and material have yet to be discovered. This casts doubt on some of the accusations against Iraq, despite previous UN assertions that Iraq likely harbored such weapons, and that Iraq failed to document and give UN inspectors access to areas suspected of illegal weapons production. However, some believe that the weapons were moved into Syria and Lebanon.

In a poll conducted by western media 51% of Iraqis stated they opposed the foreign forces occupying Iraq, while 39% supported it. Over 65% of the 2,500 Iraqis polled said that their lives were better than before the war. 48% of Iraqis felt that the U.S.-led coalition was right to invade, compared with 39% said it was wrong. People were evenly divided on whether the invasion had humiliated or liberated Iraq. More than 40% said they had no confidence whatsoever in the British and U.S. forces, and 51% opposed the presence of any coalition forces in Iraq. Nearly 20% said attacks on foreign forces were acceptable, 14% said the same about attacks on the civilian administrators of the Coalition Provisional Authority and 10% on foreigners working with the CPA. A narrow majority said life was better without Saddam. [1] [1]

In January 25, 2004, al Mada, a daily newspaper in Iraq, published a list of individuals and organizations who it says received oil sales contracts via the UN's Oil for Food program, from the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein. The list, which has caused the launch of a United Nations investigation on the Oil for food program, has raised many concerns due to its similarity to other forgeries to come out of Iraq since last May. There has long been speculation from conservative circles and anecdotal evidence that the Oil For Food program was being mismanaged and used to buy Hussein's regime covert international support and increase his personal fortune.

Saddam's Family Whereabouts

Saddam Hussein was captured on December 13, 2003 by the U.S Army's 4th Infantry Division during Operation Red Dawn. His sons Uday and Qusay were killed earlier in 2003 during a raid by the U.S 101st Airborne Division.

Related slogans and terms

This campaign has featured a variety of new and weighted terminology, much coined by the U.S. government and then repeated by the media. The name "Operation Iraqi Freedom", for example, expresses one viewpoint of the purpose of the invasion. Also notable was the exclusive usage of "regime" to refer to the Saddam Hussein government (see also regime change), and "death squads" to refer to fedayeen paramilitary forces. Members of the Saddam government were called by disparaging nicknames - e.g., "Chemical Ali" (Ali Hassan al-Majid), "Comical Ali" (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf), "Mrs Anthrax" (Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash) - for propaganda purposes and because Western peoples are unfamiliar with Arabic names.

Other terminology introduced or popularized during the war include:

Many slogans and terms coined have come to be used against the Bush administration in the 2004 United States Presidential election, especially by online media.

Media coverage

Main article: 2003 invasion of Iraq media coverage

Media coverage of this war was different in certain ways from that of the Gulf War. The Pentagon established the policy of "embedding" reporters with military units. Viewers in the United States were able to watch U.S. tanks rolling into Baghdad live on television, with a split screen image of the Iraqi Minister of Information claiming that U.S. forces were not in the city. Many foreign observers of the media and especially the television coverage in the USA felt that it was excessively partisan and in some cases "gung-ho".

Another difference was the wide and independent coverage in the World Wide Web demonstrating that for web-surfers in rich countries and the elites in poorer countries, the Internet has become mature as a medium, giving about half a billion people access to different versions of events.

However, the coverage itself was intrinsically biased by the fact that Internet penetration in Iraq was already very weak (estimate of 12,000 users in Iraq in 2002 [1]), and the deliberate destruction of Iraqi telecommunication facilities by US forces made internet communication even more difficult. Different versions of truth by people who have equal ignorance of first-hand, raw data are by definition a very biased substitute for original, first-hand reports from people living locally. The World Wide Web did deliver some first-hand reports from bloggers such as Salam Pax.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network, which was formed in 1996, gained a lot of worldwide attention for its coverage of the war. Their broadcasts were popular in much of the Arab world, but also to some degree in western nations, with major American networks such as CNN and MSNBC re-broadcasting some of their coverage. Al-Jazeera was well-known for their graphic footage of civilian casualties, which American news media branded as overly sensationalistic. The English website of Al-Jazeera was brought down during the middle of the Iraq war by hackers who saw its coverage as casting a negative view on the American cause. Al-Jazeera continues to report alleged atrocities by American troops.

Many individuals have claimed that European coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was not as unbiased as leading European press agencies led their readers and viewers to believe, pointing out that while people in the US were generally not too terribly surprised by the swift victory of the Coalition over the Iraqi army, most people in Europe and the Middle East were dumbfounded that despite a steady stream of negative press coverage on the Coalitions successes, the Iraqi army was defeated in just over three weeks. Military leaders shut off the BBC connection to the HMS Ark Royal after grumbling among sailors that it was biased in favor of Iraqi reports. [1]

Last December, after Saddam Hussein's capture, the BBC issued a directive to all of its journalists that Saddam Hussein no longer be refereed to as the "former Dictator" and be refereed to as the "deposed former president" in all news stories. The BBC’s reasoning for this was because Hussein had been elected with over 99% of the votes, it would not be accurate to refer to him as a dictator, since according to the BBC, he was the elected president of Iraq.

French journalist Alain Hertoghe published a book accusing the French press in particular and the European press in general of not being objective in its coverage of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Hertoghe's book, La Guerre a Outrances (The War of Outrages), criticizes French press coverage of the war as being pessimistic of the US led Coalition's chance of success and continually focusing on challenges faced during the invasion. Hertoghe also claims in his book that the European media became so wrapped up in its own particular biases against the United States that they fed disinformation to their readers and viewers and misled them as to the unfolding events. The European coverage's concerns about the military becoming bogged down in Iraq and the war ending badly seem to have come true, at least for the time being. Since being published, Hertoghe has been fired from his position at French newspaper La Croix and only one major French newspaper has written a review for his book.

International initiatives such as http://amor.cms.hu-berlin.de/~h0444e1w/massmail.htm protested against the U.S. media for downplaying and misinterpreting protests as antiamericanism and accused them of foul language such as calling Chirac "A balding Joan of Arc in drag", the French "frogeating weasels" (New York Post) or stating that "Chirac and his poodle Putin have severely damaged the United Nations". Questions are also raised about U.S. media coverage given that in the U.S. pre-war polls showed that a majority of the population believed that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks although none of the terrorists was Iraqi and no proofs of an Iraqi connection to the attack are known.

Many protesters did display hostile attitudes toward both the United States and Israel and many Arab and Mid Eastern showed overt sympathies towards Saddam Hussein.

Peter Arnett, who had won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1966 for his coverage of the war in Vietnam was fired by MSNBC and National Geographic after he had declared in an interview with the Iraqi information ministry that he believed the U.S. strategy of "shock and awe" had failed. He also went on to tell Iraqi State TV that he had told "Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government, and the willingness to fight for their country", and that reports from Baghdad about civilian casualties had helped antiwar protesters undermine the Bush administration's strategy. The interview was given 10 days before the fall of Baghdad, more than 500 US soldiers have since been killed, in addition to over 18,000 medical evacuations for 11,700 patients [1].

On April 2, 2003, in a speech given by British Home Secretary David Blunkett while in New York City, Blunkett also commented on what he believed to be sympathetic and corrupt reporting of Iraq by Arab news sources. He told the audience that "It's hard to get the true facts if the reporters of Al Jazeera are actually linked into, and are only there because they are provided with facilities and support from the regime." This statement caused editorials in British left-wing newspapers calling for Blunkett's resignation.

Iraq

War casualties

See also

External links and references

Related Amnesty International articles

Amnesty International Report on Iraq