Operation Iraqi Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom was the official military designation for the American-led invasion of Iraq, which began in 2003 and formally ended in 2011. The invasion began on 16 March 2003, after the administration of George W. Bush made substantial claims, largely proved to be false, that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government was partially responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and was holding weapons of mass destruction.
Many in the Bush Administration wanted to tie Hussein to al-Qaida, for various reasons. In late 2002, President Bush demanded that Iraq comply with UN resolutions demanding access to its weapons programs. Despite Iraq’s compliance with the UN, President Bush authorized Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, beginning a swift invasion, known as “shock and awe” that quickly toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime.
On May 1, 2003, President Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln to declare victory, the infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech. However, Iraq was soon to descend into total chaos and sectarian civil war. The Insurgency, characterized by guerrilla warfare, suicide attacks, and sabotage, required the United States to increase its military force in Iraq, and open warfare spread throughout Iraq well into 2007, when a troop surge was necessary to end the violence. It was not until 2009 that some success in ending the civil war allowed Operation Iraqi Freedom to wind down, with President Obama withdrawing combat forces at the end of 2011.