Skip to main content

Marking 20 Years Since the Invasion of Iraq

Front page of the New York Times on March 20, 2003

In March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq based on a web of lies spun by President George W. Bush. Americans expected to find weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, as well as a program to develop nuclear weapons. After years of searching, inspectors determined that Iraq in fact did not have any weapons of mass destruction and no concrete plans to develop them.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University recently estimated 550,000 to 580,000 people have been killed by the war in Iraq and Syria since 2003, and "several times as many may have died due to indirect causes such as preventable diseases." There are also approximately 15 million Iraqis and Syrians currently displaced by the war.

The US and Canada still have troops stationed in Iraq. Yesterday the Canadian government extended its military mission in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon for another 2 years. Canadian troops will remain in the Middle East until at least March 2025.

This month Americans, Iraqis, Canadians, and many others commemorated the 20th anniversary of the US invasion. Here is how researchers and journalists analyzed the war and its legacy after 20 years:

The Toronto Star:
"If there were any justice in this world, Bush, Cheney, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz (and hundreds of others) would have been tried - and likely convicted - of war crimes."

Video: WMD inspector says Bush should have faced war crimes court over Iraq invasion
Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix drew two parallels between the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2021. First, "both were totally illegal" under international law. Second, both Bush and Putin "ignored the facts" when making their decisions to invade.

The New York Times:
Video: Iraq War Veterans, 20 Years Later: ‘I Don’t Know How to Explain the War to Myself’
One veteran told the New York Times, "I was just thinking, what the f*** am I doing here? And that question never went away."

USA Today:
On the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, these photos tell the story of the war
According to the American government's WMD Commission report, the lead-up to the Iraq War was “one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history.”

Al Jazeera:
How the US and UK tried to justify the invasion of Iraq
"20 years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the question of whether the invasion of Iraq was the product of the wilful deception of US, UK and other voters, wrongful intelligence or a strategic calculus is still a matter of debate."

Video: How the US invasion shaped Iraq
"The Iraq war started a cycle of violence and instability that persists to this day."

Video: Iraq War veteran condemns US-led invasion
"Twenty years after the invasion of Iraq, a former US soldier who took part reflects on its legacy, as the effects of war and occupation are still felt throughout the region."

Reason Magazine:
"Mendacious in its beginnings, incompetent in its aftermath, and downright criminal in the death and civilizational wreckage it caused, the Iraq War was a catastrophe America has not yet properly reckoned with."

"When did the war in Iraq end? Or are we right to speak of it entirely in the past tense?"

"Twenty years after American troops invaded Iraq and embarked on a costly war this country came to regret, the U.S. is again flirting with international conflict - this time with Russia and China."

"What happened on March 20, 2003 wasn’t a 'mistake.' It wasn’t well-intentioned but 'unwise.' It was a calculated, premeditated crime perpetrated on a massive scale. Thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in a war premised on transparently nonsensical lies."

"Iraqis generally understood the invasion for what it was, an attempt by an outside country to dominate them. And inevitably, many Iraqis fought back, creating the long term context of violence that’s been seen in the country since then. So it’s not just that there were policy mistakes, but that the invasion itself had certain more or less inevitable consequences, which were going to lead to long-term violence."

Responsible Statecraft:
"It is difficult to find any measure by which life in Iraq has improved over the last 20 years... Once a regional leader in medicine and education, Iraq has now fallen far behind most of its neighbors. A recent poll found that 37 percent of Iraqis want to emigrate, and 81 percent say their country is headed in the wrong direction."

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute:
"As the months went by, we watched them repeat stories about Iraqi WMDs and covert WMD programmes that we knew to be false - and that we had even specifically debunked - in order to build public and diplomatic support for an invasion."

Hans Blix was in charge of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from 2000 to 2003.

Center for Middle East Studies at Brown University:
Marking the 20th Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
According to Nadje Al-Ali, the director of the Center, "everything that could have been done wrong in the aftermath of the invasion was done wrong."