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Segment | Government

The Iraq War: A Look Back

It's a somber 10-year anniversary. It's been a decade since the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq, and more than 100,000 have died. Brian Rooney looks at the long arc of a controversial conflict and asks, was it worth it?

Brian Rooney/Reporter: Many people remember the so-called “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad, but the war really started the night before -- March 19th, 2003 -- with a failed attempt to kill Saddam Hussein with a pinpoint strike.

President George W. Bush [file footage]: At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations.

Rooney: A swift ground invasion followed the next day. The given reason for the war was to seize weapons of mass destruction that Western leaders claimed were hidden by Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell [file footage]: We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction. He’s determined to make more.

Rooney: In the closing days before the war, the U.S. expanded its moral ground, calling for a preemptive strike to "liberate" the Iraqi people. With few exceptions, Iraqi forces collapsed in front of an armored and airborne onslaught. The invasion lasted just 21 days.

On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush landed on an aircraft carrier and spoke in front of a banner that said "Mission Accomplished."

President Bush [file footage]: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

Rooney: But the war was to drag on for another eight years and seven months. Iraq dissolved into civil war: Iraqis killing Iraqis, Iraqis killing American occupiers.

The words of the war ended up on every American's lips: Insurgency; Improvised Explosive Device -- the I.E.D.; collateral damage: civilians killed; traumatic brain injury; and Abu Ghraib: torture.

The last American ground troops left Iraq in December, 2011.

Military commander [to troops]: You and the marines that have come before you have done a great job.

Rooney: The cost of the war: about 4,500 Americans killed, 32,000 Americans wounded, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed.

And money -- roughly a trillion dollars spent on combat and reconstruction. Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were never found. He didn’t have any. The man, who himself was a household world, was hanged. Iraq is slowly recovering. New hotels and restaurants are opening in Baghdad. The country has returned to being a major oil producer. But a recent “Washington Post” poll says 58 percent of Americans believe Iraq was not worth the fight. Iraq remains a religiously and politically fractured country still suffering terrorist bombings and struggling to become the Arabic democracy the U.S. hoped to establish 10 years ago.

Iraq War Memorial, Lafayette, CA
(Associated Photo Credit: rocor/Flickr/Creative Commons License)

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