A Brief History of the Iraq War

Najla al-Nashi Mar 14, 2008

Writen by Yasir al-Rawi and Najla al-Nashik, Translated by Rana


In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein from power. The following account is a history of the Iraq war according to firsthand reports of Iraqis.


Expecting a decisive battle in the streets of Baghdad, many Iraqis left the capital city a few days before the outbreak of war. Although the initial invasion and occupation of Iraq was relatively easy for the U.S. military, thousands of innocent Iraqis died. After the 2003 war, most Iraqis hoped to participate in the building of their country, as Iraq had always had human capital that was never given the chance to develop and become productive.


Immediately after the fall of Saddam’s regime, the streets were filled with looters and most Iraqi cities fell into total chaos. Occupation forces stood, watched and did nothing as looters targeted state property, robbed banks, museums, ancient artifacts, homes, schools and shops. The chaos led to the arming of gangs, as millions of looted weapons and ammunition rounds found their way to them while the ordinary Iraqi paid the price.

All government institutions, ministries and departments in Iraq were looted, beginning with the largest and most valuable contents and ending with small items like light switches. Following the looting, the buildings were destroyed and set on fire with the exception of the Ministry of Oil, which the U.S. forces protected from the beginning.


In the first few days after the war in 2003 U.S. soldiers walked the streets of Iraq freely, ate at local restaurants and played with Iraqi children.

This picture changed when the first attack on U.S. soldiers occurred in the Shorjah area in Baghdad A hand grenade targeted a U.S. Army patrol and killed one soldier. Two days later an armed man opened fire on a patrol in Fallujah. These attacks kept increasing until they reached more than one attack per day in 2004, 2005, 2006 and the first half of 2007.

Under these circumstances, ordinary citizens lived at the mercy of a vicious war between local fighters and occupation forces. The result of this was more than a million injured and dead, most of whom were innocent bystanders. Clear evidence of this are the bullet holes and broken windows in many of the houses in Baghdad.


of citizens Most armed operations in Iraq came out from certain governorates and certain areas in Baghdad. Militants, especially members of Al Qaeda, would use an area for a certain period of time and then move their activities to another area. The occupation and Iraqi government forces would enter these areas and make random arrests of people, especially young men between the ages of 17 and 30. As a result, there were tens of thousands of detainees held for years with no charges, many of whom died in prison under torture.


The weakness of consecutive governments and the spread of chaos, killing and crime has pushed the people to follow religious parties. The growing influence of Iran and its increased power, especially in Baghdad and in southern Iraq, led to the election of a government steered by clerics. This has led to the proliferation of ridiculous statements aimed at influencing the choices of voters under the pretext of religion.


One of the biggest U.S. mistakes was the dismantling of the Iraqi army and the security forces. The old security forces were replaced by the current Iraqi National Guard and the Iraqi Police Service. These forces used sectarian religious party memberships as their basis for recruiting. As a result, they were skewed toward representing one sect over the others. It is estimated that Shi’as constitute 90 percent of the Iraqi National Guard and 95 percent of the Iraqi Police (the Kurds have their own Peshmerga forces in the Kurdish regions of Iraq). More important, the line between militias and government forces became blurred as many armed militias acted on behalf of the state forces and numerous militia members joined these forces. As a result, official state forces engaged in sectarian revenge killings, losing the trust of ordinary citizens.


Human rights violations in Iraq are endless. The following incidents are common occurrences in the daily lives of Iraqi people and shed some light on the level of atrocities endured by them. In September 2006, armed gunmen shot at an Iraqi Police patrol in one Baghdad’s neighborhoods killing one of the policemen. Shortly after, the police patrol, which got immediate support from militias, announced through loudspeakers that they would kill ten Sunnis among those in prison as revenge for the dead policeman. The next morning, in the same location where the police patrol was shot at, people found the ten bodies of Sunnis, each blindfolded with their hands tied, with bullet shots in the back of their heads. Another story told by a witness describes how after an explosion in a Shi’a shopping area where 100 people lost their lives, the police forces brought Sunni prisoners, dumped them in the hole left by the explosion and buried them alive. Incidents like this happened in Jamilah area in Baghdad as well as in Sadr City and in the Amel neighborhood.


Those who made it through and survived in Iraq are living with one hour of electricity per day, no water for many hours, garbage piling up in front of their homes for months, and probably no job to go to, either for fear of being targeted or simply because of the staggering rates of unemployment.

Basic service provision is a nightmare in Iraq. The 13 years of sanctions caused a severe deterioration in the quality of these services. Today, in addition to the lack of drinking water, sanitation, electricity, and fuel, people live in constant danger and continuous fear.

Yasir Al-Rawi is an Iraqi refugee from Baghdad who has been living in Jordan since late 2007. He currently serves as assistant coordinator for Direct Aid Iraq, a grassroots relief project linking Americans and Iraqis to provide medical care to Iraqis displaced in the Middle East. Najlaa Al-Nashi is an Iraqi-Jordanian who serves as Direct Aid Initiative’s Amman coordinator. Visit and electroniciraq. net for more information.

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