Secrets of the Serial Set: Operation Iraqi Freedom

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The 21st anniversary of 9/11 passed this month, and for many Americans, the fear, grief, and devastation that followed the terrorist attacks are just as fresh as they were in 2001. In this Secrets of the Serial Set edition, we will examine Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was the military response that derived from 9/11 and also from decades of tension between the United States and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Let’s use the Serial Set to uncover the controversy behind this years-long and largely unsuccessful war.

Building Tensions

U.S. opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq grew following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which resulted in the Gulf War.[1]“Use of military force against Iraq.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 1991, pp. I-2. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset14056&i=879. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. … Continue reading In the aftermath of the war, various countries put sanctions on Iraq, and in October 1998, with the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act,[2]To establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq., Public Law 105-338, 105 Congress. 112 Stat. 3178 (1998). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statues at Large database. removing Hussein’s government became a major focus of American foreign policy. This act was to provide nearly $100 million to support democratic organizations in Iraq in building a transition to a democratic government. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. and United Kingdom launched the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign on Iraq to destabilize Hussein’s rule.

screenshot of excerpt from Iraq Liberation Act

September 11

On September 11, 2001, terrorists led by Osama bin Laden and reportedly funded by the al-Qaeda terrorist organization crashed two Boeing 767 planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., while a fourth hijacked plane likely heading to the Capitol was diverted by passengers and flight attendants, who all died in the ensuing crash. In total, nearly 3,000 people were killed by the attacks.[3]“Commemorative Joint Meeting of Congress of United States in Remembrance of Victims and Heroes of September 11, 2001.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2003, p. 1-325. HeinOnline, … Continue reading Following 9/11, the Bush administration began looking for ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda[4]“Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials were Substantiated by Intelligence Information, Report of Select Committee on Intelligence.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2008, pp. … Continue reading as a means of justifying a war against Iraq.

Stirrings of War

In his State of the Union in January 2002, President George W. Bush referred to Iraq as a member of “the axis of evil”[5]“State of the Union, message of the President (Bush).” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2002, pp. I-8. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset21938&i=9. This document can be found in … Continue reading and alleged that the country was harboring weapons of mass destruction, although there was no evidence of Iraq having any nuclear or biological weapons. That September, he addressed the United Nations requesting permission to invade Iraq to seize these weapons, but the UN concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence that they existed.

screenshot from President George W. Bush's January 2002 State of the Union speech

On October 16, 2002, Congress granted President Bush the power to decide to launch a military attack in Iraq if Hussein refused to give up weapons of mass destruction. On November 8, the UN implemented Resolution 1441,[6]“Report on matters relevant to Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” Congressional Serial Set, , 2003, pp. 1-13. HeinOnline, … Continue reading which authorized weapons inspections and provided a final chance for Iraq to comply with demands for disarmament.

The following February, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a presentation at the UN alleging that Saddam Hussein and his regime posed an immediate threat, based on later proven faulty claims[7]“Request President of U.S., and direct Secretary of State, provide House of Representatives, documents in possession relating to White House Iraq Group.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2005, pp. 1-9. HeinOnline, … Continue reading from an unreliable source. Powell also alleged that Hussein was linked to al-Qaeda.[8]“Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials were Substantiated by Intelligence Information, Report of Select Committee on Intelligence.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2008, pp. … Continue reading However, shortly after this speech, a UN weapons inspector declared that he had not found any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, while the International Atomic Energy Agency found “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.” [9]“Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials were Substantiated by Intelligence Information, Report of Select Committee on Intelligence.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2008, p. … Continue reading However, the American government continued to assert that these weapons existed and pushed for a military overthrow of Hussein’s government.

The Invasion Begins

On March 17, 2003, Bush offered an ultimatum to Hussein and his family:[10]George W. Bush, Address to the Nation on Iraq – March 17, 2003, 2003 Pub. Papers 277 (2003). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library. leave Iraq within 48 hours or face imminent military action. Two days later, on March 19, the invasion, code-named Operation Iraqi Freedom, began, with a coalition of troops from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Poland, as well as the support of around 40 other governments and Iraqi Kurdish troops. Goals of the invasion included removing weapons of mass destruction (which did not exist), toppling Hussein’s regime, and replacing the government with a democracy[11]“Report on Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2003, pp. I-22. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset21961&i=108. This … Continue reading supported by the Iraqi people.

screenshot of excerpt from report submitted pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002

By April 9, coalition forces had taken Baghdad, ending Hussein’s 24-year rule. A few weeks later, aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln near San Diego, Bush declared the end of major combat in Iraq,[12]George W. Bush, Address to the Nation on Iraq from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln – May 1, 2003, 2003 Pub. Papers 410 (2003). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library. and amidst resistance and attacks by Iraqis angry with the occupation, coalition forces worked to set up a transitional government, named the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

The Capture & Continued Unrest

Saddam Hussein was captured from his hideout in Tikrit by coalition forces on December 13, 2003.[13]“Report consistent with Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2004, pp. 1-19. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50378&i=383. … Continue reading The end of his regime brought civil war between the Shia and Sunni Islamic factions in Iraq. Battles in Fallujah throughout 2004 included ambushes by Iraqi insurgents against the coalition, while the discovery of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib[14]“Direct Attorney General to transmit to House of Representatives documents in posssession of Attorney General relating to treatment of prisoners and detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.” U.S. Congressional Serial … Continue reading significantly reduced international support for a continued war in Iraq. A new Iraqi constitution was finally ratified in October 15, 2005, with Nouri al-Maliki elected prime minister[15]“Report of the Activities of the Committee on Armed Services for the One Hundred Ninth Congress.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2006, pp. 1-128. HeinOnline, … Continue reading in a multi-party election. Hussein was hanged on December 30, 2006, after an Iraq court found him guilty of crimes against humanity. The deadliest attack of the war came the following August, when nearly 800 civilians were killed by suicide bomb attacks in Kahtaniya, which the U.S. blamed on al-Qaeda.

screenshot of excerpt from report noting capture of Saddam Hussein

The Coalition Retreats

On December 4, 2008, the Iraq Presidential Council passed a security agreement to encourage the United States to completely withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. By the end of the following February, President Obama announced that the combat mission in Iraq would officially end by August 31, 2010,[16]“Proceeding of Disabled American Veterans 2010 National Convention.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2010, p. 1-333. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50331&i=853. This document can be … Continue reading with a transitional force of troops remaining in the country until the end of 2011. In September 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom was renamed Operation New Dawn, to reflect the switch in focus from replacing the government to securing the country.[17]“Proceeding of Disabled American Veterans 2010 National Convention.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2010, pp. 1-333. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50331&i=853. This document can be … Continue reading On December 15, 2011, the U.S. military mission in Iraq officially ended, with American troops lowering the flag of command flying over Baghdad, and three days later, the last of the U.S. troops had crossed over into Kuwait.

screenshot of excerpt of speech from President Obama confirming the coming end of combat in Iraq

Overall, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including civilians, died during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thousands of U.S. military personnel were killed, and many suffered traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.[18]Fischer, Hannah. U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. , . HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.crs/crsmthabdzd0001&i=1. This document can be found in … Continue reading The true motivations for the war are highly debated—especially since no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq, and no ties between Hussein and al-Qaeda were ever uncovered. After the official end of the war, the region continued to face immense unrest in the face of civil war and ethnic cleansing. U.S. troops soon returned to Iraq in 2014 to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[19]“Authorization of use of military force with ISIL.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2015, pp. [i]-4. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset60331&i=1. This document can be found in … Continue reading The mission didn’t end until December 2021, although the U.S. continues to maintain a presence in Iraq today.

screenshot of excerpt from reoprt detailing that intelligence countered claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and ties between Hussein and al-Qaeda

Help Us Complete the Project

Secrets of the Serial Set is an exciting and informative blog series from HeinOnline dedicated to unveiling the wealth of American history found in the United States Congressional Serial Set. Documents from additional HeinOnline databases have been incorporated to supplement research materials for non-U.S. related events discussed.

If your library holds all or part of the Serial Set, and you are willing to assist us, please contact Steve Roses at 716-882-2600 or sroses@wshein.com. HeinOnline would like to give special thanks to all of the libraries that have provided generous contributions which have resulted in the steady growth of HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

HeinOnline Sources

HeinOnline Sources
1 “Use of military force against Iraq.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 1991, pp. I-2. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset14056&i=879. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
2 To establish a program to support a transition to democracy in Iraq., Public Law 105-338, 105 Congress. 112 Stat. 3178 (1998). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statues at Large database.
3 “Commemorative Joint Meeting of Congress of United States in Remembrance of Victims and Heroes of September 11, 2001.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2003, p. 1-325. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50510&i=1. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
4 “Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials were Substantiated by Intelligence Information, Report of Select Committee on Intelligence.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2008, pp. [i]-171. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50557&i=63. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
5 “State of the Union, message of the President (Bush).” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2002, pp. I-8. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset21938&i=9. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
6 “Report on matters relevant to Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” Congressional Serial Set, , 2003, pp. 1-13. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50073&i=887. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
7 “Request President of U.S., and direct Secretary of State, provide House of Representatives, documents in possession relating to White House Iraq Group.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2005, pp. 1-9. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50501&i=67. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
8 “Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials were Substantiated by Intelligence Information, Report of Select Committee on Intelligence.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2008, pp. [i]-171. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50557&i=71. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
9 “Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government Officials were Substantiated by Intelligence Information, Report of Select Committee on Intelligence.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2008, p. [i]-171. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50557&i=99. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
10 George W. Bush, Address to the Nation on Iraq – March 17, 2003, 2003 Pub. Papers 277 (2003). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library.
11 “Report on Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2003, pp. I-22. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset21961&i=108. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
12 George W. Bush, Address to the Nation on Iraq from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln – May 1, 2003, 2003 Pub. Papers 410 (2003). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library.
13 “Report consistent with Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2004, pp. 1-19. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50378&i=383. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
14 “Direct Attorney General to transmit to House of Representatives documents in posssession of Attorney General relating to treatment of prisoners and detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2004, pp. 1-56. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50684&i=460. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
15 “Report of the Activities of the Committee on Armed Services for the One Hundred Ninth Congress.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2006, pp. 1-128. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50716&i=931. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
16 “Proceeding of Disabled American Veterans 2010 National Convention.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2010, p. 1-333. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50331&i=853. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
17 “Proceeding of Disabled American Veterans 2010 National Convention.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2010, pp. 1-333. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset50331&i=853. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
18 Fischer, Hannah. U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. , . HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.crs/crsmthabdzd0001&i=1. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents database.
19 “Authorization of use of military force with ISIL.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, , 2015, pp. [i]-4. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset60331&i=1. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
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