This year marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by a large international “Coalition of the Willing” led by the United States and the United Kingdom. The stated goal was to topple Saddam Hussein, in power since 1979, who was accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction and protecting and financing terrorist groups, particularly al Qaeda.
The operation, dubbed “Iraqi Freedom,” was part of the so-called “Global War on Terrorism” waged by the U.S., which had already led to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and later, in March 2003, to the invasion of Iraq. Two parallel wars, driven by the spirit of revenge for the attacks on U.S. territory by al Qaeda and for the thousands of people killed, and at the same time by a desire to bring Western-style democracy to the Middle East.
The occupations, despite the extraordinary speed of the invasions (in which the allied forces fielded unprecedented firepower), actually lasted many years – the first 20 and the second 9 – and were disastrous, both in terms of the U.S. budget and the number of casualties, including military and civilians. In both cases it has been said that while the military and the Pentagon “got the job done quickly, the politicians failed to win the peace.”