How a triumphant invasion turned into a disastrous occupation

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20 MARCH 2003

The United States began the war against Iraq. In the early hours of the morning, just hours after a deadline for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave the country passed, the first explosions of Operation Iraqi Freedom were heard as bombing began in Baghdad.

9 APRIL 2003

The Americans "liberated" Baghdad and mobs tore Saddam Hussein's giant statue down, dancing and trampling on the remains - symbolically celebrating the fall of the dictator in one of the most defining images of the conflict.

20 APRIL 2003

For the first time since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, confronted the Americans openly, accusing the Bush administration of lacking credibility in its efforts to hunt down Iraq's banned weapons. He said he was undermined and evidence for war was "very, very shaky".

1 MAY 2003

President George Bush prepared to declare the war in Iraq all but over as more Iraqis were killed by American troops. Rising hatred was evident among some locals in a week where troops fired into a demonstration, killing 13.

Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary, attracted some welcoming waves from Iraqis during his first visit to Baghdad.

17 JULY 2003

Dr David Kelly, one of the country's leading experts in biological and chemical weapons, committed suicide. He was found at about the same time as Andrew Gilligan, the defence correspondent of BBC Radio 4's Today gave evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, investigating claims that Tony Blair's Government had exaggerated intelligence reports to make the case for war against Iraq.

28 AUGUST 2003

Captain David Jones 1974-2003. Captain "Dai" Jones, killed when a bomb hit a Red Cross ambulance near Basra, was buried as Tony Blair appeared before the Hutton inquiry.

2 OCTOBER 2003

Five months after the end of the war in Iraq, a CIA adviser admitted that his 1,200-strong team had discovered none of Saddam Hussein's alleged stocks of chemical and biological arms.

The interim report of America's chief weapons inspector proves a damning blow to those who argued the case for war against Iraq based on the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime. The Iraq Survey Group found that, while there was some evidence that Iraq had retained the template of a weapons programme, they had found nothing that proved Saddam ever actually possessed such weapons.

14 DECEMBER 2003

Saddam Hussein was captured, unkempt and in a hole, stashed with $750,000.

28 JANUARY 2004

Eight months after BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan broadcast his now infamous report casting doubt on the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons capability - a vital plank in its case for war - Lord Hutton's inquiry exonerated Tony Blair, cleared Alastair Campbell and attached no blame to the government for the naming of Dr David Kelly. So was this all an establishment whitewash?

27 JUNE 2004

Five-year-old Narjis Sadik had to have her arm amputated after a series of bombs in Jillah, which killed dozens of people including children in the heightened tension leading up to the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq.

8 OCTOBER 2004

After three weeks, a British engineer's kidnappers confirmed he had been killed.


US forces fought street-by-street in bid to wrest town from Iraqi insurgents. A British soldier died as Black Watch suffered third bomb attack in five days.

17 NOVEMBER 2004

Families of six Royal Military Police killed by a mob in Iraq in June last year react angrily to an Army Board of Inquiry which identifies a catalogue of failures before the attack. An independent inquiry calls on the Ministry of Defence to admit the existence of Gulf War syndrome.

Six troopers of the Queen's Dragoon Guards escape unscathed after a suicide bomber targets them. Six hours earlier, a Black Watch soldier is seriously injured.

Hundreds of mourners attend the funeral in Fife of Private Paul Lowe, one of three members of the Black Watch killed in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq two weeks ago.

18 JANUARY 2005

"Shocking and appalling" photographs of British troops allegedly torturing and sexually humiliating Iraqi civilians were revealed a the court martial of three British soldiers.

31 AUGUST 2005

Up to 1,000 Shia pilgrims - men, women and children, are thought to have died in a stampede when they fell from a bridge over the Tigris river in Baghdad, apparently fearful that a suicide bomber had been let loose among them.


British troops were struggling to maintain control in Basra after the city exploded into bloody chaos. Troops were forced to flee from blazing Warrior vehicles as a mob of hundreds threw petrol bombs at British forces.


A former American soldier who served in Iraq and filed for Conscientious Objector status gave an extraordinary insight into the war's dehumanising effects. The rare insight came as US support for the war in Iraq has reached an all-time low. Polls suggest that 60 per cent now believe the war was wrong.

30 NOVEMBER 2005

President George Bush declared that America was on course for "complete victory" and ruled out any firm timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Instead he declared that Iraqi forces were beginning to take the lead in the battle against the insurgency.