On the 20th anniversary of the American-led invasion, we provide resources to help students understand the war’s causes and effects, along with its legacy and lessons.
Twenty years ago, the United States invaded Iraq as part of the “war on terror” announced by President George W. Bush after the attacks by Al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Bush and members of his administration said that Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s leader, was manufacturing and concealing weapons of mass destruction, though no evidence was ever found to back up those accusations. The Americans quickly toppled Mr. Hussein’s brutal authoritarian government but also unleashed a sectarian civil war and a violent insurgency against occupying U.S. forces.
The United States spent an estimated $2 trillion in Iraq over the two decades, a price tag that barely begins to express the toll it has taken on the two countries. Iraq lost nearly a half-million civilians in the war and the subsequent eight-year American occupation. Roughly 8,500 American military personnel and contractors died there, and as many as 300,000 others returned home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project.