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Claiming evidence of weapons of mass destruction, President George Bush authorized the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003. Although more than 40 countries supported the invasion or the subsequent occupation of Iraq, the United States and Great Britain provided the vast majority of the troops.

After the invasion, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was quickly overthrown and eventually captured, tried, and hanged for war crimes. The country’s governmental structure was eliminated and then rebuilt under western guidance. Though a new government came into being, sectarian violence among rival Muslim groups and ethnic Kurds continued to threaten political stability. Military action continued almost unabated as the United States and its allies found themselves confronting various groups opposed to the presence of western troops in Iraq. Instead of a conventional war, allied troops were subjected to swift attacks by small but mobile groups which were able to fade into the general population. The enemy’s increasing use of “improvised explosive devices” caused a spike in the number of deaths and resulted in catastrophic injuries to coalition troops.

As the war dragged on and casualties mounted, the U.S. military action, termed “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” grew increasingly unpopular. By 2008, President’s Bush’s administration was seeking a means of withdrawal and signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to hand over power by 2012. In 2009, President Barack Obama announced that his goal was to have all United States forces out of the country by 2012. Obama eventually moved the withdrawal up to December 18, 2011.

Most reserve and National Guard units were needed to support the active-duty military during the Iraq War. The use of these forces reached heights not seen since the National Guard was mobilized in 1940 for service in World War II. Virtually all elements of the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard were mobilized for at least one deployment to the Middle East. Sergeant DeForest Talbert, a member of the West Virginia National Guard’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 150th Armor was killed on July 27, 2004. Twenty-three other West Virginia soldiers and marines serving in active duty units lost their lives while scores more were wounded. On March 23, 2003, Army Private Jessica Lynch, from Palestine, Wirt County, was wounded and captured during the invasion. She was rescued in a daring raid by army paratroopers on the hospital where she was being held. Upon her return to the United States, Lynch became the public face of the war effort and an immediate media sensation.


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This Article was written by Kenneth R. Bailey

Last Revised on March 14, 2023

Cite This Article

Bailey, Kenneth R. "Iraq War ." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 March 2023. Web. 13 June 2024.


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