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GALLERY

Sifting through snapshots from the early years of the Iraq War, 15 years after it began

U.S. Marines line up behind a road barrier as they secure a key bridge along a main supply route during the march to Baghdad, Iraq in March 2003.

MARK OLIVA/STARS AND STRIPES

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 19, 2018

Early on the morning of March 20, 2003, U.S. jets struck in the Baghdad suburb of Dora in a “decapitation strike” aimed at killing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Saddam escaped, and within hours U.S. soldiers and Marines, along with British and other allies, rolled across the border into Iraq.

So began one of America’s most divisive wars, which cost more than 4,400 American lives and left more than 31,000 Americans injured.  Troops found no huge stocks of weapons of mass destruction, which was the catalyst for the war. Saddam’s dictatorship was toppled and the Iraqi strongman was himself hanged.

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But the years following the invasion have been among the bloodiest and most chaotic in Iraq’s modern history. The war morphed into a civil conflict among the country’s ethnic and religious communities and most recently into bloody fighting with the terror group the Islamic State, which overran a third of the country before it was routed from strongholds in the north and west.

Politically, a weak democratic system established with U.S. patronage has been under siege due to factional conflict and interference from neighboring countries, most notably Iran.

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American soldiers and Iraqi police and security forces cordon off the scene of a car bombing near the Baghdad Hotel in October 2003. According to the 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade commander, Col. Peter Mansoor, a car ran through a checkpoint at the hotel and came under fire. Shortly thereafter, it exploded, killing six Iraqis and wounded at least 10 others, who were taken to local hospitals. One American soldier was slightly wounded and treated at the scene. Small units of soldiers share guard responsibilities at the Baghdad and two other nearby hotels with Iraqi police and protective forces.
JASON CHUDY/STARS AND STRIPES

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