Today's news, Tomorrow's lesson

Ten years ago, armed forces from the US, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other nations invaded Iraq, then ruled by dictator Saddam Hussein.

Anniversary reopens wounds over invasion of Iraq

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 19 March 2013

By Irena Barker

Ten years ago, armed forces from the US, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other nations invaded Iraq, then ruled by dictator Saddam Hussein.

Forces began an intense campaign of air strikes on the capital Baghdad in the early hours of March 20 2003 – a "shock and awe" operation aimed at the presidential palace and other key targets.

The invasion was launched on the basis of evidence that Saddam Hussein was building up a secret arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction" – a claim later proved to be false by official investigators.

The operation was fiercely opposed by many countries, politicians and ordinary people, sparking some of the biggest peace demonstrations ever seen around the world. Some campaigners argued that the invasion was more about Western nations attempting to secure oil reserves than freeing Iraqis from the oppression of their leader. They pointed out that support from a divided United Nations was at best lukewarm.

It was a hugely divisive issue that sparked heated debate. Supporters of the war claimed that Hussein could use his weapons of mass destruction – which never materialised – on his own or foreign people at any time, and that he had links to international terror group al-Qaeda. Others were simply in favour of deposing a tyrannical dictator.

The initial invasion was relatively quick: less than a month later Baghdad was captured by allied forces. News channels broadcast images of celebrating Iraqis and troops tearing down a statue of Hussein. Locals beat the statue with their shoes, the ultimate insult in Arab countries.

But after this initial "victory" came a long and violent aftermath, as troops set about trying to bring peace and stability to the country. Soldiers encountered violent opposition to their presence and they fought countless battles with insurgents.

In December 2003, Hussein, who had been hiding down a hole on a farm, was captured by US forces. He was executed in 2006. Video footage of the gruesome hanging was leaked and put on the internet.

The war – which remained an emotional issue for many people for years after the initial invasion – only officially ended in 2011, when US soldiers were finally pulled out. Although the country is now much more stable than during the worst of the insurgency, and democratic elections have taken place, suicide bomb attacks are still a regular occurrence.

Estimates for the number of civilians killed in the conflict vary widely, but one organisation claims 112,000 deaths. Some 4,484 US military personnel were killed during the conflict.

(Abridged) Iraq war timeline:

  • 17 March 2003 – President George W. Bush gives Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq.
  • 19 March 2003 – US forces target Dora farms on the outskirts of Baghdad after reports that Saddam Hussein is there visiting his sons. Neither Saddam nor any members of the Iraqi leadership was present. One civilian is killed and 14 others are injured.
  • 20 March 2003 – After the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, the US calls air strikes and troops cross the border from Kuwait into Iraq.
  • 21 March 2003 – US leads an air attack on Saddam Hussein's presidential compound in Baghdad.

Resources for you

War in Iraq source based activities

  • A PowerPoint based resource including a range of sources on the Iraq war with questions for pupils to answer.

The causes of the Iraq war

  • A lesson encompassing citizenship, justice and democracy to examine the causes of the Iraq war.

Just war theory

  • A starter activity in which students choose from a list of reasons the 'best' reasons for going to war.

War Making: Executive and Legislative Powers

  • Start a discussion on the politics of war, with a lesson from TES partner The National Constitution Center which asks: what are the respective roles and responsibilities of the executive and legislative branches in making war?

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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