On 19th March 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched, an invasion of Iraq by some 160,000 troops of the combined forces from the USA, the UK, Australia and Poland.
According to U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.
On 9 April 2003, Baghdad was formally occupied by Coalition forces. Much of Baghdad remained unsecured however, and fighting continued within the city and its outskirts well into the period of occupation. Saddam had vanished, and his whereabouts were unknown.
The invasion led to an insurgency against the occupying forces and the newly installed Iraqi government which was to last until 18 December 2011 with the withdrawal of US ground troops.
The country has suffered continued strife ever since. As this map of Iraq and its neighbour Syria shows, large areas are occupied by non-government forces, including ISIS, Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, Syrian rebels, and al-Qaeda.
And the people of Iraq are not free.
The number of deaths and injuries among combatants on all sides, and civilian casualties, plus the number displaced – Including refugees in camps and those migrants who made dangerous journeys seeking a safe life elsewhere – is nigh on impossible to quantify, but the many millions could well eventually surpass the total figures of World War Two.
Other consequences have been seen far beyond the Middle East, with terrorist outrages in Europe, Australia, the USA and here in Indonesia, as well as rising xenophobia leading to political turmoil: vide Trump and Brexit.
And it all started with a lie: Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. Not only that, but the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, believed that the invasion was illegal.