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Iraq War: quotes from the conflict and its aftermath

March 16, 2023 at 4:56 pm

U.S marines and Iraqis are seen as the statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is toppled at al-Fardous square in Baghdad, Iraq [Wathiq Khuzaie /Getty Image]

Here are some notable quotes from before, during and after the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 that toppled President Saddam Hussein.

29 January, 2002 – “States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.” – US President George W. Bush referring to Iraq, Iran and North Korea in his State of the Union Address.

5 February, 2003 – “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” – Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, to the UN Security Council, describing what he said was evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that proved to be wrong.

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11 July, 2002 – “Support for Saddam, including within his military organisation, will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder.” – Richard Perle, then Pentagon Defence Policy Board Chairman

 5 September, 2002 – “We will continue to work to avoid a military confrontation or a military action because we believe that it will open the gates of hell in the Middle East.” – Amr Moussa, then Secretary-General of the Arab League

19 September, 2002 – “I hereby declare before you that Iraq is clear of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.” – Saddam Hussein in message to UN General Assembly

14 November, 2002 – “The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months. But it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” – Donald Rumsfeld, then US Secretary of Defence

20 January, 2003 –  “His regime has large, unaccounted for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, including VX, sarin, mustard gas, anthrax, botulism and possibly smallpox. And he has an active programme to acquire and develop nuclear weapons.” – Rumsfeld.

12 February, 2002 – “There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.” – Rumsfeld.

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16 March, 2003 – “I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” – Dick Cheney, then US Vice President

20 March, 2003 – “The criminal little Bush has committed a crime against humanity.” – Saddam Hussein, on first day of invasion

10 April, 2003 – “Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators, and the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom.” – Rumsfeld

11 April, 2003 – “Stuff happens.” – Rumsfeld, when asked about rampant lawlessness in Baghdad after US troops captured the capital. “It’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”

1 May, 2003 – “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” – US President George W. Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, under a banner declaring “Mission Accomplished”.

24 July, 2003 – “Death is not enough. They should have been hung up on poles in a square in Baghdad so all Iraqis could see them. Then they should have died as people ate them alive.” – Baghdad businessman, Khalil Ali after US forces kill Saddam’s sons, Uday and Qusay.

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14 September, 2003 – “He (Saddam) had long established ties with Al Qaeda.” – Cheney, to a conservative think-tank.

3 October, 2003 –  “There’s no question this guy (Saddam) had invested billions in developing illegal programmes of weapons of mass destruction and don’t let anybody tell you this was not a significant threat.” – Cheney, to political fund-raiser in Iowa.

13 December, 2003 – “My name is Saddam Hussein. I am the President of Iraq, and I want to negotiate.” – Saddam to US troops who captured him.

14 December, 2003 – “We got him,” Paul Bremer, then US Governor of Iraq, announcing the capture of Saddam.

30 January, 2005 – “This is a historic moment for Iraq, a day when Iraqis can hold their heads high because they are challenging the terrorists and starting to write their future with their own hands.” – Iyad Allawi, interim Prime Minister.

31 March, 2005 – “The intelligence community was absolutely uniform and uniformly wrong about the existence of weapons of mass destruction (in Iraq).” – Laurence Silberman, co-Chairman, Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States, regarding weapons of mass destruction.

19 March, 2006 – “We are losing each day on average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.” – Iyad Allawi, Iraq’s former interim Prime Minister.

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25 October, 2006 – “It’s my responsibility to provide the American people with a candid assessment on the way forward … Absolutely, we’re winning.” – Bush.

 November 2006 – “Here, I offer myself in sacrifice.” – Saddam, in a letter dictated after he was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity. “If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity.”

20 December, 2006 – “We’re not winning, we’re not losing.” – Bush, in interview with the Washington Post.

30 December, 2006 – “Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada.” – Unidentified man attending Saddam’s hanging, referring to a Shia cleric whose family was persecuted by Saddam. Saddam, the noose around his neck, responded: “Is this what you call manhood?”

“The tyrant has fallen.” – Unidentified witness at hanging.

10 January, 2007 – “The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people – and it is unacceptable to me … Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.” – Bush.

23 February, 2007 – “Having tasted victory in Iraq, the jihadists would look for new missions,” Cheney said in a speech in Australia. “Many would head for Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban, others would set out for capitals across the Middle East.”

18 April, 2007 – “The street was transformed into a swimming pool of blood.” – Shopkeeper, Ahmed Hameed, witness to a car bombing in Baghdad that killed 140 people.

16 November, 2007 – “I tell folks all the time, one way to train to conduct operations in Iraq is to watch the last season of the Sopranos. You get a sense of the conflict among like individuals.” Major-General, Rick Lynch, commander of US troops south of Baghdad.

1 December, 2008 – “The biggest regret of all the Presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein,” – Bush.

14 December, 2008 – “It’s like going to a political rally and have people yell at you. It’s a way for people to draw attention,” – Bush, in Baghdad after an Iraqi journalist called him a dog and threw shoes at him.

31 August, 2010 – “Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” – President Barack Obama, in a televised speech

12 June, 2014 – “I don’t rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria.” – Obama, when asked whether the United States was considering air strikes to stop the violence.

4 July, 2014 – “God ordered us to fight his enemies.” – Daesh leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in a Mosul mosque after announcing the restoration of the caliphate.

30 March, 2015 – “I am concerned by allegations of summary killings, abductions and destruction of property perpetrated by forces and militias fighting alongside Iraqi armed forces.” – UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, on the fight against Daesh

9 December, 2017 – “Honourable Iraqis, your land has been completely liberated. The dream of liberation is now a reality,” Haider Al-Abadi, then Iraqi Prime Minister, declaring victory over Daesh, after three years of conflict.

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