Displaced families from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjarl west of Mosul, arrive at Dohuk province, Aug. 4, 2014.
Dec. 16, 2011 -
The U.S. war in Iraq officially ended this month with the withdrawal of all military personnel, bringing an end to the nearly decade-long conflict. Close to 4,500 Americans and about 100,000 Iraqis lost their lives in the war. American taxpayers, for their part, are on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the enduring conflict. Many of the more than 32,000 American soldiers wounded in the conflict continue to need care. More than a million Iraqis were displaced trying to escape the violence. The war may be over, but the healing has only begun. In this slide show, we take a look at some of the most iconic images of the Iraq War.
Shock and Awe Operation Shock and Awe marked the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Heavy bombing lights up the night sky of Baghdad on the second day of the war.
Saddam Hussein Statue The initial campaign proved to be a success. American troops quickly overwhelmed forces loyal to Saddam Hussein. A U.S. Marine armored vehicle tears down a statue of Hussein as both American and Iraqi onlookers cheer. Once the statue is down, jubilant Iraqis ran up to strike the face of the former dictator with their shoes.
Jessica Lynch U.S. Army private first-class Jessica Lynch is rescued by U.S. special forces in April 2003 following her 10-day capture. Lynch, who was only 19 years old at the time, became a national icon following her ordeal. Lynch was badly injured when her convoy was ambushed. She was later rescued by American troops from an Iraqi hospital, but the tale of her ambush was changed into a story of heroism. The real story slowly emerged.
Mission Accomplished On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush addressed the crew of the U.S.D. Abraham Lincoln and the nation to declare the successful completion of combat operations. A giant "Mission Accomplished" banner was raised during the event. As the insurgency in Iraq heated up the following year, this image would prove to be a headache for the White House.
Hussein Spider Hole In December 2003, American troops uncover the "spider hole" in Ad Dawr in which Hussein was hiding for months following the disintegration of his rule over the country. Hussein was captured, tried by the Iraqis and executed.
Prisoner of War Wearing a black hood on his head, an Iraqi prisoner of war cradles his 4-year-old son while waiting in a holding area for captives.
Fallujah March 2004 marked what would be the beginning of the insurgency that would menace U.S. soldiers as resistance to the American military presence and sectarian tensions boiled over into violent conflict. Following an attack on two civilian vehicles that resulted in the deaths of four contractors, Iraqi men celebrate. The burned and mutilated bodies were dragged, beaten and hung onto a bridge, where Iraqis continued their celebration.
Iraq Casualties Samar Hassan, seen in this photo taken in 2005, knows how quickly tragedy can strike. U.S. soldiers fired on her family, killing her parents, during an evening drive during which they encountered the American patrol.
Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib prison left an enduring scar on the memories of the Iraqis following Hussein's brutal 24-year reign. Members of the American military maintained the sites cruel legacy by engaging in human rights violations that shook the world. Photos of prisoner abuse and torture, often with American service personnel in the shot, were released in the press in April 2004. The haunting photo of a hooded man seen here arguably is the most enduring image of the American occupation.
Michael Yon/Courtesy of U.S. Army
Soldier and Child A U.S. soldier cradles an Iraqi child who had been killed in a car bomb.
U.S. Department of Defense
Soldier Coffins Fearing the reactions of the public as a result of seeing American soldiers killed in action, the Department of Defense prevented this release of any images depicting these flag-draped coffins. A Freedom of Information Act request, however, later compelled their release.
Families Left Behind On Memorial Day weekend in 2007, a photographer snapped what is one of the most compelling views of the toll inflicted by the Iraq War on American service members and their families. Mary McHugh was engaged to be married to James Regan, a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Before their wedding, Regan was killed by an IED explosion in Iraq. During a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, photographer John Moore snapped this photo of McHugh, who had just looked upon Regan's grave for the first time. Regan is interred in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery along with hundreds of other soldiers killed during the war.
The Shoe Thrown During the waning days of his administration in December 2008, President Bush paid a visit to Iraq. During a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, an Iraqi reporter offered Bush what he called a "farewell kiss," and threw both of his shoes at Bush. Bush dodged the assault and the reporter was swiftly detained by security agents.
Department of Defense
Sergeant First Class Justin Hathaway walks through a sandstorm at Al Asad Air Force Base in Iraq. With the Iraq War officially over, both American soldiers and civilians, as well as the Iraqi people themselves, are still grappling with the mixed legacy of the protracted conflict.
Read more of Discovery News’ Best of 2011
Two U.S. aircraft on Friday bombed Islamic State extremist positions in northern Iraq after artillery fire near U.S. personnel, the Pentagon said.
The raid -- the most significant since the United States withdrew from Iraq -- came a day after President Barack Obama authorized force as he voiced fears of genocide against minorities.
Two U.S. F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound (225-kilogram) laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near the Kurdish region's capital of Arbil, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby.
The United States bombed the position after Islamist fighters shelled Kurdish forces defending Arbil, where U.S. personnel are stationed, he said.
The strike, carried out at 10:45 GMT, targeted the Sunni Muslim extremist movement Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that has swept across Syria and Iraq.
"As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities," Kirby said in a statement.
President Barack Obama has ordered U.S. warplanes back into Iraqi skies to stop jihadists from moving into autonomous Kurdistan and carrying out a potential genocide against displaced minorities.
Obama, who opposed the 2003 invasion and has vowed no return of ground troops, said Thursday that he authorized action due to fears of genocide as thousands of members of the Yazidi minority fled for their lives.
On Thursday, the United States dropped thousands of gallons of drinking water and 8,000 packaged meals to Yazidis who risk starvation as they cram onto Mount Sinjar.
Many people who have been cowering in the Sinjar mountains for five days in searing heat and with no supplies are Yazidis, a minority that follows a 4,000-year-old faith.
Obama accused the IS, which calls Yazidis "devil-worshippers," of attempting "the systematic destruction of the entire people, which would constitute genocide."
He also justified possible air strikes because of the jihadist threat to Washington's Kurdish allies, following a lightning advance that saw the Sunni extremists move within striking distance of Arbil.
"We plan to stand vigilant and take action if they threaten our facilities anywhere in Iraq, including the consulate in Arbil and embassy in Baghdad," Obama said.
Obama's announcement came after an emergency UN Security Council meeting called by France, which also offered to support forces battling the jihadists.