Ten years ago today, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was bombarded by approximately 800 missiles in what the world would come to know as Shock and Awe.

One of the first targets during the missile attack was the Ba’ath Party Headquarters in Baghdad. Intelligence reports suggested that Saddam himself would be there, attending a meeting with party leadership. The American tomahawk blew through the roof and exploded in the building’s theater, collapsing the roof and killing a large number of Ba’athist Iraqis.

Saddam was not there – the missiles missed him by fifteen minutes. The others, who had been watching the movie Pretty Lady, weren’t so lucky. Approximately 250 party officials were killed.

Ba'ath Party Headquarters (USAF photo)

The next day a massive ground attack began, with American and coalition troops sprinting north from the Kuwaiti border. Other American forces invaded from the north through Kurdish territory. By April 5, the newly renamed Baghdad International Aiport was secured, and an invasion of Baghdad itself commenced. The capital city fell just four days later.

The devastating effectiveness of the allied invasion crumbled organized resistance within two months, but led to a rise in the insurgency that plagued and prolonged military operations until vanquished by an innovative approach to counterinsurgency that was authored by General David Petraeus and became known as the surge.

By the time U.S. forces left Iraq in December of 2011, Iraq was largely peaceful.

The military forces who fought in Iraq – or contributed to the fight – won the war. In the process they showed the Iraqi people a glimpse of what freedom looks like. Whether that lesson endures is anyone’s guess.

But the American troops gave them a fighting chance to keep it.

OIF veterans are our heroes of the week.


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