The Iraq War (2003-2011) was a war started by the United States with the help of several other countries, which deposed the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It was successful; he was captured and executed. In December 2011, the war was declared officially over, and the last non-Iraqi combat troops withdrew.
Origins of the war
The Iraq War has its origins in the 1st gulf war, which began in August 1990 following Iraq's annexation of Kuwait. Following that war, the United Nations discovered that Iraq's government had systematically murdered thousands of kurds, committing an act of genocide against the race, and as a result initiated trade sanctions against Iraq, impoverishing the people. The United States then set up a system of oil for food, in which they agreed to send food to the people of Iraq, in some way breaking the trade sanctions, in order to gain control of some of Iraq's oil supplies. For this and many other reasons, popular opinion was that both the original 1990 invasion and the 2003 invasion were primarily motivated by USA's aim to have control of Iraq's oil.
During preparations for the original invasion, USA asked to train troops in nearby Saudi Arabia, setting up military bases there. This met with protest by well-known building magnate Osama bin Laden, who in turn went on public speaking tours both before and during the war, in which he set up his organisation called Al Qaeda, which had as its initial aim to forcibly remove US troops from Saudi Arabia, described as "muslim holy ground", and secondly to stop what he termed the "new crusades", aiming at murdering all US forces stationed overseas.
In the wake of the initial war, Saddam Hussein-inspired Iraqi terrorists attempted to get revenge on Americans on US soil, by, amongst other things, trying to take planes hostage and plant bombs in buildings in USA. Additionally, Al Qaeda were attacking US forces overseas and doing a lot of damage. While Saddam Hussein's terrorist group were largely unsuccessful, Al Qaeda in comparison were highly successful in their aims, murdering hundreds of US soldiers stationed overseas.
Which of these was the primary motivation for the people who acted alone in the events known as 9/11 remains unclear. Certainly, to some extent both were motivation but at the same time, as they were committing suicide, they were definitely acting alone. The act went against what Al Qaeda stood for (as they preached only to attack Americans only foreign soil) whilst it supported Saddam Hussein and Iraq's aim to get revenge for the first war, but at the same time Al Qaeda were far more successful than Saddam Hussein had been. Regardless of this, there can be no doubt that the origins of 9/11 lay with Iraq and as such the US forces had to invade Iraq both to seek revenge and to prevent a repeat of it happening.
USA, however, had invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11, blaming them, as well as their government, the Taliban, for 9/11, without any evidence to support it. They in turn needed an excuse to invade Iraq, who were actually responsible for 9/11. The excuse given was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, something which was always a lie. Outside of the US, very few people even momentarily believed that it was true, or saw it as remotely relevant even if it was. Within the United States, however, for some reason just over half of the population fell for this lie.
Pre-history - the Oil Wars
Prior to the annexation of Kuwait, Iraq had been involved in a war over oil, between itself and Iran, known as the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980-1988. This conflict began largely due to oil and both Iran and Iraq competing in oil markets. Whilst both had traditionally been friendly with each other (at various times through their history, they had merged to form one country), oil meant that they became increasingly hostile. Popular theory is that the United States exacerbated or even initiated tensions between the two countries in order to prevent them from uniting as one country and, together with other Muslim Arab countries in the Middle East, forming one great United Arab Empire, which, combined, would threaten USA for dominance of the oil markets. By remaining at war with each other, USA would retain control of the oil markets. United States supported Iraq in the war, which led to Iraq having a large victory, even though Iran had began the war as the more powerful nation.
This war, as well as several other conflicts in the middle east since the discovery of oil there in the early 1950s, soon after the end of World War II, was motivated by oil and popular theory is that tensions were exacerbated if not initiated by the United States, not directly through government but indirectly through their secret service agency CIA. Indeed, there is a popular claim amongst Iranian scholars that a coup was arranged by CIA agents to take over Iran in 1953, something which was thwarted.
The reason why Iraq was invaded in 1990 was not because Kuwait had complained or because the annexation was cruel. Nor was it directly due to oil. Rather, the reason why Iraq was invaded was in order to ensure that tensions in the middle east remained heated. The fear in the US government was that if Iraq was allowed to annex Kuwait then it would bring peace to the region and potentially all of the Muslim Arab nations would unite and compete with USA for dominance of the oil market, perhaps also having a strong military force. As oil had been the primary reason that USA had been the world's superpower as at the end of World War II (though not necessarily the main reason as at 1990), the fear, as at 1950, was very real, but by 1990 that fear was more paranoia than anything realistic.
The Iraq War itself
The initial stages of the Iraq War were devastating and cruel. Whilst in the first invasion of Iraq in 1990, there was some thought that Iraq may be able to successfully defend their country, there was no such talk in 2003. There were precious few fighters. It was a one-way attack. News reports around the world focussed on alleged innocent civilians being murdered by missiles missing their targets, some even claiming that they were aiming to kill civilians for some reason.
After the assault, then US forces went in to invade. They were met with opposition from so-called Saddam Hussein loyalists, who would later be called insurgents, people who set bombs on themselves and walked up to US military points.
Soon enough, Al Qaeda became involved and began conducting terrorist attacks on US forces in Iraq, as this was precisely what their mission statement said that they were all about. For the first time, Al Qaeda and Iraq openly supported each other. Iran, too, sent forces into Iraq to help out the rebels.
Finally, Saddam Hussein was captured, tried, and executed. Yet still forces remain.
The claimed reason for forces to remain is until peace is restored, terrorism is removed and democracy restored. Yet that will never happen while a foreign force that is unwanted in the country remains.
The real reason to remain in the country seems to be to cover up all of the previous lies told by various other administrations. It has no merit whatsoever. Soldiers are being murdered for nothing. It is painful all around.
Whilst the invasion was in some ways justified, both to capture Saddam Hussein and for revenge for 9/11, remaining there does not.