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The start of the Iraq War 20 years later in photos

March 20, 2003: U.S. Marines prepare themselves after receiving orders to cross the Iraqi border at Camp Shoup, in northern Kuwait.
Eric Feferberg
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AFP via Getty Images
March 20, 2003: U.S. Marines prepare themselves after receiving orders to cross the Iraqi border at Camp Shoup, in northern Kuwait.

On March 20, 2003, the U.S. carried out its first airstrikes in Iraq. Today marks the 20th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We take a look at scenes from the Iraq War in pictures.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

March 21, 2003: Fires burn in and around Saddam Hussein's Council of Ministers in Baghdad, Iraq, during a wave of attacks in the "shock and awe" phase of "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Daily Mirror Gulf / Getty Images
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Getty Images
March 21, 2003: Fires burn in and around Saddam Hussein's Council of Ministers in Baghdad, Iraq, during a wave of attacks in the "shock and awe" phase of "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
March 21, 2003: President George W. Bush meets with his war council in the Situation Room of the White House. Present at the table are, from foreground, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Chief of Staff Andy Card, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers.
The White House / Getty Images
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Getty Images
March 21, 2003: President George W. Bush meets with his war council in the Situation Room of the White House. Present at the table are, from foreground, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Chief of Staff Andy Card, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers.
March 26, 2003: U.S. Marines from Task Force Tarawa search for Iraqi troops in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. As night falls, the Marines are on alert for a counter attack from Iraqi troops.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
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Getty Images
March 26, 2003: U.S. Marines from Task Force Tarawa search for Iraqi troops in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. As night falls, the Marines are on alert for a counter attack from Iraqi troops.
April 1, 2003: In this handout image from night-scope video, U.S. military personnel carry U.S. Pfc. Jessica Lynch off of a helicopter at an undisclosed location in Iraq. Lynch was rescued from a hospital in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Lynch had been missing since March 23, when she and members of her unit, the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company, were ambushed by Iraqi forces.
CENTCOM / Getty Images
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Getty Images
April 1, 2003: In this handout image from night-scope video, U.S. military personnel carry U.S. Pfc. Jessica Lynch off of a helicopter at an undisclosed location in Iraq. Lynch was rescued from a hospital in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Lynch had been missing since March 23, when she and members of her unit, the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company, were ambushed by Iraqi forces.
April 9, 2003: U.S. Marines pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad.
Guardian Gulf / Getty Images
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Getty Images
April 9, 2003: U.S. Marines pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad.
March 30, 2003: Women line up for a security check by British soldiers on the outskirts of Basra, as they try to flee from this southern Iraqi town.
Anja Niedringhaus / Associated Press
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Associated Press
March 30, 2003: Women line up for a security check by British soldiers on the outskirts of Basra, as they try to flee from this southern Iraqi town.
April 13, 2003: Iraqi National Museum Deputy Director Mushin Hasan holds his head in his hands as he sits on destroyed artifacts in Bagdhad, Iraq. The museum was severely looted.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
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Getty Images
April 13, 2003: Iraqi National Museum Deputy Director Mushin Hasan holds his head in his hands as he sits on destroyed artifacts in Bagdhad, Iraq. The museum was severely looted.
May 1, 2003: President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
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AP
May 1, 2003: President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast.
May 31, 2003: Iraqi men check a list as sheets containing the remains of bodies excavated from a mass grave lie in the desert on the outskirts of Musayib, approximately 30 miles south of Baghdad. Locals said the mass grave contained the remains of hundreds of Shia Muslims allegedly executed by Saddam Hussein's regime after their uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.
Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images
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Getty Images
May 31, 2003: Iraqi men check a list as sheets containing the remains of bodies excavated from a mass grave lie in the desert on the outskirts of Musayib, approximately 30 miles south of Baghdad. Locals said the mass grave contained the remains of hundreds of Shia Muslims allegedly executed by Saddam Hussein's regime after their uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.
Dec. 15, 2003: The entrance to the "spider hole" where Saddam Hussein was hiding when he was captured is seen from inside the space in Ad Dawr, Iraq. Iraq's notorious dictator was captured in a raid at the compound on Dec. 13.
Chris Hondros / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Dec. 15, 2003: The entrance to the "spider hole" where Saddam Hussein was hiding when he was captured is seen from inside the space in Ad Dawr, Iraq. Iraq's notorious dictator was captured in a raid at the compound on Dec. 13.
A photo of the capture of Saddam Hussein, subdued during his capture.
Rusty Russell / Getty Images
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Getty Images
A photo of the capture of Saddam Hussein, subdued during his capture.
Jan. 28, 2004: A boy stands at the scene of a car bombing that killed at least three people in Baghdad. A suicide bomber blew up the explosive-packed car in front of the Shaheen Hotel, which was frequented by many westerners and where Iraq's labor minister lived.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Jan. 28, 2004: A boy stands at the scene of a car bombing that killed at least three people in Baghdad. A suicide bomber blew up the explosive-packed car in front of the Shaheen Hotel, which was frequented by many westerners and where Iraq's labor minister lived.
March 3, 2004: Iraqi mourners carry the coffins of those killed the day before in a series of explosions in the Shia holy city of Karbala.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images
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Getty Images
March 3, 2004: Iraqi mourners carry the coffins of those killed the day before in a series of explosions in the Shia holy city of Karbala.
April 9, 2004: Iraqi insurgents wave their national flag as they celebrate in front of a burning U.S. military tanker after attacking it in Abu Gharib.
Antonio Scorza / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
April 9, 2004: Iraqi insurgents wave their national flag as they celebrate in front of a burning U.S. military tanker after attacking it in Abu Gharib.
April 28, 2004: This late 2003 file image obtained by The Associated Press shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him, at the Abu Ghraib prison.
/ AP
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AP
April 28, 2004: This late 2003 file image obtained by The Associated Press shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him, at the Abu Ghraib prison.
May 3, 2004: People look at rows of graves at an overflowing cemetery built in a soccer arena, in Fallujah, Iraq. An estimated 1,300 Iraqis had been killed in the monthlong siege of Fallujah, and the death toll continued to rise as residents returned home to find more bodies.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
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Getty Images
May 3, 2004: People look at rows of graves at an overflowing cemetery built in a soccer arena, in Fallujah, Iraq. An estimated 1,300 Iraqis had been killed in the monthlong siege of Fallujah, and the death toll continued to rise as residents returned home to find more bodies.
Aug. 7, 2004: Iraqi Shia militiamen prepare to fire their weapons during clashes with U.S. Marines in Najaf, Iraq.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Aug. 7, 2004: Iraqi Shia militiamen prepare to fire their weapons during clashes with U.S. Marines in Najaf, Iraq.
Aug. 27, 2004: Iraqi Shia faithful line up outside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, to mark the end of conflict. The rebel leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his fighters to lay down their arms in a peace deal brokered by Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Aug. 27, 2004: Iraqi Shia faithful line up outside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, to mark the end of conflict. The rebel leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his fighters to lay down their arms in a peace deal brokered by Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Nov. 10, 2004: U.S. Marines search houses for insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq.
Scott Peterson / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Nov. 10, 2004: U.S. Marines search houses for insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq.
Nov. 22, 2004: U.S. Marines use explosives to open rooftop doors as they search houses for insurgents on in Fallujah, Iraq.
Scott Peterson / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Nov. 22, 2004: U.S. Marines use explosives to open rooftop doors as they search houses for insurgents on in Fallujah, Iraq.
Jan. 17, 2005: Spc. Franklin Smith pulls away as a mortar blasts out of a tube at the edge of the U.S. airbase in Tal Afar, Iraq. U.S. mortaring teams frequently fired "harassment and interdiction" mortar fusillades from the base to suspected enemy positions or watched areas nearby.
Chris Hondros / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Jan. 17, 2005: Spc. Franklin Smith pulls away as a mortar blasts out of a tube at the edge of the U.S. airbase in Tal Afar, Iraq. U.S. mortaring teams frequently fired "harassment and interdiction" mortar fusillades from the base to suspected enemy positions or watched areas nearby.
Jan. 30, 2005: Voters look over their ballots before voting behind a cardboard screen on Election Day in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood.
Chris Hondros / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Jan. 30, 2005: Voters look over their ballots before voting behind a cardboard screen on Election Day in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood.
May 12, 2005: The scene of a car bombing in eastern Baghdad. The device exploded near a busy marketplace in a mainly Shia district.
Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images
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Getty Images
May 12, 2005: The scene of a car bombing in eastern Baghdad. The device exploded near a busy marketplace in a mainly Shia district.
Feb. 22, 2006: Iraqis gather at the ruins of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, Iraq.
Khalid Mohammed / Associated Press
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Associated Press
Feb. 22, 2006: Iraqis gather at the ruins of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, Iraq.
Jan. 4, 2008: U.S. soldiers patrol the village of al-Wajihiya, 18 miles from Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.
Ali Yussef / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Jan. 4, 2008: U.S. soldiers patrol the village of al-Wajihiya, 18 miles from Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.
March 19, 2008: An Iraqi boy watches as U.S. soldiers patrol his neighborhood in the Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.
David Furst / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
March 19, 2008: An Iraqi boy watches as U.S. soldiers patrol his neighborhood in the Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.
April 27, 2008: A woman walks with her children during a sandstorm in Baghdad.
Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images
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Getty Images
April 27, 2008: A woman walks with her children during a sandstorm in Baghdad.
Oct. 18, 2008: Shia demonstrators carry Iraqi flags during a protest against a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact in Baghdad.
Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Oct. 18, 2008: Shia demonstrators carry Iraqi flags during a protest against a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact in Baghdad.
June 23, 2009: Iraqi prisoners hold their hands above their heads as they are escorted by U.S. soldiers from one unit to another at a U.S.-run detention center in Camp Cropper on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
June 23, 2009: Iraqi prisoners hold their hands above their heads as they are escorted by U.S. soldiers from one unit to another at a U.S.-run detention center in Camp Cropper on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Oct. 25, 2009: An Iraqi weeps as he walks away from the ministries of justice and labor following a suicide bombing. Twin suicide car bombs blasted the justice ministry and the provincial offices in central Baghdad, killing at least 90 people and injuring 600 others.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Oct. 25, 2009: An Iraqi weeps as he walks away from the ministries of justice and labor following a suicide bombing. Twin suicide car bombs blasted the justice ministry and the provincial offices in central Baghdad, killing at least 90 people and injuring 600 others.
Nov. 28, 2009: Iraq's flag flutters in the wind as Iraqi Shia take part in Friday noon prayers in Sadr City.
Ali Al-Saadi / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Nov. 28, 2009: Iraq's flag flutters in the wind as Iraqi Shia take part in Friday noon prayers in Sadr City.
Jan. 5, 2010: U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Jose Guillen-Verde hugs his mother, Denia Metivier, during a deployment ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Jan. 5, 2010: U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Jose Guillen-Verde hugs his mother, Denia Metivier, during a deployment ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Jan. 26, 2010: A crater marks the site of a car bomb's explosion near the Al-Hamra hotel in Baghdad. Three car bombs targeted hotels used by foreign journalists and businessmen in Baghdad.
Muhannad Fala'ah / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Jan. 26, 2010: A crater marks the site of a car bomb's explosion near the Al-Hamra hotel in Baghdad. Three car bombs targeted hotels used by foreign journalists and businessmen in Baghdad.
April 25, 2010: Iraqi men carry the coffin of one of the victims of a triple bombing attack outside a mortuary in the Baghdad.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
April 25, 2010: Iraqi men carry the coffin of one of the victims of a triple bombing attack outside a mortuary in the Baghdad.
July 23, 2010: Smoke billows from a burning car in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk following a blast that seriously wounded the city's police chief, Borhan Habib Tayeb, and killed his son.
Marwan Ibrahim / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
July 23, 2010: Smoke billows from a burning car in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk following a blast that seriously wounded the city's police chief, Borhan Habib Tayeb, and killed his son.
Sept. 20, 2010: A man sits on the rubble of his destroyed home a day after two near-simultaneous car bombs rocked Baghdad, killing 29 and wounding 111 in the city's deadliest day in a month.
/ Kahlil Al-Murshidi/AFP via Getty Images
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Kahlil Al-Murshidi/AFP via Getty Images
Sept. 20, 2010: A man sits on the rubble of his destroyed home a day after two near-simultaneous car bombs rocked Baghdad, killing 29 and wounding 111 in the city's deadliest day in a month.
Dec. 17, 2011: Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade's 1st Cavalry Division board a C-17 transport plane to depart from Iraq at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Dec. 17, 2011: Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade's 1st Cavalry Division board a C-17 transport plane to depart from Iraq at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Dec. 18, 2011: Iraqis wave behind a U.S. flag on the dashboard of a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle that's part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team's 1st Cavalry Division, as part of the last U.S. military convoy to leave Iraq near Nasiriyah, Iraq.
Lucas Jackson / Pool/Getty Images
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Pool/Getty Images
Dec. 18, 2011: Iraqis wave behind a U.S. flag on the dashboard of a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle that's part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team's 1st Cavalry Division, as part of the last U.S. military convoy to leave Iraq near Nasiriyah, Iraq.

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