South Australians at War
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future



Conflicts : The Iraq War

znwsi11743840_20030321_019_Iraq WarWhen Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990, precipitating the Gulf War, the United Nations (UN) approved economic sanctions on Iraq. Australian forces assisted with the monitoring of this trade embargo. At the end of the Gulf War Australians participated in the United Nations Special Commission to locate and destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In 1998 Iraq withdrew its cooperation with the UN inspectors and the United States (US) and Britain began 'Operation Desert Fox', consisting of bombing raids designed to destroy any weapons that might still exist. In December 1999 the UN created the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to replace the Special Commission. UNMOVIC was rejected by Iraq.

On the morning of 11 September 2001 hijacked passenger aeroplanes were crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York (the Twin Towers), the Pentagon in Washington DC and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The estimated number of people presumed dead from these attacks, including those on the planes, hijackers, those in the buildings and surrounds and emergency workers who attended the sites, is over 2,900. In the early afternoon, US President George W Bush stated, 'Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.' US officials believed Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, to be the mastermind of the attacks and vowed to bring to justice the terrorists responsible and any governments that supported or harboured terrorist cells. This became known as the 'War on Terror'. In October the US and Britain led coalition attacks known as 'Operation Enduring Freedom' against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Australia committed to the coalition on 18 October. 'Operation Enduring Freedom' continued until March 2002.

As part of the 'War on Terror' campaign, the US and Britain resumed bombing raids in Iraq in September 2002 to increase pressure on President Saddam Hussein to remove weapons of mass destruction. Bush warned the UN that if the organisation would not act to check Iraq's disregard for calls to disarm, then the US would act alone against Iraq.

On 12 October 2002 bombs were detonated at Bali's Kuta Beach, a destination popular with western tourists, particularly Australians. The death toll was 202, including 88 Australians. Indonesian Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiah, which is believed to have links with al-Qaeda, was thought to be responsible. This terrorist attack, which directly affected Australians, strengthened the Australian government's support of the 'War on Terror'.

UN weapons inspectors were allowed back into Iraq in November 2002 and reported that Iraq had been more cooperative, but that more time was required. In mid-March 2003, however, weapons inspectors were withdrawn and Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq.

The US, British and Australian governments maintained that Iraq harboured terrorists who may have been responsible for September 11 and other terrorist attacks and also stated that, although UN inspectors had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, weapons were still in existence and posed a grave threat. Despite some opposition from the Australian public, on 18 March the Australian government pledged forces already stationed in the Persian Gulf to assist US troops. The Iraq War began on 20 March 2003 when the US-led 'Coalition of the Willing' commenced a bombing campaign of Baghdad.

By early April the US-led forces had secured control of Baghdad. On 1 May Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. In October, the UN passed a resolution that validated the US action in Iraq but stressed that power must be passed to an Iraqi government as early as possible. Hussein was captured near his hometown of Tikrit on 14 December 2003. On 28 June 2004 an interim Iraqi government was established. Hussein was transferred to Iraqi custody. Elections were held in January 2005 and the Shia United Iraqi Alliance won a majority of seats. In April, a new government was formed led by President Jalal Talabani. In October, Hussein was put on trial facing charges of crimes against humanity. He was found guilty in November 2006 and sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on 30 December. The situation in Iraq continues to be volatile and coalition troops remain to assist in the country's post-war reconstruction and attempt to curb the continuing violence.

While the State Library of South Australia holds many reference works related to this conflict, we hold little in the way of records relating to South Australians involved.

If you have any original items relating to South Australians at war such as photographs, film, diaries and letters, the Library's Archival Field Officers would like to hear from you regarding possible donations, or copies being made for the Library's collections.

Share 'Your story' about this conflict: contribute memories in words and photographs.

President Bush's public remarks on 11 September 2001 can be viewed at the news archives on the White House website see: September 11 2001

Adelaide rallies against conflict: 100,000 say no to wa
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Australians go to war
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Interview with Ruth Russell
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Iraq War: First strike: Snap missile strike to try and
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Iraq War: The human shields: She was afraid of dying, b
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Letters to the editor regarding the Iraq War
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Our troops placed on high alert
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Peace not war
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Putting it all on the line to rebuild nation
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SA troops to join the action
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Sons, daughters, heroes
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Time's up: Get out or we go in, Bush warns
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