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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): Targeting Iraq, Part II: War and Occupation, 2004-2011

About this Collection

Targeting Iraq, Part II: War and Occupation, 2004-2011 is composed of 2,179 documents and 77,706 pages concerning U.S. policy toward Iraq from July 2004 through December 2011. It begins with the closure of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the administrative structure set up by the U.S. to govern Iraq after the 2003 invasion and overthrow of the government headed by Saddam Hussein, and ends with the withdrawal of all American combat troops, as required by a U.S.-Iraq agreement signed by President George W. Bush in 2008.

The collection covers war and occupation and the collision of America’s declared and actual goals and aspirations with the realities of Iraq: its politics; its social, cultural, and historical perspectives; its capacities; and its ideological and sectarian divisions. The documents address evolving U.S. military objectives, strategy, and tactics; and the diversity of Iraqi attitudes and responses to the U.S. presence, ranging from qualified acquiescence to protest to armed resistance. It includes significant information about the economic costs of war; investment, including U.S.-controlled disbursement of Iraqi assets; measures taken to privatize the economy; the role of contractors; and rampant corruption. Documents describe human rights abuses by all sides in the conflict, including actions culminating in massive civilian deaths, prisoner abuse including torture, and the environmental and public health costs of depleted uranium munitions, white phosphorus, and toxic burn pits. Other records pertain to American public diplomacy and information strategy, which was stymied by Iraq’s post-invasion insecurity, infrastructure collapse, rising levels of violence, and the invalidation of U.S. claims about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to terrorism that were used to justify a war of choice.

The collection incorporates documents concerning the creation of a new Iraqi governing system, including the rise of a post-invasion leadership; elections; and the drafting of important documents, such as a constitution, oil legislation, and U.S.-Iraq status of forces and strategic framework agreements. It includes information on contracting practices; on injurious conduct by private security contractors including the firm Blackwater; and on attempts to impose transparency and accountability through audits and investigations, as reflected by the work of the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. An extensive selection of records declassified and compiled by Army historians is integrated into the collection to provide a detailed narrative of military developments. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the Mahdi Army, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, are discussed, along with the U.S.-funded Arab Awakening alliance of Iraqis opposed to the tactics of al-Qaeda, the U.S. surge that deployed additional troops to Iraq, and the planning for withdrawal of American forces that followed.

Events covered include the execution of Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity and a series of incidents that were calamitous for U.S.-Iraq relations: lethal attacks that caused multiple civilian casualties; bombings of the historic al-Askari mosque; the enduring consequences of U.S. torture of Abu Ghraib prison detainees; the devastation of Fallujah during U.S. assaults to defeat resistance forces; and killings by Americans -- soldiers, Marines, and contractors -- of civilians at Haditha, at Al-Mahmudiyah, at Baghdad’s Nisour Square, and by helicopter gunfire in the streets of Baghdad.

Research Value of This Collection

Targeting Iraq, Part II: War and Occupation, 2004-2011 expands and advances the earlier DNSA collection Targeting Iraq, Part I: Planning, Invasion, and Occupation, 1997-2004. The scope of the first set ends with the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority in the summer of 2004; the scope of the second begins at that point and ends with the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011. Material in the new collection also supplements and complements information in the DNSA collections Donald Rumsfeld's Snowflakes, Part I: The Pentagon and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2001-2003 and Donald Rumsfeld's Snowflakes, Part II: The Pentagon and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2004-2006, both of which incorporate substantial documentation on U.S. policy toward Iraq.

Number of Documents by Year

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Important Topics Covered

The collection includes records that are valuable for studies of the following:

  • United States policy toward the Middle East
  • United States policy toward Iraq
  • History of Iraq after the U.S. invasion of 2003
  • Intelligence and national security policymaking
  • United States counterterrorism policy
  • United States presidential decision-making
  • Foreign policy of George W. Bush
  • Foreign policy of Barack H. Obama
  • The role of contracting and contractors in U.S. foreign and military policy
  • Corruption in foreign relations
  • Al-Qaeda and militarized Islamism
  • Prisoners of war, interrogation, and torture
  • Public diplomacy, information operations, and strategic information
  • Security studies
  • International relations