Timeline: 2003

Jan 13 President Bush summons Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Oval Office and tells him that he has decided to go to war against Iraq.

Jan 28  In his State of the Union speech, President Bush speaks of intelligence reports and says that Saddam Hussein is not disarming, he is deceiving. He says that he is ready to attack Iraq with a United Nations mandate. "We exercise power without conquest," he says, "and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers."

Jan 28  Following Bush's address, a nationally televised debate takes place between Mark Danner and Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens, occasionally described as a leftist, has been in Iraq and is close to some there who have been fighting the Saddam regime. He argues that going to war is the right thing to do. Danner favors strengthening the "containment policy." He describes Bush's doctrine of preemption as "extremely dangerous." He argues that a prolonged occupation would be needed to stabilize Iraq and that this would be fraught with complications and could result in more terror attacks against the US He complains that Bush did not use the word "occupation" in his speech.

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher/writer

Feb 5  Secretary of State Powell addresses the United Nations Security Council and accuses Iraq of hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction. The evidence he says is "irrefutable and undeniable." He states that the UN "places itself in danger of irrelevance if it allows Iraq to continue to defy its will without responding effectively and immediately."  

Feb 6  Few journalists in the United States question Powell's presentation. One who does is Katrina vanden Heuvel. Published in USA Today, she writes that Powell's presentation contained "little new information or proof of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." She writes that nearly all of Powell's evidence is "largely circumstantial or speculative." She complains of minor violations being offered to justify a major war.

Feb 15  More than 10 million people in over 600 cities worldwide protest against

Feb 15  Polls show that in the US, President Bush's State of the Union Speech and Powell's presentation at the UN have increased support for an invasion of Iraq. Only 27 percent of those polled oppose military action against Iraq. 

Feb 19  In the Kremlin, Putin meets with Russian business leaders and the most wealthy among them, Mikhail Khodorkovsky suggests that the correct mistakes they have made and leave behind the corruption that has became the way of doing business in Russia, implying that government officials have been accepting millions in bribes offered by businessmen in order to get things done. Khordokovsky speaks in favor of moving to a Western European model of doing business. Putin is annoyed and makes a vailed threat to Khodorskovsky.

Feb 22  Weapons inspectors in Iraq have found al-Samoud missiles, which have a range that is proscribed by the UN.

Feb 27  President Bush awards the National Humanities Medal to history professor Paul Kagan, the father of historians whom some would call neo-cons. Paul Kagan had suggested that war had erupted between Athens and Sparta because Athens had not been strong enough to scare Sparta into a reluctance to go to war – rather than states responding defensively to Athenian aggressions. Keeping states scared is to be primary in "neo-con" strategic thinking.

Mar 1  Iraq begins destroying its al-Samoud missiles.

Mar 1  In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks of the "majority of decent and well-meaning people " in the 1930s who wanted to live in peace with Hitler's Germany. He compares them with those who want peace now and do not want to hold Saddam Hussein to account by force if he does not live up to agreements. It is an argument that has been getting more attention in Britain and the United States, which had switched to opposition to Hitler by 1939.

Zoran Djindjic

Zoran Djindjic, philosopher-politician

Mar 5 The foreign ministers of Germany, Russia and France say they will oppose any Security Council authorization of war against Iraq.

Mar 7  Hans Blix reports that Iraq has accelerated its cooperation but that inspectors need more time to verify Iraq's compliance.

Mar 9  In Britain, a member of Tony Blair's cabinet, Clare Short, describes his position on Iraq as "deeply reckless" and threatens to resign.

Mar 12  Serbia's prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, is assassinated. He had a role in sending Slobodan Milosevic to his trial in the Netherlands, and he was trying to curb organized crime.

Mar 16  President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spain's Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar meet in the Azores regarding Iraq. At the end of the meeting President Bush states that "We concluded that tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world."

Mar 17  The Bush administration sends an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein: either he and his sons leave Iraq or their refusal to do so "will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing." Before his death in 2006, Hussein is to say that he didn't believe that this meant the kind of invasion that followed, that he expected a military operation of the kind that he had been able to survive.

Mar 19  Hussein has not complied. The war against Iraq begins with air strikes.

Mar 20  US, British, Australian and Polish troops invade Iraq.

Mar 22  The US and Britain begin their "shock and awe" air strikes against targets in Baghdad.

Mar 28  President Bush signs into law his tax plan designed to reduce taxes and stimulate economic growth. The act reduces the long-term individual income tax rate on capital gains to 15 percent, and it significantly reduces the amount of tax paid by investors on dividends and capital gains. A statement signed by 450 economists, including 10 Nobel Prize Laureates, oppose the tax-cut bill.

Apr 9   Saddam Hussein's army has ended its resistance and US forces advance into central Baghdad. 

Apr 10  Via television, Bush addresses the Iraqi people, telling them that the "government of Iraq, and the future of your country, will soon belong to you." Kurdish and US forces dominate the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. Looting has begun in Baghdad and other cities.

Apr 11 So far in the Iraq war, the US has lost 102 killed and the British 30. Looting has begun in Baghdad.

Apr 21  Retired US Army General Jay Garner has been appointed to administer a brief occupation of Iraq.  He flies into Iraq with eight subordinates.

Apr 22  Garner wants to create a new Iraqi federal government and he wants elections to be held within 90 days. The Pentagon is opposed and Garner agrees to set up an interim Iraqi advisory group of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, many of whom are expatriates favored by the Pentagon.

Apr 23  The Bush administration decides to put Paul Bremer in charge in Iraq. 

Apr 25  The Darfur Liberation Front, consisting of Muslims, associates itself with those Christians in the south of Sudan fighting against the government in Khartoum. It has changed its name to the Sudan Liberation Movement and Sudanese Liberation Army (SLM/SLA).  In Land Cruisers, they attack a sleeping garrison at al-Fashir – a city in the Darfur region. They destroy seven helicopter gunships and four Anotov bombers on the ground and kill 75 pilots, soldiers and technicians.  The Khartoum government is awakened to the fact that they face serious warfare from the Darfur region. 

Apr 28  The US Army enters the city of Fallujah and imposes a curfew.  A crowd of about 200 protest and throw stones at the US forces. According to US soldiers they also hear shots, while none has been struck by a bullet. The soldiers fire into the crowd. It is reported that they kill 17 civilians and wound over 70. In Fallujah, anti-Americanism and anger against occupation spreads.

May 1  President Bush lands a fighter aircraft on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, near San Diego, California. He tells the military people aboard the carrier that "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."

May 12  A suicide truck-bomb attack kills at least 60 at a government compound in northern Chechnya. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, suicide truck-bombers, said to be al Qaeda, attack the compounds where American and other Westerners are sleeping. Twenty-six are killed.

May 14  In an apparent attempt to assassinate Chechnya's chief administrator, Akhmad Kadyrov, a woman with explosives strapped to her waist kills at least 18 fellow Muslims. 

May 14  Paul Bremer has his first full day in Baghdad.

May 15  Jay Garner confronts Bremer concerning Bermer's plan regarding purging Baathists from Iraqi public offices. Garner says "you're going to drive between 30,000 and 50,000 Baathists underground before nightfall. Don't do this." Bremer politely ends the discussion. 

May 16  Bremer orders the disbanding of Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior, the entire Iraqi military, and all of Saddam's bodyguard and special paramilitary organizations. Garner is stunned and believes that Bremer is undoing work to bring back the Iraqi army.

May 16  In the city of Casablanca, Morocco, fourteen attackers, most between 20 and 24 years-old, strike at a variety of Jewish and Western targets. Thirty-three are killed and more than one hundred injured.

Aung Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

May 28  The Israeli Cabinet votes to accept a US-backed "road map to peace," paving the way for talks between Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas.

May 31  Eric Rudolf, a former member of the "Army of God," an offshoot of the "Christian Identity" movement, wanted for a bomb blast that killed one and wounded 111 at the close of the Olympic Games in Atlanta Georia in 1996 and for other bombings, is captured in North Carolina.

Jun 1  In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won an overwhelming victory in national elections in 1988 but has been denied office, has been taken into custody by the ruling military clique following a clash between their forces and her supporters. 

Jun 3  In Zimbabwe, authorities arrest political opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change, and army units attack and beat peaceful protesters.

Jun 5  Shops, banks and factories in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, remain shut for a third day, defying government threats to crack down on businesses taking part in the largest strikes yet aimed at President Robert Mugabe. The Movement for Democratic Change announces that one of the protesters attacked on June 3 has died from injuries. Police have reported 250 to 300 arrests in the past few days.

June 5  In Chechnya a female suicide bomber detonates a bomb near a bus carrying soldiers and civilians to a military airfield in Mozdok, a major staging point for Russian troops. At least 16 are killed.

Jun 15  A rate of about one US soldier per day has been killed in Iraq since the end of combat was declared. The US launches Operation Desert Scorpion to defeat organized Iraqi resistance against US troops.

Jun 18  In the United States, Jay Garner tells Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld that three mistakes have been made: the extent of the de-Baathification; getting rid of the Iraqi army, which has left hundreds of thousands unemployed and armed Iraqis running around; and summarily dismissing an Iraqi leadership group. Garner says there is "still time to rectify this." Rumsfeld replies: I don't think there is anything we can do, because we are where we are.

June 28 US military commanders order a halt to local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq.

Jul 1  In Hong Kong, 500,000 march to protest a proposed security law that would restrict and punish dissent.  

Jul 2  President Bush responds to insurgents in Iraq. He says, "My answer is, bring 'em on."

Jul 2  In Russia, a Khodorkovsky business associate, Platon Lebedev, is arrested. The move against Lebedev will be perceived as politically motivated and a warning to Khodorkovsky to flee the country. Lebedev will be charged with tax evasion, embezzlement and money laundering and sent to prison.

Jul 5  In Hong Kong it is announced that the proposed security law would be modified to remove warrantless searches  

Jul 13  Iraq's interim governing council, composed of 25 Iraqis appointed by American and British officials, is inaugurated. The council has power to name ministers and will help draw up a new constitution for the country, while Paul Bremer retains ultimate authority.

Jul 17  US combat deaths in Iraq reach 147.

Jul 22  A raid by US soldiers kills Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, and a grandson. 

Jul 23  In Hong Kong Tony Blair commends the peaceful nature of the recent demonstrations against the security law legislation and speaks of evidence of the stability of China overall and the "one country, two systems policy" for what is now China's Hong Kong.

Jul 27  Bob Hope dies at age 100.

Aug 1  A suicide bomber rams a truck filled with explosives into a military hospital near Chechnya, killing 50, including Russian soldiers.

Aug 11 A heat wave in Paris reaches 44 degrees Celsius (112 degrees Fahrenheit), killing more than 3,000.

Aug 19  A truck bomb kills 20 at the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad.

Aug 22  In the US, a new method of sequencing genes can determine the entire genetic code of a virus in a single day.

Aug 26  In Mumbai (Bombay), two car bombs have killed 52 and injured close to 150. India's deputy prime minister announces indications Islamic militants were involved. Suspicion is directed against Pakistan. 

Sep 5  In Hong Kong the security legislation that was protested in July is withdrawn.

Sep 5  At Disneyland in California, a roller coaster accident injures 10 and kills 1.

Sep 16  Bremer tells a group of new Iraqi ministers that it is unpleasant being occupied but that "the Coalition is still the sovereign power here."

Sep 23  Two-thirds of Baghdad residents who answer a US Gallup poll respond politely, saying that the removal of Saddam Hussein is worth the hardships they have encountered and that they expect a better life in five years.

Oct 2  North Korea claims that it is using plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel rods to make atomic weapons.

Oct 2  Pakistan's army launches its largest offensive against al-Qaeda and other militants in Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan, killing at least 12.

Oct 3  In Karachi, Pakistan, gunmen open fire on a bus carrying Shiite Muslim employees of Pakistan's space agency, killing six and wounding at least six others.

Oct 4  In Haifa, Israel, Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old female Palestinian lawyer, blows herself up in a restaurant, killing 21.

Oct 5  Maher Arar is returned to Canada after Syrian authorities conclude that he has had no links with terrorists. Arar's cell was 3 by 6 feet. He was repeatedly tortured and could hear the screams of other prisoners.

Oct 7  Californians elect Arnold Schwarzenegger governor.

Oct 10  Spain's new Madrid-Leida bullet train makes its first journey. The train has an average speed of 108 mph, with a peak of 124 mph.

Oct 11  The French government supports school officials who have expelled two sisters for refusing to remove traditional Islamic head scarves in class. 

Oct 15  China launches its first manned space mission.

Oct 21  The Pentagon has put in charge of Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison Major General Geoffrey Miller, the Pentagon planning to apply at Abu Ghraib what Miller had applied at Guantanamo, to get more information from prisoners. The Red Cross completes a three-day visit to the prison and reports abuse.

Oct 24  The Concord makes its final commercial flight.

Oct 25  The New York Times reports today that "Russia's richest man, the baron Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, was seized at gunpoint [yesterday] by government security agents and jailed on charges of fraud and tax evasion."

Oct 27  Four coordinated suicide attacks in Baghdad kill 43 and wound more than 200. Included among the targets is the

Nov 30  For US soldiers in Iraq, November has been the worst month: seventy-five have died. 

Dec 1  In Britain, the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is made illegal.

Dec 8  Zimbabwe withdraws from the Commonwealth of Nations.

Dec 9  A female suicide bomber blows herself up outside Moscow's National Hotel, across from the Kremlin and Red Square, killing 5.

Dec 13  Saddam Hussein is captured by American troops. Shia are joyous. Sunni are depressed. The divide between Shia and Sunni will begin to widen. Shia and Sunni who were friends will stop speaking to one another.

Dec 20  Libya admits to building a nuclear bomb.

Dec 25  President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan escapes the second assassination attempt in 2 weeks.

Dec 31  According to the CIA World Factbook, in Iraq for the year 2003, 5.84 in every 1,000 persons has died. Also, births numbered 33.66 for every 1,000 persons.

to 2002 | to 2004

Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.