Iraq Since the Gulf War
By Amy Miller

President George H.W. Bush participates in a briefing on the progress of the ground war with Iraq in his residence office in 1991. General Colin Powell points out areas on two maps of the Middle East. Also present is Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. (Photo: Courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library.)

For more than 10 years, the United States government and its allies, or friends, have wanted to overthrow President Saddam Hussein (sah-DAHM hoo-SANE), because they believe he is dangerous. He is a dictator, or a leader who rules by military force. Anyone who criticizes Hussein in public is either jailed or executed.

"It has long been—for several years now—a policy of the United States government that regime [government] change would be in the best interests of the region, the best interests of the Iraqi people," says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In early July, the public learned that the Pentagon had outlined a plan to attack Iraq from land, sea, and air. Thousands of soldiers would target airfields, roadways, and television and radio stations, according to the plan. They would destroy factories where government officials suspect Hussein makes nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

History of Conflict

Hussein's troops invaded neighboring Kuwait in 1990, hoping to control its immense oil wealth. The United Nations (UN) ordered Iraq out of Kuwait. When Hussein refused, President George H.W. Bush (the current President's father) and U.S. allies launched an attack called Operation Desert Storm in 1991. They drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in less than two months, but Saddam Hussein stayed in power.

The allies hoped Hussein would fall from power on his own after his defeat in Kuwait. The UN tried to weaken Hussein's government by imposing sanctions, or penalties, preventing all trade with Iraq. Only medical supplies and food could be imported to Iraq. No-fly zones were also set up to keep Iraq's military in check. Iraq's military cannot operate in these areas.

On March 20, the U.S. went to war with Iraq.