The number of U.S. military killed in Iraq is closing in on 4,000 as this week marks the war’s fifth anniversary.

On Saturday the Department of Defense announced the death of six soldiers supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, bringing the casualty total to 3,978. Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of President Bush declaring war on Iraq, followed by attacks against Iraq beginning at 5:30 a.m. Baghdad time on March 20, 2003.

Detailed timelines of the Iraq war are here, here, here and here. Some of the highlights follow.

In his first State of the Union address Jan. 29, 2002, President Bush identified Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” In a speech at West Point that June, Bush announced a new defense doctrine of pre-emptive action.

In September the president warned the United Nations that unless the organization enforced its own resolutions against Iraq, the United States would have no choice but to act on its own. Congress authorized an attack Oct. 11, as U.N. weapons inspectors prepared to return to Iraq for the first time in nearly four years.

President Bush approved deployment of U.S. troops to the Gulf region Dec. 21, 2002. They were later joined by British and Australian troops.

In his State of the Union address Jan. 28, 2003, Bush said he was ready to attack Iraq without a U.N. mandate. On March 17 he delivered an ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face attack.

The president declared war on Iraq March 19, 2003, followed the next morning by air strikes targeted at Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders in Baghdad. Baghdad fell April 9. On May 1 President Bush announced that major combat operations had ended in a photo opportunity aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego, Calif.

In July the Bush administration conceded that evidence Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapons program was unsubstantiated and should not have been included in the president’s State of the Union speech in January.

Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, were killed in a firefight July 22. American troops captured Iraq’s deposed leader Dec. 13, 2003. Found hiding in a hole in the ground near his hometown of Tikrit, Saddam surrendered without a fight.

U.S. media released photographs April 30, 2004, documenting abuse and humiliation of prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

The U.S. turned power over to Iraq’s interim government June 28, 2004.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a July 9, 2004, report finding that intelligence leading up to the invasion was flawed and most major judgments on the presence of weapons of mass destruction were overstated or not supported by the data.

On Jan. 12, 2005, the White House said the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was officially over, and none were found.

Iraq adopted a constitution Oct. 25, the same day the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers reached 2,000. As many as 11 million voters turned out Dec. 15 to elect Iraq’s first Parliament since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam’s nine-month trial on charges of crimes against humanity ended July 27, 2006. He was sentenced to death Nov. 5 and executed by hanging Dec. 30. On Dec. 31 the American death toll reached 3,000.

In a nationally televised address, President Bush announced Jan. 10, 2007, that an additional 20,000 troops would be deployed to Iraq to stem sectarian fighting. In May he vetoed a $124 billion spending bill passed by Congress, because it set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. “Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible,” Bush said.

Bush defended the troop surge in his 2007 State of the Union address. Christians across the country marked the war’s fourth anniversary with protests. A Southern Baptist Convention leader said withdrawing troops from Iraq prematurely would be immoral. Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said Iraq doesn’t meet criteria for just war.

A study released in January 2008 counted 937 false statements by the Bush White House in the lead-up to war.

On March 11 faith-based peace activists were arrested in Washington in protests anticipating the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.

Speaking to religious broadcasters March 12 in Nashville, Bush used theological justification for going to war. “We undertake this work because we believe that every human being bears the image of our maker,” he told the National Religious Broadcasters convention. “That is why we are doing this. No one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. People of all faiths and all backgrounds deserve the chance at a future of their own choosing. That’s what America believes.”

A new book predicted the war will cost nearly $12 billion a month in 2008. The Associated Press reported March 16 that after five years, the war in Iraq may be only halfway over.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

Also see:

Bush Seeks Public Support for War, Skips Just War Theory (Oct. 8, 2002)

Bush Is Out of Step With Religious Leaders in Rush to War (Feb. 14, 2003)

War Fails Just War Test, No Hope of Reasonable Success (March 6, 2003)

President Bush Marches to War With Overstatement, Not Moral Clarity (March 16, 2003)

America Needs Straight Talk About Iraq (July 14, 2003)

Telling The Truth Is Preferable To Blaming The News Media (Sept. 25, 2003)

Nation Needs Truth to Trust Government at War (June 30, 2005)

Where’s the Progress in Iraq? (Aug. 19, 2005)

World Suffers Consequences of Bush’s Refusal to Heed Wisdom of Christian Leaders
(Sept. 29, 2005)

Thumbs Up to Dixie Chicks for ‘Not Ready to Make Nice’ (June 5, 2006)

Bush’s Claim of a Third Awakening Diminishes His Credibility (Sept. 16, 2006)

Bush Denies that Iraq Policy Is Stay the Course, Misleads Public (Oct. 23, 2006)

How Many Deaths in Iraq Before U.S. Churches Say Enough? (Jan. 1, 2007)

Bush Makes God an Argument for Iraq War (July 19, 2007)

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