Looking back to 2003
We look forward not back
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2003 Big News Story
US Invades Iraq with Shock and Awe
2003 marked the completion of the Human Genome Project, which successfully mapped the genetic makeup of human beings. It also marked the breakup of the Space Shuttle Columbia upon reentering Earth, killing all seven astronauts aboard. The average home value in the U.S. kept creeping higher, hitting $166,054.
“Shock and awe,” Peter Arnett intoned over and over. “This is shock and awe.” Arnett was reporting for NBC from Baghdad as the aerial bombardment lit up the night sky on March 21.
It was “A-day,” the beginning of full air combat operations in Gulf War II. As the live television cameras watched, coalition airpower was obliterating Saddam Hussein’s Presidential compound on the other side of the Tigris River and other government and military sites in and around Baghdad.
Arnett was not alone in calling it “shock and awe.” That term, which had burst suddenly into public awareness in January, was by then in near-universal usage to describe the US strategy for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“ Shock and awe” was repeated endlessly. In the week the war began, more than 600 news reports around the world referred to “shock and awe,” according to a count by the Washington Post.
Military strategists from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz have understood the value of destroying the enemy’s will to resist, but Shock and Awe—introduced by a 1996 study aimed at Pentagon insiders—took it to higher levels. Shock and Awe meant an attack so massive and sudden that the enemy would be stunned, confused, overwhelmed, and paralyzed.
Harlan K. Ullman, principal architect of the concept, explained to the Long Island Newsday in February, “What we want to do is to create in the minds of the Iraqi leadership, and their soldiers, this Shock and Awe, so they are intimidated, made to feel so impotent, so helpless, that they have no choice but to do what we want them to do, so the smartest thing is to say, ‘This is hopeless. We quit.’ ”
The Department of Defense did not officially or explicitly endorse Shock and Awe, but traces of it could be discerned in statements by top leaders.
For example, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of US Central Command, said at a press briefing in Qatar March 22, “This will be a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force.”
Franks said, “Coalition airmen [will] deliver decisive precision shock, such as you witnessed beginning last night.” He said that the attack was carried out by “shock air forces.”
Popular enthusiasm for Shock and Awe was high as the war began. However, the Iraqi regime was not shocked and awed into immediate surrender. The war entered a second week, then a third.
The questions were not long in coming. Where was the Shock and Awe? Was the strategy bogging down? Baghdad fell to coalition forces after 20 days, but, by then, Shock and Awe had dropped precipitously in public opinion.
Among the disillusioned was Peter Arnett, who told state-controlled Iraqi television in a cloying interview March 30 that “the war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance.” When NBC fired him, Arnett expressed—what elseshock and awe.
Six months later, Shock and Awe had faded badly. It was showing up as a catch phrase in advertising and war games, but military people were keeping their distance and the analysis concentrated mostly on what went wrong.
2003 by the Numbers
Economic Data from 2003
Grocery Prices from 2003
Personally, while the US fought the War in Iraq, I fought a war against Lymes disease. I sought aggressive treatment from and amazing physician in Dr. Michael Cichon. With getting divorced and battling an illness my focus shifted from my career to my health. Unlike GW I was unwilling to declare "Mission Accomplished" till I was sure I was healthy.
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