Why did the United States invade Iraq in 2003?
Second edition. April 2017.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

The decision to invade Iraq was one of the most divisive and controversial foreign policy moves in U.S. history. It had monumental effects on both countries and fundamentally altered the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world. In the years since the invasion, the cost in lives and dollars has been higher than expected, the initial justifications for the invasion have been found false, and the future of Iraq remains uncertain. High school students today are too young to remember the arguments, conversations, and protests that occurred around the globe, but by exploring the process that brought the United States into a war with Iraq, students will gain a better understanding of the United States’ current relationship with Iraq, the broader Middle East, and the world. A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq provides an overview of Iraqi history and draws students into the public debate over the U.S. government’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Students assess the war’s effects on the United States, Iraq, and beyond, and consider the public’s role in foreign policy decisions. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I used the Iraq unit in Digital Editions and it worked well with my spring elective. I like the ease of using the videos and the images are clear. I have found the Choices curricula for the Middle East to be really useful.” – Lynn, Digital Editions User

Part I: A Brief History of Iraq

Part I explores the history and culture of Iraq. The reading spans Ottoman rule, the British mandate period, and subsequent independence. It examines Saddam Hussein’s relationship with the United States and how the United States, the United Nations, and other countries responded to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) The Geography of Iraq, and 2) Life in Iraq–1932.

Part II: From Containment to Regime Change

Part II examines U.S. sanctions after the Persian Gulf War, UN weapons inspections, the new U.S. security strategy after September 11, and the lead up to war. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: The Media and the Iraq War.

Part III: The War and Its Aftermath

Part III explores the invasion and occupation of Iraq; the effects of the war on Iraqi society, the United States, and the international community; and the Iraqi refugee crisis. There are no lessons aligned with Part III of the reading.


The Geography of Iraq

Students practice map–reading skills and consider how geography has affected Iraqi history. Students explore the history of Ottoman and British influence in the region, as well as Iraq's ethnic and religious distribution, oil infrastructure, and major geographical features.

Life in Iraq–1932

Students analyze photographs of Iraq from 1932 to explore Iraqi life and society during this time period. Students consider the benefits and limitations of using photographs as a source for learning about Iraqi history.

The Media and the Iraq War

Students examine the media's coverage of Colin Powell's speech before the United Nations. Students analyze the role of the media in a democracy and consider strategies for reading news critically.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine four distinct options for U.S. policy toward Iraq. Students simulate the debate among U.S. citizens in 2003 over the proposed invasion of Iraq.

Reflecting on the War

Synthesis Lesson: Using Choices videos, students explore the effects of the Iraq War and consider how the lessons of Iraq should influence current and future U.S. foreign policy.

Personal Stories as Historical Sources

Synthesis Lesson: Students analyze a variety of primary sources that offer first-hand accounts and reflections about the Iraq War. Students evaluate the war from the perspectives of people who experienced it and think critically about the value of personal narratives in understanding history.

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