Why did the United States invade Iraq in 2003?
Second edition. April 2017.

Perhaps no governmental decision requires more public scrutiny than the decision to go to war. The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 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. 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.


Students trace the history of Iraq and explore U.S.-Iraq relations during the twentieth century. Students examine the events leading up to the 2003 invasion, and explore the effects of the war on Iraqi society, the United States, and the international community.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


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 Choices Role Play

Students simulate the debate among U.S. citizens in 2003 over the proposed invasion of Iraq.

Reflecting on the War

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

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.


Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Cleveland, William L., and Martin P. Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East. Sixth edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2016.

Ehrenberg, John J., and Marji Sayej, Caroleen, and McSherry, Patrice, and Ramón Sánchez, José, eds. The Iraq Papers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Gerges, Fawaz A. ISIS: A History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Gordon, Joy. Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions. Cambridge, MA; London, England: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Ricks, Thomas E. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York, NY: The Penguin Press, 2006.

Sassoon, Joseph. The Iraqi Refugees: The New Crisis in the Middle East. London, England; New York, NY: I. B. Tauris, 2011.

Shadid, Anthony. Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005.

Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Provides a comprehensive analysis of the total human, economic, social, and political costs of the Iraq War and the "global war on terrorism." Includes valuable statistics, graphs, and links to scholarly papers.
Includes interviews, an interactive timeline, photos, internal CPA documents from the year when the CPA was in charge of Iraq, and an hour-long PBS video special about this topic.
Includes extensive interviews, a chronology, video clips, photos, and numerous links to documents and further reading.
Public opinion polls in Iraq gathered by the BBC, ABC, and NHK news programs.
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