Iraq War: Everything You Want (and Need) to Know

The Iraq latest war began on March 21, 2003, when American and British troops invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in April that year. What was supposed to be a "cakewalk," in the words of Bush administration officials, has turned into the second-longest war involving American soldiers ( after Vietnam) and the second-costliest in American history (after World War II). Five years on, the war and American-led occupation of Iraq continues with no end in sight. Here's a guide on the origins of the war.

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Iraq War: Basic Questions, Complete Answers

A local Iraqi girl watches from the doorway of her home as U.S. Army 101st Airborne troops take cover July 23, 2003.
Scott Nelson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Understanding the Iraq war can be a vexing task. But if it's a puzzle of many parts, it can be put together to form a coherent picture, starting with answers to the most common questions about the conflict:

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Iraq War Timelines

The war that began in 2003 is actually the latest chapter in a long conflict pitting Iraq against its neighbors (and the West) dating back to Saddam Hussein's rise to power as Iraq's strongman in 1973. The history of his reign is a history of wars and repression. It's also part of the context that explains Iraq's current conflict.

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Major Issues of the War

The Iraq war is not a classic conflict pitting two enemies on one front. It's a mosaic of conflicts with seemingly endless mutations.

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Iraq War Glossary

Between acronyms, Arabic terms and military short-hand, understanding the language of the Iraq war can be a challenge. Here's a glossary of some of the most frequently used terms: