6 Years of Iraq War Photos

Yesterday, as was noted here and there, was the 6th anniversary of the United States invasion of Iraq.   That we’re still there after so many years is remarkable — depending on who’s counting, it’s the second longest war in American history — but the number 6 isn’t one we pay much attention to.  We like round numbers and multiples of 5.

Anyway, TPM has created an interesting photo gallery (“6 Years in Iraq: A Timeline in Images”) commemorating the milestones of our involvement there with images.  They’re worth a look.

In the early going, it sure looked like these would be the iconic photographs:

As time went on, these seemed more likely to be the images history remembered the war by:

Soon, though, this looked like a strong possibility:

I’m not so sure anymore.  The war-as-war has largely gone off the radar screen.  Indeed, while it was the issue that put OTB on the map, weeks go by now when I don’t write about it.  That’s the nature of it having gone from a mostly kinetic operation to a counterinsurgency/stability mission.

So what’s going to be the defining image of the war looking back from, say, 2020?

UPDATE:  Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that Peter Feaver has weighed in on a variant of this question:

I believe reasonable people can look at that ledger (or a more complete version of it) and conclude that the Iraq war was not worth it. I also believe reasonable people can look at that ledger and conclude that the Iraq war was a defensible gamble or even the right decision. However, I do not think that reasonable people can seriously look at that ledger and conclude, as so much of the angry-shout part of the commentariat does, that all of the evidence stacks up on only one side of the balance sheet.

Six years into this long war, it is high time we started having an honest debate about it, and that honesty requires a great deal more humility, on both sides of the debate, about the decisions that were made and the paths that were not taken.

Not likely, I’m afraid.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steve Plunk says:

    Picking a single defining image is foolish. I expect big media players to look for such a thing but smart people will know there is no such image. Every war, every era, even singular significant events have a collection of photos rather than a singular one to capture the essence of what happened. The Iraq war will be no different.

  2. 1ifbyC says:

    No war is without blots and stains for the good guys. No War ever goes without the death of the innocents. What I have taken from this war is that our military is filled with 95% outstanding people. I love to see the faces of Iraq women in the public again. Education for all is now possible. Real hope in the future with out fear of death at the hands of mad men is possible. The one photo of the purple fingered “V” sign from a smiling woman is worth the price of admission. I wish we in this country had the gut to purple our fingers after voting. Iraq now has the opportunity to pursue happiness thanks for the USA and our allies.

  3. Loviatar says:

    This portion from Peter Feaver’s piece and your supporting comment says neither of you understand or ever will understand why this war was/is wrong. Nothing is defensible about a war of choice. And if you disagree, go defend it to the families of the 4,260 American soldiers who have died fighting this war of choice.

    I also believe reasonable people can look at that ledger and conclude that the Iraq war was a defensible gamble or even the right decision.