Saying the "danger was clear" that the Iraqi regime would provide terrorists with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, on March 13, 2003 President Bush gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein 48 hours for him and his sons to leave Iraq before military action begins "at a time of our choosing."
The 48-hour deadline would arrive at 4 a.m. Thursday in Baghdad.
The ultimatum came in a 13-minute, televised speech from the White House.
Making his case for military action, Bush said the Iraqi regime had repeatedly defied the will of the international community since the end of the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago by violating numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that it give up its weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq has consistently denied possessing such chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Approximately 90 minutes after the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, at 5:30 am local time, explosions were heard in Baghdad. At 10:15 pm EST, President George W. Bush announced that he had ordered the coalition to launch an "attack of opportunity" against specified targets in Iraq.
According to The Pentagon, 36 Tomahawk missiles and two F-117 launched GBU-27 bombs had been used in the assault.
It was later announced that Special Forces troops were operating inside Iraq; Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. all have Special Forces troops in the area. Not long after the strike on Baghdad, Iraq launched several missiles at targets in Kuwait, including the coalition forces stationed there. The coalition reports indicated that they caused no damage.
On April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell to U.S. forces. Some Iraqis were seen cheering in the streets after American infantrymen seize deserted Ba'ath Party ministries and pull down a huge iron statue of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein, and the last town not under control of the coalition, was taken by American forces on April 13, 2003. Very little resistance was reported. With the fall of the Tikrit region, the coalition partners declared the war effectively over.
In his May 1, 2003 speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country." The headline on the White House site above Bush's May 1 speech is "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended."