On March 23, 2003, just three days after the start of the invasion, a U.S. Army supply convoy traveling through Iraq took a wrong turn and was attacked in Nasiriyah, a key town on the road to Baghdad. Eleven U.S. soldiers were killed and six captured, including Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old from West Virginia. She suffered spinal fractures, nerve damage and a shattered right arm, right foot and left leg when her Humvee crashed.
Originally listed as missing in action, Lynch’s story gripped the nation and the world when the Pentagon announced that she had been plucked from an Iraqi hospital on April 1 by a Rangers unit, followed a day later with the release of dramatic footage of the rescue. In addition, the Rangers recovered the bodies of eight soldiers who had been killed in fighting with her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company. Stories also emerged of how Lynch had bravely fought off the initial attack.
Lynch was later airlifted for treatment in Germany and the United States. Following her release from hospital, she returned to a hero’s welcome in her hometown, Palestine, W.Va., and the arms of her fiancé, Sgt. Ruben Contreras, who she had met during her military service. She also signed a deal, reported to be in excess of a million dollars, to write a book with former New York Times reporter Rick Bragg, which went on to be a best-seller. In addition, she was the subject of an unauthorized TV movie, “Saving Jessica Lynch.”
Many of the original details of the attack and rescue were later questioned by many media outlets, and much criticism leveled at the Pentagon for creating what was described as a media spectacle. However, Lynch’s role and bravery in enduring her severe wounds has seldom been questioned.
Her book behind her and her injuries largely healed, Lynch, who received an honorable discharge from the Army, started classes in August 2005 at West Virginia University in Morgantown, one of several universities that offered her a scholarship so she could achieve her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher.
She later switched her major to journalism, telling an audience at the university on January 31, 2006, that her experiences with the press after her rescue had led to her decision “I just wanted to do something more interesting,” Lynch said with a grin, according to the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail.
Her relationship with Sgt. Contreras, however, faded. After postponing the wedding to 2004, the relationship cooled, leaving the pair as “just good friends,” a spokesperson said.
Fortunately for Lynch, it was not long before she had a couple of new loves in her life – first a new fiancé, Wes Robinson, and on Jan. 9, 2007, a 7-pound, 10-ounce baby girl.
The couple named the baby Dakota Ann in honor of Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, Lynch’s tentmate and former Fort Bliss roommate, who was killed in the attack that injured Lynch. Ann was Piestewa’s middle name, and Dakota came from the fact that Piestewa was part Native American.
In 2007, according to People magazine, Lynch moved to the Parkersburg campus of West Virginia University to be nearer her family and adapt to parenthood, moving into a new home outside of Elizabeth, W.Va., in Wirt County, where she grew up.. The switch has led her to change her major back to elementary education – journalism is not offered in her new location. A junior, she is anticipated to graduate in December 2010. (She took a semester off following the birth of her daughter.)
For now, the most important thing in life is her daughter. Her mother, Dee Lynch, says she has taken to diapers and other duties like a duck to water.
“Jessi’s a natural,” she told People. “You would think she’s had Dakota forever.”
On April 24, 2007, Lynch was back in the spotlight when she testified before a House committee investigating whether the Pentagon misled the American public about the experiences of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lynch was walking slowly, according to the Associated Press, when took her seat at the witness table along with relatives of former NFL star Pat Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
“The bottom line,” Lynch said in a determined tone, “is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don’t need to be told elaborate tales.”
Despite the trauma of her capture and the continuing effects from her injuries, Lynch told the Morgantown, W.Va., Dominion Post in February 2008 that she would still join the Army and has "no regrets."
But, she told the paper, "My whole life now is getting up in the morning, going to school and taking care of my daughter."
Well, not quite. Lynch recently helped launch a campaign to help raise money for West Virginia University Children's Hospital in Morgantown. According to KDKA in Pittsburgh, she is launching a new fundraising effort, called "Jessi's Pets," which will donate stuffed animals to patients at the hospital.
And in August 2008, she was on hand in Fairmont, W.Va., at a Knights of Columbus event honoring area POWs and retold the story of her capture and liberation. “These men personally know what I’ve been through,” the local Times West Virginian newspaper reported her as saying. “They know what it’s like to be a prisoner of war.”
She also raises money for the Jessica Lynch Foundation, which was founded soon after her return from Iraq and helps children of veterans.
On Saturday, March 21, Lynch was due to travel to Phoenix, Ariz., for the memorial service honoring her friend Lori Ann Piestewa and the official naming of Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak. “Jessica strongly supported the efforts to change the name to Piestewa Peak and gave many interviews to the Phoenix media about it during her prior visits there,” said her publicist, Aly Goodwin Gregg. “Jessica remains involved with Lori’s children, Brandon and Carla and looks forward to seeing them this weekend.”
On Memorial Day she is scheduled to be the guest of honor at a service in Brooksville, Fla.
In 2011, she wrote about her experience in Newsweek. "In the eight years since my captivity, I've had 21 surgeries," she wrote. "I have no feeling in my left leg from the knee down, and I wear a brace every day."
"Perhaps I'll never be able to recall what happened. I think this a good thing. Iraq is in the past," she wrote.
In December of that year, Lynch earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from West Virginia University at Parkersburg and plans to pursue a master’s degree in communications, according to the Associated Press.
(aided Jessica Lynch)
When Jessica Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital by Army Rangers in early April 2003, much of the credit went to a 32-year-old local lawyer, Mohammed al-Rehaief, who was reported to have walked six miles to a United States Marine checkpoint to tell where Lynch was being held. Al-Rehaief -- whose wife, a nurse, had seen Lynch being mistreated in the hospital -- was then, according to news reports, sent back to the hospital to gather information that was used to plan Lynch’s rescue.
Though U.S. military was later reported to have learned of Lynch’s location from several informants — and his exact role in the rescue was much disputed — Al-Rehaief was immediately labeled as a hero and was soon granted, along with his wife and child, asylum in the United States.
After arriving in the U.S. in April 2003, al-Rehaief immediately joined The Livingston Group, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm run by former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston.. In recognition of his assistance, the U.S. government granted him humanitarian parole immediately after his arrival in America.
Apart from working at the Livingston Group, al-Rehaief also found time to write a book about his experiences, “Because Each Life Is Precious,” for which he reportedly was paid $300,000. He also was a consultant to “Saving Private Lynch,” a 2003 TV movie made about the incident. A biography released several years ago by the Livingston Group said that Al-Rehaief also is a black-belt practitioner of Kung Fu
In addition, he served for several years on the advisory board of Terror Free Tomorrow, a non-partisan group based in Washington, D.C., that describes its mission to “empower public opinion against authoritarian dictatorships and terrorist minorities.” Sen. John McCain is listed as being a member of its advisory board; however, al-Rehaief’s involvement with the organization ended “several years ago,” according to its president and founder, Kenneth Ballen.
In fact, Al-Rehaief has generally adopted a lower profile in recent years, cutting back on giving speeches about his experiences. He reportedly lives with his family in Virginia.
Pfc. Lynndie England
If fellow West Virginian Jessica Lynch became the personification of American valor in Iraq, another private first class, Lynndie England, came to symbolize the ugly side of the United States when photos of her and other soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison surfaced in April 2004.
England, along with other members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company, had been stationed at Abu Ghraib, a large jail outside Baghdad that had been used by the Saddam Hussein regime, since mid-2003.
Top military officials first became aware of the Abu Ghraib abuses in January 2004. The scandal after the pictures became public tarnished the military’s image worldwide and particularly in the Arab world.
England became a focal point of the scandal in part because she was a woman and partly because she was pictured in many of the more graphic photos, including one that showed her smiling and posing with nude prisoners stacked in a pyramid. In another picture, she is smiling and pointing at a naked detainee’s genitals while a cigarette dangles from the corner of her mouth.
On September 26, 2005, England was convicted of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. She was acquitted on a second conspiracy count. England was sentenced to three years for her crimes and given a dishonorable discharge. The next day, when she was sentenced, she apologized for appearing in the pictures, though not for the maltreatment and assault committed on the prisoners.
Seven other members of her company were charged with similar offences, including her then boyfriend, Sgt, Charles Graner, who was sentenced to ten years for his role in the abuse. She gave birth to a son, Carter Allan England, in October 2004 at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg. News accounts described Graner as both the father of the child and England’s “ex-boyfriend.”
To serve her sentence, England was sent to the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar, located near San Diego, Calif. The brig is the Department of Defense’s only prison designated for women, Brewster Schenck, a spokesman for the facility, told the San Diego Union.
In December 2005, according to wire service reports, her family complained in that she was burned and given inadequate medical treatment.
England worked in the kitchen of the prison, from which she was paroled on March 1, 2007, after having served 521 days, according to a report in the Cumberland Times-News, a paper near her home town in West Virginia. She remained on parole through September 2008, when her three-year sentence was complete and she received a dishonorable discharge.
In July 2007, the Associated Press reported that England had found a new role – as a member of the Keyser, W.Va., volunteer recreation board.
England contributed her knowledge of computers, electronics and graphics for Keyser’s Strawberry Festival, which helped her land the unpaid position, Roy Hardy, the England family’s attorney, told the AP.
“When [council members] saw how hard she worked for the festival, they didn’t hesitate to put her on the board,” said Hardy, who is also a board member. “If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have been able to pull off [the Strawberry Festival]. She was an absolute asset.”
England handled the festival’s advertising, scheduled entertainment acts and helped set up vendor booths and stages, among other things. She also helped organize a spring fishing contest and the city’s Independence Day activities.
“Basically we recognized her this year for helping out,” said Keyser Mayor Glen Shumaker.
“She’s put in several hundred hours. She’s a very hard worker,” said Christy Hardy, the board’s chairwoman.
Hard worker or not, England has found it difficult to find a paying job. According to January, 2009, interview in London’s Guardian newspaper, many jobs are closed to her because of her felony conviction while others suddenly close after people find about her background. Most of her time is spent at her parents’ home in Fort Ashby, W.Va., where she lives with her son, now four.
In February 2008 England was featured in “Standard Operating Procedure," a documentary that was given its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.
"I wouldn't want to go back and change anything," she tells the filmmakers.
"We thought it was unusual, weird and wrong, but the example was already set," England says of the abuse.
In a 2012 interview with the Daily Caller, Lynndie expressed no remorse for her actions. “Their lives are better. They got the better end of the deal,” she said. “They weren’t innocent. They’re trying to kill us, and you want me to apologize to them? It’s like saying sorry to the enemy.”
One of the more bizarre incidents during the Iraq war was the trip taken to Baghdad in December 2005 by Florida teenager Farris Hassan, a would-be journalist of Iraqi descent who said he wanted to see conditions in the war-torn country for himself.
After failing to get into Iraq from neighboring Kuwait, the 16-year-old flew to Beirut, Lebanon, from where he was successful in getting on a flight to Baghdad on December 25. Three days later, he entered the offices of the Associated Press; the AP then contacted the United States Embassy and he was returned a few days later to the United States. His mother said he had encountered some “very dangerous situations.”
The episode became a major news event, with his return being covered by dozens of media outlets.
Hassan, the youngest of four children of a South Florida physician divorced from a psychologist wife, is now at student at Amherst College, a prestigious four-year school in western Massachusetts. He is due to graduate in 2011.
Prior to that he was a student at the Pine Crest School, a private academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale. According to a report in the Miami Herald, Hassan’s mother said the boy was put on probation from the school for his unexcused absence in Iraq, given community service hours and his grades were lowered. In an interview with msnbc.comin March 2009, Hassan said he was in fact given 60 hours of detention rather than community service. “I served one hour during the school day for the rest of the year,” he said. “Incredibly, I stayed on very good terms with my principal and my dean and all my teachers. They thought I was at root a good kid. I still go back to high school to visit them. And we talk and laugh and have a good time.”
Meanwhile, questions have been raised as to just how independent the trip — reported to have happened on impulse after Hassan learned about “immersion journalism” during an English class — was. For instance, it was reported in the Florida Sentinel newspaper that Hassan’s father had arranged for his son to be placed on the flight to Baghdad. According to the paper, Redha Hassan says he did not want to kill his son’s passion to help the democracy movement. “He wanted to show he was braver than me,” the father said.
Hassan, though, says that the trip was neither an impulse nor solely about immersion journalism. “I planned and organized for two months before I went to Iraq,” he said. “And I went to Iraq because I wanted to write about the situation and plight of Iraqis from the vantage point of being immersed with them, doing humanitarian work, and feeling their hardships, so I could better empathize with their distress in their struggle to achieve the dream of a free and prosperous Iraq — a dream I held dear and to which I wanted to contribute.”
He also said his father had nothing to do with the trip. “I bought the plane ticket myself in Beirut, in person,” he told msnbc.com. “You can even ask my father about this and he will confirm the details.”
After his return from Iraq, Hassan continued to engage in “immersion journalism, ” including in 2007 attending the hippie-dominated Rainbow Gathering camping festival in Colorado and posing as a Jew in the mainly Arab and Muslim community of Dearborn, Mich, as a means of investigating anti-Semitism.
On his Web site, OfficialFarrisHassan.org, he describes his experiences: “I traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, home of the largest concentration of Muslims in North America, and spent more than two weeks researching anti-Semitism in the American Muslim community. This issue affects me personally because although my parents are Muslim, the majority of my prep school and nearly all of my friends are Jewish. . . .
“To that end, I immersed myself with the Muslims as Mr. Jacob Malachi, a Jew who wore a Star of David necklace but had an open mind and was trying to gain a greater understanding of the Muslim community. In irony, I was not the Jew investigating the Muslim community’s hatred of his people, but rather I was the Muslim literally putting himself in the skin of a Jew in order to directly feel the hate in his own community. My research was especially provocative because at the time Israel was waging war in Lebanon and the world Muslim population was more feverishly incited than ever.
“The story was about relationships: between religions, between nations, between local communities, and between individuals. I did not try to rile up my subjects by zealously attacking all things Muslim; rather I closely examined the effects of my efforts to build friendships with them from the position of being a member of their much touted arch nemesis – the Jews. I wondered whether they would receive me with grace in light of my curious and tolerant disposition or attack me in light of my Jewish identity.
“I interviewed the religious leaders of two mosques and attended three Friday prayer services and two memorials for victims of Israel’s war in Lebanon. I met with patrons of the Bint Jbeil (Hezbollah’s capital) Club and journalists of the Arab American Newspaper. I rubbed shoulders with hundreds of angry Muslims at a peace rally in Detroit and thousands outside the White House, where I heard, unfortunately not for the first time, the chant “La illaha ilallah, Hezbollah! Hezbollah!”
“Through this journey I discovered that American Muslims, with an emphasis on American, make a surprisingly strong distinction between Jews and Zionists. Walking amongst them in the streets, restaurants, and mosques while displaying a Star of David necklace and my school’s Jewish Club t-shirt, I had expected to get beaten up within days. Instead, I was met with a curious hospitality. I found that Muslim anger draws not from a religious or cultural conflict, but almost solely from the political quagmire of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Certainly no clash of civilizations is tearing the world asunder. To the contrary, Muslims told me they felt a closer kinship with the religious culture of Judaism than of Christianity.
“Still, ugly ideas reached me. I discovered once again that many Muslims hold elaborate conspiracy theories about Jews, which seemed to be instilled by the political context of their upbringing. The following misconceptions were conveyed to me: Israel is eradicating Lebanese civilians so that they can clear “open living space” for Zionists to settle; the beheadings, assassinations, suicide bombings, and other terrorist acts occurring in Iraq and across the Middle East are often orchestrated by Mossad agents in order to suppress and vilify the Muslim people; and under Zionist influence, President Bush is waging not a war on terrorism, but a war on Islam.
“I tried to mitigate their paranoia and conspiracy theories by presenting myself as a Jew speaking on behalf of the peaceful and wholesome aspirations held by most of his people. At the beginning they were mostly suspicious and cynical, but after meeting a Jew who defied all stereotypes and advocated peace, love, and unity, their animosity subsided. By the end, they embraced me as one of their own. That accomplishment, of making a positive difference in the minds of others, by itself made my trip worthwhile.”
Hassan says he then went on to live for a week on the streets of Detroit. “I was striving to uncover the root causes of the ghetto and to devise policies that might ameliorate its cyst-like subsistence,” he reports on his Web site.
Hassan’s adventures continued in 2007, when he traveled to Afghanistan where he said he was studying the plight of women and street kids.
The Miami Herald reported that Hassan once again surprised his family by calling from the airport and announcing that he was on his way to Kabul.
"I think for a teenager to think so big and accomplish so much is truly something to be proud of," his mother told the newspaper. "He has opened a new road for us to start and try to make a difference in the world."
His mission this time, according to his Web site, was to “build an elite, internationally competitive, college preparatory school in Afghanistan that will give Afghan students an education equal to what students receive in elite prep schools in the United States. The goal is to send graduating students to top American universities, where they will study to become the future, progressive leaders of Afghanistan.”
In the fall of 2007, Hassan began undergraduate studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
“I have continued my interfaith outreach activities aimed at increasing religious harmony,” he told msnbc.com. “I am vice-president of the Amherst Multifaith Council … and [have] led discussions on religious pluralism and inter-faith issues….
“The summer after freshman year I did not travel to a dangerous country (for once!). I studied abroad in Florence, Italy for two months, studying Italian literature, art and architecture.”
Hassan says he now devoting himself to intellectual and personal growth. “I am kept extremely busy,” he adds.
In 2010, after his junior year at Amherst, he interned with Morgan Stanley in Manhattan on the research team covering oil services stocks. At the end of the summer he was offered a permanent position so after graduation he returned to work as a Wall Street stock analyst, becoming one of Morgan Stanley's experts on stocks in the electric utilities industry.
"The joke among my colleagues used to be, was I a Wall Street guy or was I really just my typical immersion journalist self investigating Wall Street undercover?" he told NBC News.
In 2012 he left Morgan Stanley and started his own hedge fund, Farris Fund Management. He hopes to use his hedge fund to buy out newspapers, magazines, film studios, television networks, and then “improve the quality of their output with better management and artistic direction.”
“The prices just need to be right,” he told NBC News. “I am a value investor in a tradition similar to that of Warren Buffett.”
Ali Hassan Al-Majid
Cheers went up across much of Iraq in April 2003 when many news outlets reported that the notorious “Chemical Ali,” a cousin of Saddam Hussein widely credited with launching a 1988 chemical attack that killed up to 100,000 Iraqi Kurds, had been killed in an air strike on his house in Basra.
It was as governor of northern Iraq that al-Majid launched the genocidal “Anfal Campaign” to quell a Kurdish rebellion. Per his orders, low-flying helicopters dropped toxic gas on Kurdish areas. He was later in charge of Iraq’s military occupation of Kuwait. During both offensives, al-Majid’s strategies were marked by executions, arbitrary arrests, and tortures.
Al-Majid held numerous positions of power in the Iraqi government, including head of the nation’s southern region, where he commanded Iraq’s military forces. Appointed to this role by then-leader Saddam in March 2003, al-Majid was one of four senior commanders reporting directly to the president.
“We believe that the reign of terror of Chemical Ali has come to an end,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters after the Basra strike.
Rumsfeld had spoken too soon. Two months later, he acknowledged that al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein and fifth on the U.S. list of most wanted Iraqis, could still be living.
A couple of months later, however, U.S. military officials captured him, announcing on August 21 that they had found him on August 19. (The delay apparently to ensure that the earlier, incorrect report would not be repeated.)
After several years of waiting, al-Majid was tried for crimes against humanity --particularly for his involvement in the Anfal campaign against the Kurds -- in front of the Iraq Special Tribunal, the same court that decided the fate of his cousin Saddam Hussein.
During hearings in January 2007, the court heard 1988 tapes of Hussein and al-Majid discussing how chemical weapons could be used to exterminate thousands of Kurds.
“I will strike them with chemical weapons and kill them all,” a voice identified by prosecutors as al-Majid was heard saying.
“Who is going to say anything? The international community? Curse the international community,” the voice continued.
“Yes, it’s effective, especially on those who don’t wear a mask immediately, as we understand,” a voice identified as Saddam is heard saying on another tape.
“Sir, does it exterminate thousands?” a voice asks back.
“Yes, it exterminates thousands and forces them not to eat or drink and they will have to evacuate their homes without taking anything with them, until we can finally purge them,” the voice identified as Saddam answers.
Saddam was hanged on Dec. 30, 2006, after being convicted in an earlier trial for his role in killing 148 Shiites in the 1980s.
Al-Majid, who maintainted that Anfal was a legitimate military operation targeting Kurdish guerrillas who had sided with Shiite Iran during the last stages of the Iraq-Iran war, was convicted in June 2007 and sentenced to death by hanging.
In December 2008, Al-Majd was once again convicted and sentenced to death, this time for playing a role in killing between 20,000 and 100,000 Shi'ite Muslims during the revolt in southern Iraq that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War. And in March 2009 he was found guilty and sentenced to death for the third time, this for his involvement in the assassination of Grand-Ayatollah Mohammad al-Sadr in 1999.
However, according to reports from the Associated Press, the Iraqi government is refused to execute al-Majid unless the executions of two other Saddam associates also were approved.
The two, Rashid Mohammed, the former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces, and former defence minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie were also condemned in June 2007 after being convicted for the roles in the Anfal massacre.
In an interview with AP, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that al-Maliki's administration "refuses to split the death sentences of Ali Hassan al-Majid and the two other convicted people".
After eight death sentences, Al-Majid was executed by hanging on January 25, 2010.
With his full head of remarkably un-gray hair, Paul Bremer looked almost too young when in May 2003, about a month after the invasion was completed, he was put in charge of Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority and as such in charge of the country until elections could be held.
Bremer, however, was 61, and had considerable experience in foreign affairs, highlighted by 23 years service in the State Department, including a stint in the 1980s as a counter-terrorism guru for President Reagan. He had also worked for former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.
Reporting to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Bremer was responsible for trying to get the war-torn country back on its feet, including restoring its infrastructure and guiding the creation of political institutions. During his term, he survived at least one attempt on his life and, according to an Associated Press report, had a price of 10,000 grams of gold (about $125,000) placed in his head by Osama bin Laden.
Bremer returned to the United States in June 2004, after an interim Iraqi government had been formed. For his efforts in Iraq, Bremer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Bush in December 2004.
Since leaving Iraq, Bremer has remained busy, serving on several boards and making many public appearances, particularly since the January 2006 publication of his book “My Year In Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope.” In more recent times, he also has embarked on a career as a painter.
In the book, he alleged that senior U.S. officials tried to make him a scapegoat for postwar setbacks, including the decision to disband the Iraqi army following the US invasion in 2003.
Bremer portrays himself in a constant struggle with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who he said was determined to reduce the U.S. troop presence as quickly as possible despite the escalating insurgency.
After leaving his Iraq position, Bremer served as chairman of the advisory board for GlobalSecure Corporation, a company whose business, according to its Web site, is “securing the homeland with integrated products and services for the critical incident response community worldwide.”
According to his assistant, Bremer has now left GlobalSecure and currently serves on the boards of several companies as well as continuing to make speeches.
He is also exercising his artistic side. According to a March 2009 article in U.S. News and World Report, has embarked on a new venture – selling oil paintings he has made of scenes in Vermont.
"I launched my Web site for my paintings this week, www.bremerenterprises.com,” he is quoted as e-mailing friends. “Most of the works on it now are scheduled to be in my next exhibition in Vermont at the end of the summer. Hope you enjoy them."
"I only started two years ago,” he told U.S. News. “In terms of artistic description, you would call them landscape oils, mostly Vermont, and I'm sort of a realist school, I guess you would say.
"I studied art history at college and have always been interested in art and particularly in the landscape painting…. And it was just a question of finally finding the time available to do something I've always wanted to do, which was to learn to paint."
Last month, he spoke at an event by the Henry Jackson Society in London where Bremer was a target for shoe-throwing. An incident not unlike President Bush’s shoe incident in 2008.
"The mistake I made was not disbanding the army. The mistake I made was the use of the verb ‘disbanding,'" Bremer said at the event. "There was no army, as General Abizaid, who was CentCom commander, reported actually before I came back from the government."
"I would argue that the Iraqi people are dramatically better off today," he said. "I don't think the movie is over yet, it could come out worse, but at this point I think we can say we did the best we could."
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks
(U.S. Army spokesman)
When America and its allies launched their 2003 invasion of Iraq, the world was hungry for news. And there to provide it — or, at least, the U.S. Army’s version of it — was Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, the spokesperson for the U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM), based in nearby Qatar.
Brooks, an unflappable Alaskan, became a daily presence on network shows and live cable-TV briefings, in part because his superior Gen. Tommy Franks was uncomfortable dealing with the media (and, of course, was much consumed with the progress of the war).
Born in Anchorage, Brooks attended West Point, where he was the first black brigade commander, and graduated first in his class in 1980. He later earned a master’s degree from the School of Advanced Military Studies at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and to study at Harvard University as a national security fellow.
The military runs in Brooks’ blood — his father, Leo Brooks, is a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and his older brother, General Leo Brooks, Jr., was commander of West Point before his retirement in 2005. General Brooks is married to the former Carol Rene Perry, a physical therapist who is also from a career military family.
After the initial media frenzy had subsided, Brooks moved back to the U.S. in May 2003, where he was appointed deputy director for the war on terrorism, a unit of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to a bio on the Army’s Web site, in July of 2004 he became deputy chief of public affairs for the Army, followed six months later to promotion as chief of the office. In May 2005, he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the New England School of Law.
After about 18 months in the U.S., Brooks found himself back in the Iraq, becoming deputy commander of the Multi-National Division-Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division (which is based in Ft. Hood, Texas).
He was soon back in America, moving to the giant Fort Hood facility between Dallas and Austin, Texas. In February 2008, Brooks hosted Dick Cheney as the vice president welcomed home 9,000 members of the 1st Cavalry as they returned from Iraq.
According to a report on the Army’s Web site, Cheney spoke about the decrease in sectarian violence, the fall in improvised explosive devices, and the trust developed between Iraqi citizens and American soldiers.
Brooks backed up Cheney’s words, saying that "al-Qaida has lost its grip on Iraq, adding that the troops “looked the insurgency in the eye and broke its grasp.”
Brooks is now special assistant to the commander of Food Hood.
He spent most of 2010 in southern Iraq as Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division for the national elections and the transition from Iraqi Freedom to Red Dawn.
Brooks became commander of the Third Army and Army Forces Central in 2011 but was recently Senate confirmed as Commanding General of US Army Pacific, a position which has been elevated to a four-star command.
(U.S. Marines spokesman)
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks was not the only military spokesman to attract attention in Iraq. While Brooks was the smooth mouthpiece for the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marines relied on the skills of a young Texan, Captain Josh Rushing, to explain their point of the view to the Arab press, in particular al-Jazeera, the Gulf-based TV channel often criticized for offering the unfiltered views of terrorists and for sometime harsh coverage of the U.S. administration.
Articulate and credible, the 33-year-old Rushing appeared to be the perfect choice for the task — until the release in early 2004 of the documentary “Control Room,” in which he became the unwitting star. In the movie, Rushing defends U.S. troops and never directly criticizes the war, but more and more finds himself questioning the honesty of his commanders in the U.S.
This questioning led to conflicts with the Pentagon and, eventually, his resignation from the Marines, with Rushing telling Time magazine that he was troubled by the “politicization” of the military command and what he describes as U.S. TV networks being “co-opted” by the Bush administration.
If the Pentagon was surprised by Rushing’s dissension, it — and media outlets everywhere — were shocked when in September 2005 it was announced that Rushing was joining Al-Jazeera.
In particular, Rushing is working for Al-Jazeera English, which launched in November 2006 and is carried on several U.S. cable systems. According to the Al-Jazeera Web site, Rushing is based in Washington, D.C.
“In a time when American media has become so nationalized,” said Rushing in the statement, “I’m excited about joining an organization that truly wants to be a source of global information. I witnessed during the war how the U.S. media was co-opted by the U.S. government’s messaging. I am proud to be part of a news network that believes in the power of the un-spun truth.”
Rushing told Time that he looked closely at Al-Jazeera and found nothing to stop him from joining. “I’m not condoning everything they do,” he told the magazine, “but the Arab media is a key part of national security and how to deal with Arab world. The network has long been the only one in the region with a point-counterpoint approach, where many others are ‘point-point-point.’ Al Jazeera, for example, regularly has Israeli spokespeople on.”
Al Jazeera appears very pleased to have him as a correspondent. “Josh's outspoken and conscientious nature in this sensitive role … have made him among the most recognizable young media voices in America today,” says a statement on the channel’s Web site.
In June 2007 Rushing released his first book, “Mission AlJazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth.” According to his Web site, JoshRushing.com, the book “blends [his] personal story with a unique behind-the-scenes look into the controversial AlJazeera networks – media the West can no longer afford to ignore.”
Rushing is married and has a son from a previous marriage. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
He is now a co-host on Fault Lines, a current affairs program on Al Jazeera English.
He is also contributor for the Huffington Post and the Al Jazeera English newsblog.
On his time in the Marine Corps, Rushing says he biggest frustration was the lack of foresight. “There was no plan or preparation,” he told NBC News.
“I can't believe you crossed the line into the country without a plan after you reach Baghdad.
And that's what so shocking and so sad.”
Rushing is focusing on the future for Al Jazeera English citing its recent buyout of Current TV as a step towards getting the network into more homes across the country. The 24-hour channel, however, will be different from Al Jazeera English in that it will be a domestic news network.
Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf
On the other side of the spokesmen’s fence from the U.S.’s Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks was a man with a much less stellar reputation, Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.
Al-Sahaf’s daily press briefings in the lead-up to the war and in its first weeks led to him being nicknamed “Baghdad Bob” or “Comical Ali” (an allusion to “Chemical Ali,” the nickname of former Iraqi defense minister Ali Hassan al-Majid.) He gained a considerable cult following, with several Web sites devoted to his outrageous claims.
For instance, as coalition troops stormed the capital, al-Sahaf declared, “The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad.”
He frequently unleashed harsh words against President Bush and other leaders, calling them “an international gang of criminal bastards,” “blood-sucking bastards,” and “ignorant imperialists, losers and fools.”
A Shia Muslim, al-Sahaf was an outsider in the Sunni-dominated government that was in power since 1968 and was one of the few senior Iraqi officials not to come from the area around Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit.
His last public appearance as information minister was on April 8, 2003, the day before the fall of Baghdad, when he said that the Americans “are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks. They will surrender, it is they who will surrender.”
On 25 June 2003, the London newspaper The Daily Mirror reported that al-Sahaf had been captured by coalition troops at a roadblock in Baghdad. The report was not confirmed by military authorities and was denied by al-Sahaf’s family through Abu Dhabi TV.
The next day al-Sahaf recorded an interview for the Dubai-based al-Arabiya news channel. He said he had surrendered to U.S. forces and had been interrogated by them. He was reportedly paid as much as $200,000 for the interview, in which he was very unlike the bombastic man seen during the war.
For a while in late 2003. al-Sahaf was featured on Abu Dhabi Television, one of the Arab-speaking world’s most popular satellite channels, in a weekly series of interviews, talking about Iraq and the war. He also appeared several times as a pundit.
There have been no moves to charge or detain al-Sahaf for his role in the Saddam Hussein government.
In February 2007, al-Sahaf was back in the news when London’s Guardian newspaper compared his wartime pronouncements to those of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“Do not be hasty because your disappointment will be huge,” al-Sahaf is quoted as saying in early 2003. “You will reap nothing from this aggressive war, which you launched on Iraq, except for disgrace and defeat.” “We will embroil them, confuse them, and keep them in the quagmire,” he said later, adding that “they cannot just enter a country of 26 million people and lay besiege to them! They are the ones who will find themselves under siege.”
According to the Associated Press in January 2009, al-Sahaf’s current whereabouts are uncertain, but some reports have placed him in Qatar.
Gen. Tommy Franks
The commander of allied forces in the Persian Gulf, Franks directed the war in Iraq from the high-tech U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) near Doha, Qatar. President Bush called on the four-star army general in early 2002 to begin planning the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
Franks, who was born in Oklahoma, grew up in Texas, attending the same high school as first lady Laura Bush. He was the U.S. general leading the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Franks’ retirement was announced on May 22, 2003, little more than a month after the invasion was completed. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was reported to have offered him the position of Army Chief of Staff, but he declined. Franks retired in July and was succeeded by Gen. John Abizaid.
He may have retired, but Franks continues to keep busy.
According to his Web site, Franks has traveled the world speaking on “leadership, character and the value of democracy.” He also found time to write his autobiography, “American Soldier,” which was a best-seller in 2004.
He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by order of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on May 25, 2004. And President George W. Bush awarded him the Nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on December 14, 2004.
Franks and his wife, Cathryn Carley Franks, have one daughter, who is married to a military officer, and three grandchildren. According to his Web site, they divide their time between homes in Tampa, Fla., and Oklahoma.
Franks also serves on the boards of the Bank of America, , the National Park Foundation and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Foundation. In addition, he is an advisor to the Central Command Memorial Foundation and the Military Child Education Coalition, and is a spokesman for the Southeastern Guide Dogs Organization. General Franks has received honorary degrees from a number of Universities including his alma mater, Shippensburg University, and his wife’s alma mater, Oklahoma State University.
In December 2007, Franks opened the first iteration of the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum in downtown Hobart, Okla. The facility is due for its grand opening on Memorial Day weekend of 2009. “Experience the life and times of General Tommy Franks as they are showcased throughout the newly renovated facilities,” reports an article on his Web site.
According to report in the local Lawton Constitution paper, Franks told a crowd of people who gathered for the museum’s 2007 “soft opening” that Americans should learn from history, and not be too quick to judge, when deciding how to approach foreign policy.
Franks said his goal for the museum “is not to make a case for or against the war or any specific policies, but rather to give people a chance to see firsthand some interesting mementos from recent American history.”
Of a Taliban flag taken from Afghanistan during the invasion in 2001, he said: “This is from when we took the Taliban out of existence.”
About the motorcycle on which he and King Abdullah II sat in 2001, a refurbished 1938 BMW with sidecar: “King Abdullah has been a friend of mine since long before he became king of Jordan.”
And on gifts from former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf: “He is a man who, despite how the media treats him, worked very hard to help us.”
“People ask Cathy and me all the time,” he continued, “‘How come you’re trying to push a bowling ball uphill and defy gravity by putting a museum and leadership institute in Hobart?
“And I say, ‘If you people from New York City and Los Angeles could meet the people in Hobart, Oklahoma, you wouldn’t have to ask why.’ This is a community of real people. This is the place where people talk slowly and think fast, and that’s exactly opposite of how they do it in New York City and Los Angeles.”
Franks continues to travel the world and speak on leadership and democracy.
(U.K. prime minister)
At the turn of the millennium, Tony Blair was on a roll. Elected by a vast majority in early 2001 to his second term as Britain’s prime minister (a first for his left-center Labor party), he was presiding over a reinvigorated economy and had also received many domestic accolades for this support of America during 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan (in which British troops participated).
That was all to change when in 2003 he wholeheartedly threw his support — and thousands of British troops — behind the U.S.’s determination to throw out Saddam Hussein. With speeches to the international community, he fully signed on to the notion that Iraq was a rogue state that possessed weapons of mass destruction, and his support — especially coming from someone far from George Bush on the political spectrum — was important in establishing credibility for the invasion.
When after the war it was established that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction, Blair’s pre-war statements became a major domestic controversy. Many members of the Labor Party, not only those who were opposed to the Iraq war, were among those critical; among opponents of the war, accusations that Blair had deliberately exaggerated the threat were made.
As criticism wore on — including fallout over the suicide of a government warfare expert accused of leaking documents related to the government’s decision to go to war — Blair found himself far from the bright-eyed boy of British politics that he had once been. (At his initial election, in 1997, he became, at 44, the youngest prime minister since 1812.)
Perhaps reflecting his reversal of fortune, in October 2004, Blair declared his intention to seek a third term but not a fourth (there are no term limits in the British parliament). His party won a third consecutive stint in government at the 2005 general election for the first time in its history, although its majority in the House of Commons was considerably reduced.
The fall in Labor’s share of the vote renewed speculation as to how long his leadership would continue, leading to widespread predictions that he would be succeeded by finance minister Gordon Brown at some point before the next general election, due to occur at the latest before mid-2010 (British prime ministers are able to call elections at a month’s notice within five years of the previous vote).
In early March 2006, Blair drew more ire when he revealed in BBC interview that he had prayed to God over the decision to invade Iraq. In largely non-religious Britain (whose church-going rate is about five percent, in contrast to the U.S.’s 50 percent), the remarks were received with alacrity in many quarters. According to the BBC, Dr Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP and honorary associate of the National Secular Society, said the comments were “bizarre” and warned against politicians making “references to deity” in public life, while others dismissed Blair’s comment as a “joke.”
On 7 September 2006 Blair publicly stated he would step down by the time of the Labor Party annual conference in September 2007, an announcement that was followed in May 2007 by a speech in his home constituency that he intended to resign the following month. On June 27 tendered his resignation as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Queen, with Brown talking over the same afternoon.
The same day Blair was officially confirmed as Middle East envoy for the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia.
In December, it was revealed that Blair had converted from Anglicanism to being a Roman Catholic, calling it "a private matter,”
In January 2008 Blair joined investment bank JPMorgan Chase "in a senior advisory capacity." At about the same time he was hired to advise the insurance firm Zurich.
In March of the same year, Yale University announced that Blair would teach a course on issues of faith and globalization at the Yale Schools of Management and Divinity as a Howland distinguished fellow during the 2008–2009 academic year.
On 13 January 2009, a week before Barack Obama’s inauguration, Blair was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, who said that Blair was given the award “in recognition of exemplary achievement and to convey the utmost esteem of the American people.”
In 2010, Blair announced he would publish his memoirs to be titled, "A Journey," This led to criticisms that Blair was looking to profit from his time in office. Subsequently, Blair announced that all proceeds would be donated to charity.
Blair launched the Tony Blair Sports Foundation which aims to increase participation in sport by young people, particularly those who are socially excluded, in the run up to the 2012 Olympics in London, according to his website.
(Iraqi exile leader)
When the American-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003, it marked a triumph for Ahmed Chalabi, the scion of a prominent Baghdad Shiite family who had long led efforts from abroad to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime.
Born in 1944, Chalabi left Iraq as a boy, and has spent most of his life in the USA and the UK, earning a degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in the same subject from the University of Chicago. He then took a position in the mathematics department at the American University of Beirut, where he went on to form a Jordanian bank, the Petra Bank, which eventually went bust, leading to Jordan authorities sentencing Chalabi in absentia to a multi-year jail term.
It was to prove just the start of controversy for Chalabi, who subsequently went on to head the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella opposition group that received considerable amounts of money from the American government as it attempted to bring about the downfall of the Saddam regime.
Chalabi’s greatest sin, according to critics, was in persuading the American government and U.S. media outlets -- most notably the New York Times (through its now-resigned reporter Judith Miller) -- that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and/or the means to produce them.
Before the lack of WMDs became known, Chalabi was among the first exiles to return to Iraq and was given a position on the Iraq interim governing council by the Coalition Provisional Authority. The favorable opinions of his American backers, though, quickly evaporated after it became clear there were no WMDs.
In addition, Chalabi was viewed with considerable suspicion by many Iraqis, who saw him as a puppet of the invaders and someone who had not stuck it out through the Saddam years.
Once back in Iraq, Chalabi quickly tried to establish himself as the voice of the Shiite majority, but soon found that role largely taken by the religious leaders who had guided their population through the Saddam dictatorship.
He also faced legal troubles. Chalabi and other members of the INC have been investigated for fraud involving the exchange of Iraqi currency, theft of national and private assets. In May 2004, U.S. government discontinued their regular payments to Chalabi and then police supported by U.S. soldiers raided his offices.
A month later, it was reported that Chalabi gave U.S. secrets to Iran, followed in August by an arrest warrant for alleged counterfeiting. However, Chalabi was never arrested and charges were later dropped.
Once again repeating his phoenix-like ability to rise from apparent ruin, Chalabi in 2005 was named a deputy prime minister as well as acting oil minister.
And in early 2007, he again astounded observers with another remarkable political reincarnation: as an intermediary between Baghdad residents and the Iraqi and U.S. security forces involved in President Bush’s controversial “surge” designed to push militants out of the city. According to the Wall Street Journal, the position is meant to help Iraqis get payments for damage to their cars and homes caused by the security sweeps in the hope of maintaining public support for the strategy.
As part of this process, McClatchy Newspapers reported in October 2007 that Chalabi was appointed by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to head the Iraqi Services Committee, a consortium of eight service ministries and two Baghdad municipal posts tasked with the "surge" plan's next phase, restoring electricity, health, education and local security services to Baghdad neighborhoods.
The appointment, however, went off course in the spring of 2008 when Chalabi clashed with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over his role, particularly his relationship with militants in Sadr City, a huge Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad.
"This is a beef between Maliki and Chalabi," a U.S. official told Time magazine, "and we back Maliki."
In September of 2008, Chalibi was fortunate to escape with his life when his motorcade was attacked in the tony Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad. Iraqi officials said at least six people, including five from Chalabi's entourage, were killed. Nine of Chalabi's guards or drivers were among the 17 wounded.
It January 2012, it was reported that Chalabi had been in contact with some members of the leading opposition group in Bahrain, Al Wefaq National Islamic Society. This was confirmed by Jawad Rairooz, secretary general of Wefaq and a former member of Parliament in Bahrain. “Mr. Charabi has helped us with contacts in Washington like other people have done and we thank them,” he told the New York Times. "but we are not allowing any person or party from outside to dictate us what to do in Bahrain.”
It is believed that Chalabi is living in Baghdad.
With his fluent English, thick glasses and bushy mustache — and the trivia-friendly status as being the lone Christian in Saddam Hussein’s regime — Tariq Aziz was a familiar face to those watching coverage of Iraq, both during the 1991 war and the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.
A close associate of Hussein since their days as Ba’ath party activists in the 1950s, Aziz was Iraq’s foreign minister from 1983 to 1991 and deputy prime minister from 1979 until the overthrow of the Saddam regime. Born Mikhael Yuhanna in northern Iraq, he changed his name (it means “glorious past”) after studying English and setting out to be a journalist.
Because of security concerns, Saddam rarely left Iraq, and Aziz would often represent Iraq abroad. In December 2002, Aziz called the United Nations arms inspection a “hoax” and war “inevitable”. What the U.S. wanted, he said, was not “regime change” in Iraq but rather “region change.”
When war began, Aziz was in Iraq, and even before it had got into full swing, on March 19, 2003, reports surfaced that Aziz had been shot dead while trying to enter the Kurdish part of the country. However, Aziz quickly held a press conference to tell the world he was still alive and well. After the fall of Baghdad and the rest of the country, Aziz surrendered to United States forces on April 24, 2003. He was the 43rd of 55 most-wanted Iraqi leadership members on the U.S. Department of Defense’s famous deck of cards.
According to a December 2004 report by NBC’s Lisa Myers, Aziz was at first more cooperative than most of Hussein’s henchmen, ready to talk most particularly about corruption in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program. According to Myers, U.S. officials say Aziz implicated the French and others, claiming payoffs were made with the understanding that recipients would support Iraq on key matters before the U.N.
Such cooperation, however, did not save him, along with other captured members of the Saddam regime, from being scheduled for trial for alleged crimes against humanity.
It was to be a long wait, punctuated with many complaints about his health and treatment.
Eventually, in April 2008, Aziz went on trial, accused in the deaths of 42 merchants executed for sanctions profiteering in 1992. He also faced charges in the 1999 death of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq Sadr, a leading voice of opposition to President Saddam Hussein (and the father of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr).
At first things looked good for Aziz, when he was acquitted on March 1, 2009, of the charges related to Ayatollah al-Sadr’s death. However, on March 11 he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison his role in the deaths of the merchants.
On October 2010, Aziz was sentenced to death by an Iraqi panel for crimes against humanity. In November, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani reportedly refused to sign an execution order. It was reported that Aziz planned to ask Pope Benedict XVI to support his decision to be executed quickly.
His lawyer said Aziz would rather be executed than stay in his current condition.
During the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had masterminded the U.S. role in the 1991 Iraq war, found himself with the difficult job of presenting the Bush administration’s position that Saddam’s Hussein’s regime must be removed by force to the rest of the world.
This was made even more irksome by Powell’s differences with White House hawks, with whom he had clashed repeatedly over Iraq policy. Powell initially was opposed to a forcible overthrow of Hussein, preferring to continue a policy of containment; however, he eventually agreed to go along with the determination to remove Hussein, the main concession being that the international community be rallied behind the invasion. Successful in persuading President Bush of this course, Powell then had to take the case to the United Nations.
In his arguments, Powell claimed that Iraq illegally possessed WMDs in violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and had to be disarmed by force. Citing “numerous” anonymous Iraqi defectors, Powell asserted that “there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.”
Powell also stated that there was “no doubt in my mind” that Saddam was working to obtain key components to produce nuclear weapons. However, most nations refused to be persuaded and after several weeks of argument, the U.S. dropped its efforts on March 17 and decided to go it alone with a few allies.
Powell stayed as secretary of state until the end of President Bush’s first term, before resigning in December 2004. (He was replaced by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.)
In September 2005, during an interview with Barbara Walters, he acknowledged that his assertions about Iraq’s WMD capabilities were a “blot” on his record, adding that it was “painful.”
Since leaving the government, Powell has assumed a number of private-sector positions, including membership of several corporate boards. In July, 2005, he became a strategic limited partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm and has become more active at The Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at his alma mater, the City College of New York. In May, 2006, succeeded Henry Kissinger to become the 8th Chairman of the Eisenhower Fellowship Program, which brings together current and emerging leaders from around the world.
On January 5, 2006, Powell participated in a meeting at the White House of former Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with Bush administration officials.
A frequent lecturer, Powell on Feb. 23, 2006, defended the decision to go to war to a high school audience in Arlington, Va., citing the “terrible” regime of Saddam Hussein and the desire to “give the Iraqi people the peace and freedom they deserve.”
Also in 2006, Powell began appearing as a speaker at a series of events called Get Motivated, along with former New York Mayor (and GOP presidential candidate) Rudy Giuliani. In his speeches on the tour, he openly criticized the Bush administration on a number of issues.
In March 2006 Powell told an audience in Vero Beach, Fla., that he often is asked what is it like to be the former Secretary of State and away from the limelight and world stage.
"One day you are the No. 1 diplomat of the free world and the next day, you ain't," he said with a chuckle that drew laughter, according to a report in the Vero Beach Press Journal. "There's an intellectual emptiness that comes upon you. So I went out and bought a Corvette. I'm considered the most dangerous driver in Virginia."
More recently, he joined the board of directors of AOL founder Steve Case's new company Revolution Health. Powell also serves on the Council on Foreign Relations board of directors and in 2008 served as a spokesperson for National Mentoring Month, a campaign held each January to recruit volunteer mentors for at-risk youth.
Later in 2008, he endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama and was mentioned as a possible member of Obama’s administration, a rumor denied by both parties.
In 2009, it was reported the Powell met with President Obama advising him against a surge in U.S. forces in Afghanistan. However, his recommendations were in vain as President Obama announced the surge three months later.
Despite his role in the implementation of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, he supported its repeal in 2010. Then in May 2012, he expressed support for legalized same-sex marriage.
Though, he criticized the president for not focusing enough on the economy and job creation, in October 2012, Powell endorsed President Obama for re-election over Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
Powell, who is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Ala., lives in McLean, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C. He is a fan of vintage Volvo cars, which he restores as a hobby.
U.N. weapons inspector
In the lead-up to the Iraq war, one of the most familiar faces to those following the news was that of United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix.
Called out of retirement in 2000 by the United Nations to determine whether Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency headed U.N. teams that from 2002 went into Iraq to search for evidence. After playing a cat-and-mouse game with the Hussein regime, at the beginning of 2003 Blix reported to the U.N. that Iraq most probably neither possessed WMDs nor the means to produce them and asked for more time to come up with a conclusive answer. However, the United States and its allies, most notably Britain, declared that they had had enough of Hussein’s shenanigans and decided to invade Iraq.
When the U.S. in 2005 acknowledged that no WMDs had been found, Blix, who had been much criticized by Republicans for being too soft on Saddam — Newt Gingrich said he was “determined to buy time and find excuses for Saddam Hussein” — was largely vindicated.
By this time, however, he had already been retired for two years, returning to his native Sweden, where he lives in Stockholm with his wife, Eva. In 2003, he was awarded the Olof Palme Prize — named after the former Swedish prime minister who was gunned down on February 28, 1986 — which is given to people judged to have furthered peace and human rights.
In 2003 Blix became chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC), an independent body funded by the Swedish government and based in Stockholm. It presented a report in 2006 with proposals to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction.
In 2004, Blix published a book, “Disarming Iraq,” in which he gives his account of the events and inspections before the United States and its allies began its invasion. In an interview on BBC TV in February 2004, Blix accused the U.S. and British governments of dramatizing the WMD threat as they strengthened the case for the Iraq war.
Blix, who also was Sweden’s foreign minister in the 1970s, delivers occasional lectures and has become a frequent commentator on the situation in Iraq as well as the tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.