But in many respects the fighting had just begun. On May 1, the day that President Bush triumphantly declared major combat operations [Can we use his precise words here? PK] at an end, 140 American and 33 British service personnel had died in the Iraq War. Combat deaths in the months that followed were much greater, and in September 2004 the Pentagon reported that the thousandth American soldier had perished in Iraq. Most of them fell victim to improvised explosive devices [Not used again.] planted by a wide array of insurgents, ranging from former members of the Ba’athist regime to Shi’ite fundamentalists to terrorists who had filtered into Iraq from outside the country.
This sobering development came as no surprise to many analysts, who foresaw that the removal of Saddam Hussein would inevitably leave a major power vacuum. Both civilian commentators and senior military officers stressed, in the months before the war, that a large number of troops would be required to handle the chaos and troubles that would come in what was inaptly termed “the post-conflict phase.” [Refer to W-P doctrine here?] The chief of staff of the army, General Eric Shinseki, warned that this phase would require more, not fewer, troops to bring stability to Iraq, and that they would be needed for a considerable period of time. But in a decision that became increasingly controversial in the months that followed, the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and his senior civilian advisers in the Pentagon brusquely rejected such counsel. [Could we have a sentence or two here on the “imbedding” of reporters, the role of digital cameras and blogs, internet spreading of images (Abu Gherib, etc) here? PK]
The improvised government that succeeded Saddam Hussein, the Coalition Provisional Authority, took power amid massive looting and a widespread breakdown in law and order that opened the door to what became a significant insurgency in the months that followed. By June 28, 2004—the date on which the United States returned sovereignty to Iraq—717 American servicemen had been killed, over and above the 140 who died during the forty-three days of the conventional campaign. By year’s end total American deaths had exceeded 1,300, with no end to the insurgency in sight. An estimated 15,000 Iraqi civilians had also perished. [Please update this data as best you can.]