On this day in 2003, just three weeks into the invasion of Iraq, U.S. forces pull down a bronze statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square, symbolizing the end of the Iraqi president’s long, often brutal reign, and a major early victory for the United States.
Dramatic images of the toppled statue and celebrating citizens were instantly beamed around the world. With Hussein in hiding and much of the city now under U.S. control, the day’s events later became known as the Fall of Baghdad.
“Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators, and the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom,” then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a Pentagon briefing.
The Iraq War was far from over, however. Hussein was captured by U.S. forces in December 2003 and executed in December 2006, but the United States would not formally withdraw from Iraq until December 2011, eight years after the conflict first began.