Here's the short version: The United States invaded Iraq in 2003, claiming that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had both weapons of mass destruction and connections to Al Qaeda. He had neither. Today, both Saddam Hussein and the United States are gone from Iraq. In their place? Al Qaeda.
This week, an Al Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized the country's second-largest city — Mosul — and several other towns. Latest reports have the militant group at the gates of Baghdad.
With US-trained Iraqi security forces now frantically fleeing the arrival of the ISIL militants — who are so extreme even Al Qaeda couldn't hang with them, causing the two groups to split — and a central government in total disarray, it's looking bleak. Someone call the Coalition of the Willing!
So how did it all go so wrong? In these 53 steps.
1. May 28, 1990: Saddam Hussein says oil overproduction in Kuwait is "economic warfare"
2. Aug. 2, 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait
3. Aug. 6, 1990: UN imposes economic sanctions on Iraq
4. Jan. 17, 1991: US launches air operations to liberate Kuwait (and its oil)
5. Feb. 24, 1991: US deploys ground war in Kuwait
6. Feb. 26, 1991: Saddam Hussein orders withdrawal from Kuwait
7. Feb. 28, 1991: US President George W. Bush Sr. says Kuwait is now free
8. April 3, 1991: UN extends sanctions on Iraq for next 10-plus years. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children die as a result of ballooning poverty, malnutrition and disease
9. June 26, 1993: Bill Clinton launches cruise missile attack on Baghdad in retaliation for failed assassination attempt on Bush Sr.
10. Dec. 16, 1998: US and UK launch four-day bombing campaign against sites in Iraq thought to be housing weapons of mass destruction
11. Dec. 19, 1998: Clinton is impeached for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky
12. Sept. 11, 2001: The 9/11 attacks kill almost 3,000 people. 15 of the 19 Al Qaeda militants are from Saudi Arabia. US launches war in Afghansitan, where Al Qaeda is believed to be based
13. Oct. 1, 2002: CIA report alleges Iraq is in possession of WMDs, launching build-up to war
14. Feb. 5, 2003: US Secretary of State Colin Powell tells UN that Iraq has WMDs and Al Qaeda links
15. March 19, 2003: Bush Jr. launches Iraq invasion
16. May 1, 2003: Bush declares "Mission Accomplished"
17. July 2, 2003: Turns out mission not yet accomplished. Bush declares, "Bring 'em on."
18. Aug. 19, 2003: It's brought. UN headquarters attacked in Baghdad, killing 17 people. Al Qaeda claims responsibility
19. Jan. 28, 2004: It's official: no WMDs in Iraq. Bush maintains Iraq War made the world safer
21. April 21, 2004: Spate of suicide bombings hits police stations
22. April 27, 2004: Images of US torture at Abu Ghraib prison air on 60 minutes. Shit hits fan
23. Jan. 12, 2005: Search for WMDs fails, is officially declared over
24. Sept. 9, 2005: Powell says he regrets pre-war UN speech
25. June 8, 2006: Al Qaeda leader killed in US air raid
26. Aug. 21, 2006: Bush acknowledges Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 attacks
27. Sept. 12, 2006: Media reports reveal that US spy agencies believe Iraq War increased terror threat
28. Oct. 4, 2006: A 2005 memo made public reveals that Al Qaeda said prolonging Iraq War is in its interest
29. Jan. 10, 2007: Bush announces escalation of Iraq war
30. May 20, 2007: CIA officials say Iraq War has become big "moneymaker" for Al Qaeda
31. June 11, 2007: US forces arm Sunni militias, known as the Sunni Awakening, to fight Al Qaeda
32. Aug. 8, 2007: Roadside bombs reach all-time high
33. March 10, 2008: Pentagon-funded study finds no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda
34. Sept. 5, 2008: Outgoing Gen. David Petraeus says Al Qaeda remains dangerous threat in Iraq
35. Feb. 16, 2010: Sectarian tensions soar
36. April 19, 2010: US raid kills top 2 Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq
37. May 10, 2010: 71 dead in widespread attacks blamed on Al Qaeda
38. July 23, 2010: Four Al Qaeda suspects escape from Iraqi prison
40. Aug. 31, 2010: Obama announces end of combat mission in Iraq
41. Sept. 27, 2010: Report says Al Qaeda in Iraq, which many thought had been "defeated," is actually responsible for wave of terror attacks over the summer, causing the highest casualties in more than two years
42. Oct. 16, 2010: Members of US-backed Sunni Awakening return to Al Qaeda ranks
43. Aug. 15, 2011: 42 bombings rock country, killing 89 people
44. Dec. 18, 2011: Last convoy of US troops leaves Iraq
45. March 20, 2012: Dozens of bombs kill 52 across Iraq
46. July 23, 2012: More bombings, 107 killed
47. March 19, 2013: Al Qaeda plants car bomb, kills 56 civilians
48. April 15, 2013: Wave of bombings kills 75, wounds 350 across the country
49. May 15, 2013: Series of deadly bombings and shootings kill at least 450, injure 732
50. July 22, 2013: Suicide bombers drive car bomb through Abu Ghraib prison, freeing hundreds of convicts, mostly senior Al Qaeda members
51. Jan. 2, 2014: Fallujah and other parts of Anbar province falls to Al Qaeda-linked militants now known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL
52. May 28, 2014: A month after elections, attacks kill more than 70 across the country
53. June 10, 2014: ISIL, an Al Qaeda splinter group, seizes Mosul, Iraq's second-lagest city, and Tikrit as US-trained security forces flee. ISIL marches on to Baghdad