March 18th, 2008
01:24 PM ET

Shock & Awe: 5 Years Later

March 19th marked five years since the start of the Iraq war. I remember the moment the war started, and exactly where I was... I had been working at CNN for a short time. The mood in the newsroom that day was tense, yet oddly quiet. I had been running around gathering research, printing the latest wires... waiting for word from Baghdad.


AC 360 takes a look back at the start of the Iraq War and where it stands now five years later. WATCH: "Shock & Awe: 5 Years Later" airs Saturday & Sunday, 11p ET

...and then, I heard it... Not the explosions we've all come to know as 'Shock & Awe,' but a voice... It came over CNN's breaking news intercom system. The voice alerted us that an offensive was underway, bombs had been released… the war had begun.

I was standing in the newsroom with one of our guests, William Cohen, the former Secretary of Defense... That in itself was a ‘Shock & Awe’ moment for me... Here I am, standing with a man whose successor was... literally at that exact moment... at the helm of the invasion of Iraq ... and we are both hearing this news at the same time.

To make things even more surreal, I knew the nation had gone to war before the nation even knew. What a strange feeling. It's like the news breaks twice... you know something that has yet to be broadcast to the world, and you wait for it to happen all over again, on-air… re-living it with the viewers.

The rest of that night was a nonstop blur – running from one area of the newsroom to the other, jumping in and out of editing rooms, printing everything I could, passing along news to William Cohen… I think I left work at 3 in the morning, but it’s the start of that night I always look back at.

We would love to hear what you have to say about the war: Where you were at the time? What was the biggest moment for you? The biggest success? The greatest failure? Where do we go from here?

– David Reisner, 360° Digital Producer

Program Note: Watch an AC360° special, "Shock & Awe: 5 Years Later" Thursday 11p ET.

Filed under: AC360° Staff • Iraq
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Aaron Rasor

    I am currently stationed in Iraq and saw a small portion of the show shock and awe 5 years later... what I did see I thought was very thought provoking. I think it would be great to show this to my young soldiers who dont even understand why they are here. Is there anyone out there who has a copy on disk or digits that i can have to show and educate my Joes??

    March 25, 2008 at 12:50 pm |
  2. fran in Mississippi

    I was on terminal leave from the military and got a call that I may be recalled and they wanted me to stay in touch. I'd survived the gulf war and although I wanted to support my friends and my country, I wasn't thrilled about going to Iraq. I never supported the reasons for this war, WMD?

    I can't believe that we are still there and the conversation about those missing and dying in action seems to have faded away. This is hurtful and disappointing because the Bush administration is going to get away with the lies and deception. This is the most powerful and richest country in the world and we can't, or won't hold our owe accountable.

    I love this country, I served on active duty for 16 years and I'd do it again; however, this is not what I signed on for and I know that no one else did either. America, the media, the reporters, nor this administration doestn't really seem to remember the fallen, at least not like before. I think that the war is just old news and it saddens me because the war is real and should not be forgotten. I also think that it is a deceptive trick to take our minds off of the ones who made the wrong call, the wrong judgement and/or the wrong decision to put us in harms way.

    I beseech you, my fellow Americans, to please join together and hold this administraion accountable for its actions. Fight for those who have fought for us all. Stand up for those who have fallen! If you love -us show us! Send a mesage that will made it much more difficult to make such a costly decision.

    I don't have the answers, as to how to hold this administration accountable, but it has to happen – it has to happen!

    PS.. I say no, to business as usual; no to Clinton; and no to McCain!

    March 23, 2008 at 11:36 pm |

    I didn't feel anything except sick to my stomach that George Bush
    had sold congress, and the nation a bill of goods, that led this nation to attack a country that was no threat to us. through scare tactics, and a pack of lies which Bush, used to sell the war, that three of our own intel. agencies had already told him this information was wrong. it didn't matter to him that over a million people would die, we needed the oil and AIPAC wanted a military presence in the middle east. since then all the reasons that Bush gave for going to war have been proven false, and the reasons have changed several times, but we are still killing people, and losing our own everyday.
    I have the utmost praise, and respect for our, but not for the scum that sent them there

    March 23, 2008 at 1:58 pm |
  4. Majd

    Iraq is like a Coca Cola bottle where the soda represents oil. A new full Coke bottle is worth about $1.49. When you empty the soda you will be left with a $00.03 plastic bottle. Iraq is the same thing, once all it's oil is gone it wil loose its main ingredient, thus making it worthless.

    Many of America's enemies are in the Middle East. So the U.S. planned ahead by having relations with Kwait in the early 90's because that was its entry point through the Persian Gulf to bring tanks, weapons and aircraft on ships. Once base was established in Kwait they were prepared to attack Iraq (also known as the center of the Arab world). Why do you think the United States build one of its biggest Forward Operating Base in Iraq? Its because they now have a 360 degree control over neighboring countries such as Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia where if turmoil arises can be taken care of on Iraqi soil.

    100,000 poor and innocent Iraqi's lives are lost due to this experiment. And almost 4,000 forced to deploy U.S. troop's lives are also lost due to this idiotic ideology.

    P.S.-To Bush,

    Next time you have issues with presidents like Saddam resolve it like any other grown men would and that is boxing it out. That way you won't bring nations down with you for a grudge as your doing so now mentaly and economicly to the United States and Iraq.

    March 23, 2008 at 7:18 am |
  5. Natalie

    I have very few vivid memories from both of my husband's deployments to Iraq. I do, however, remember very clearly watching all of the footage from the 'shock and awe' time. I remember sitting in the living room in tears wondering where he was, what he was doing and if he was ok. Those first few months were very difficult because there was no phone service set up- certianly no e-mail and letters took several weeks to make it one way or another. At the time of the 'shock and awe', I had not spoken to or heard from my husband since he left. All I could do was sit and watch and hope that nobody fitting his description had died. So, there I sat- glued to that coverage.

    March 22, 2008 at 9:04 pm |
  6. Trish

    I was sitting in front of the television, crying, because I knew my fiance was on his way to Iraq at that moment and I knew that neither him or I, or America would ever be the same.

    March 21, 2008 at 12:58 pm |
  7. Megan

    I seldom watch TV, much less late at night, but last night I was forntunate to have been in front of Anderson Cooper's Shock and Awe. I, like so many Americans, have been very angry about the lies that led this country into war with Iraq. I have also been deeply frustrated by the lack of truth that has come to the American people about what has happened in the five years since the war began. I have wondered why in a war with imbedded reporters do we as American know so very little about what is really happening in the experiences of our soldiers and in the daily lives of people of Iraq? How can any of us make a clear choice about how we should go forward in Iraq when we only know a very filtered truth about what is happening there? Sitting in front of Shock and Awe, I felt for the first time I was hearing the truth about the war. Thank you, Cooper Anderson and all those who worked with you, for your courage, your professionalism, your insight. You worked so hard to tell us the truth and in so doing you will be a significant part in the way forward toward resolution of this tangled conflict.My question now is when will the important show be repeated at an earlier time so many more can see it?

    March 21, 2008 at 11:40 am |
  8. andy

    I was sitting in my living room watching as the bombs feel! I had fear for those that where on their way to Iraq and when i saw what I saw I felt Vietnam ! At this point I was against the War and did not want it and as time went on and I started to see that we had not only hurt others and our selfs I started to feel Vietnam again over time and what I mean is I remember the end of vietnam and those who had helped us fight the viet cong and how they found themselfs being placed in labor camps and and alot of them died due to are selfish way we brought are troops out of vietnam and i pray i do not see that again! Many young people did not live through that era and do not know the truth of what happened to those persons who did help America and maybe Obama was also to young but I am not and I remember ! So as I watched the invasion of Iraq I prayed for those young men and women!

    March 20, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  9. Ayse

    I was at home with my family & we had friends over. There was such a huge build up that we constantly had the news on....Then there it was live on CNN International. The commentator informing us that explosions could be heard, and then that ridiculous 20 minute visual glorification of war porn and our acceptance that this was how things were going to be. I was not in awe of this war game, but I was shocked that CNN went along for the ride, and even more so that I was a passive passenger on this deathly journey. How many people died that night? How many people cheered? how many people cried? Who cares right? All that matters is that we in our 'global village' made it the most disturbingly acceptable live event in our time.

    March 20, 2008 at 9:46 am |
  10. Robert Smith

    I am proud to be an American. Let’s talk about war. I mean real war, not those little battles the government officials and poorly educated people brag about. I mean the one you find yourself in when you survive the little one and get home. In a little war all you have to be concerned about is getting killed, in a real war you spirit is wounded over and over again. Some of you know what I mean, you know you’re in a real war when you look back and you see that you have been through two or three divorces, your children don’t even want to know who you are and you might be addicted to one or more drugs like alcohol. The war that has no end and victory is but a dream. You know you’re in a real war when you see your fellow veterans living on the street and big business is making record profits. You know you have been in a real war when you wait for four months to get an appointment with a VA doctor in a small understaffed, underequipped clinic so that you can tell him or her the salve they gave you six months before isn’t working on those stinging itchy sores that are breaking out all over your body and they send you home with more salve or pills that the Veterans Administration got from the lowest bidder. You know you’re in a real war when the people in your country start another war exactly like the one you were in thirty five years before. You know you’re in a real war when you spend over half your life span fighting for benefits you were promised just to be rejected over and over again. You know you’re in a real war when you finally get a small portion of the benefit you were promised and they look at you like you just got something you don’t really deserve. You know you’re in a real war when you realize you are incapable of interacting with other human beings any more. You know you are in a real war when you are holding in tears for thirty years before you find someone who is willing to listen to you and that someone tells you that you should be proud to be an American. You know you are in a real war when you realize the Commander and Chief which I prefer to call, the Great-Master-Puppet-Head, hasn’t got a clue. You know you are in a real war when the Great-Master-Puppet-Head with a stroke of a pen gives his friends in the oil companies a few trillion dollar tax breaks and with the same swipe of the pen cuts millions of dollars from the VA budget. You know you’re in a real war when you realize the people in the country you risked your life for voted for the Great-Master-Puppet-Head and let’s not forget his sidekick, Nummer-Than-A-Stump. By the way, these are the same people who jump to their feet and applaud vigorously every time anyone mentions the word veteran. You know you’re in a real war when at 1AM you get up from bed yet again unable to sleep with words like these going through your thoughts over and over again. Yes, I am proud to be an American. PS, Uncle Sam needs YOU!

    March 20, 2008 at 9:31 am |
  11. Daniel Humphreys

    Five years ago I was on a plane towards Kuwait City. My friends and I landed in Kuwait City, and I spent several hours unloading the plane. Something scary actually happened to me when I first hit the ground as we call it, I had lost my military I.D., and that is so very important. Something that I think people have lost sight of is the arrogance we now have in our country that we need to fix everyone, and everyone should be democratic. Something I've never heard anyone discuss is the fact that the Iraqi people feel they're the most sifisticated people on Earth, and it doesn't matter how much you try to explain to them that wiping their butt is nasty, they believe they have better core values. I do have to say that the majority of people I came across over in Iraq felt they ironically have more patriotism than we do because the soldiers in their army fight for religion, not because their forced, or it's something to do. These people aren't radicals, but calm islam people who put their religion before almost everything. We have so many divisions in this country concerning people not understanding each other; Men understand women, Blacks understanding whites, etc. but it's rather sad that we will never open our minds enough to understand the Iraqi people enough to let them just live the life they want. Isn't that what life is about? To be able to provide for your family without having to worry about your child getting shot? I love America, but let us focus on what makes us America, and fix what we have at home!!!! I think the Eliot Spitzer story should be a metaphor for this conflict in Iraq, and hopefully you can see my vision. Eliot faught so hard to clean up what he was actually doing, but aren't we as a country being hypicritical as well? Eliot is a product of this new found thinking in America which is act one way in public, but do the exact opposite when people aren't looking. Let us finally worry about are own problems that make us look bad to everyone else in the world. I find it rather frustrating that Barack Obama is being crucified for something his pastor said, not his surrogate, not someone he sent out to campaign for him, but rather his pastor who is allowed to have his own views on things whether we like it or not. When all of the Catholic preists committ child abuse and molest children, does that make the next Catholic nominee a molestor? I find this absolutely ridiculous, and I'm rather ashamed about what has transpired in the media. Bill Clinton brought shame, and utter disrepect to the highest office in the land, but 8 years later he's out campaigning for Hillary and nothing is said about that? Barack Obama, or Pastor Wright never made the white house something people point and laugh at, but I guess in this nation what you do behind closed doors is okay. Hillary never knew what her husband was doing behind closed doors, and I don't fault her for that, but what makes people want Bill in the white house again? I wish I could go on Tv and voice my reason because I think these things need to be said. If your brother Anderson goes out and says something haneous does that make you a bad person because you love him? No, it makes your brother the person who said and did the action, not you.

    March 20, 2008 at 2:06 am |
  12. Brian

    Hi Anderson,

    I remember it like it was yesterday. I was still in my senior year of high school and I was in class. We had the T.V on when we went to war, everyone in class were glued to the T.V. We all had mixed emotions to what was going on. Some were strongly for the war some strongly disagreed. I was one of the students that was for the invasion but now my views have completely changed. I thought this war was going to be an easy one but now that I'm older understand that no war is easy. I have close friends that joined the military and some came back from Iraq completely different. I just hoped that we would have come into this war with a proper plan to get in and get out, get the job done and leave. Our government underestimated the complexities of the middle east. Now we are paying for it abroad and here at home.

    Brian C. Los Angeles

    March 20, 2008 at 12:53 am |
  13. Paul H.

    I was in Kuwait.

    Though I worked at a major command center, most all of us were actually surprised. We had anticipated D-Day to be on the 20th but a decision was made to do those bombings early. As everyone knows now, the move was an attempt to kill Saddam and many of the face cards and aces (the key leadership).

    For the several days it was non stop threats of chemical attacks. Though there were many missile launches, I only remember a late night Kuwait City strike where some Kuwaitis were hurt.

    I have to admit that many of my friends and peers thought that we would be in and out of Iraq in a short period. If you would have told me in March 2003 that we would still be in Iraq with the number of military that we have there now, I would have thought you were nuts.

    Proud to serve.

    March 20, 2008 at 12:44 am |
  14. Elyse

    The day we went to war I was on spring break my senior year of high school. I was in Orange County, CA visiting my brother w/ my parents and my best friend. It was sometime in the evening, dark outside, and she and I had finally made our way down to the hot tub to enjoy the beautiful evening and talk about those things you talk about when you're a senior in high school.

    The hotel we were staying at was right on the coast, so a few helicopters and such would fly by during the day b/c Camp Pendelton was right down the coast. We noticed a drastic increase in the amount of helicopters that night, patrolling up and down the coastline. Unaware of the "shock and awe" that was going on on the other side of the world, we chalked it up to military exercises.

    A few moments later my mom called my cell phone from their room to tell us that we had just bombed Baghdad and that we needed to come up right away. Still fresh from 9/11, none of us knew what reprocussions might occur so we booked it upstairs. She met us in the hallway to fill us in on what was happening and my friend called her parent's to get their take on the situation. I remember spending that night glued to the tv w/ my mom, dad, and friend. We all sat around the tv in awe, discussing what this might mean for the future of both our country, and Iraq.

    March 19, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
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