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Iraq newsmakers: Where are they now?

By Kyle Almond, CNN
March 19, 2013 -- Updated 1333 GMT (2133 HKT)
Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch, seen here in December 2011, left the Army and got a degree in elementary education.
Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch, seen here in December 2011, left the Army and got a degree in elementary education.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A decade after the start of the Iraq war, here's a look back at some people who made news
  • Jessica Lynch is out of the Army, still struggling with her injuries
  • Lynndie England found it difficult to find work after her court-martial over Abu Ghraib
  • Former President George W. Bush has kept a low profile since his term ended in 2009

(CNN) -- Ten years ago this week, President George W. Bush announced that the United States and coalition forces had begun military action against Iraq.

Here's a look back at some of the people who made headlines during the war.

Jessica Lynch

Then: Lynch, a 20-year-old private first class in the U.S. Army, was a prisoner of war who became a celebrity after American troops filmed her rescue in April 2003. She returned home to a hero's welcome and was awarded the Bronze Star. A television movie, "Saving Jessica Lynch," aired in November 2003.

Now: Lynch is out of the Army, and she recently earned a college degree in elementary education. In 2007, she told a House committee that the military lied about her capture. She said she had been billed as a "little girl Rambo" who went down fighting when her convoy was ambushed. "It was not true," she said. "The truth is always more heroic than the hype."

Lynch has a young daughter, Dakota Ann, who is named in honor of Lori Ann Piestewa, Lynch's best friend who was killed in the ambush. In a 2011 interview with CNN, Lynch said the injuries she suffered in Iraq still affect her and that she wears a leg brace. She had undergone 20 surgeries and expected more to come.

Muqtada al-Sadr

Then: A Shiite cleric with an intensely loyal following in Iraq, al-Sadr has long been one of the country's leading voices of anti-American sentiment. He and his Mehdi Army clashed frequently with coalition forces in the first few years of the war.

Now: Al-Sadr disbanded the Mehdi Army in 2008, announcing that it would instead be a movement to oppose secularism and Western thought. His political bloc has become a kingmaker in Iraqi politics: Its 39 members of Iraq's parliament were key to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's winning a second term in 2010.

Al-Sadr rarely makes public appearances, but his supporters usually hold demonstrations every March to mark the anniversary of the Iraq war.

George W. Bush

Then: The 43rd president of the United States led a "coalition of the willing" into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and his suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Now: Bush has kept a low profile since his second term ended in 2009, and he recently said he's "pretty content" with life after the presidency.

In his memoir, "Decision Points," Bush wrote that he felt sick to his stomach when he found there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"I felt terrible about it," Bush told CNN's Candy Crowley in 2010. "On the other hand, those reports did point out that Saddam Hussein was very dangerous, that he had the capacity to make weapons. I'm convinced that if he were still in power today, the world would be a lot worse off."

Bush's presidential library, on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, opens to the public in May.

Hans Blix

Then: Blix was the United Nations' chief weapons inspector in the months before the war. He reported in January 2003 that the Iraqi government was not fully cooperating with U.N. inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction. The United States started airstrikes two months later.

Now: Blix is chairman of an international advisory board for the United Arab Emirates, which is seeking a peaceful nuclear energy program. Since retiring from his U.N. post in 2003, Blix has written two books on Iraq and been critical of the Bush administration's decision to invade.

Lynndie England

Then: England was one of 11 U.S. soldiers convicted of crimes relating to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2004. The 21-year-old private first class was seen in several photographs that showed physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

Now: After being released from military prison halfway into a 36-month sentence, England has been trying to rebuild her life. In 2009, she told the State Journal, a newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia, that it had been hard to find work since she was dishonorably discharged from the Army: "I go on interviews. As soon as they realize who I am, I'm turned down."

England has an 8-year-old son who was conceived during her tour in Iraq.

Muhammad Saeed al-Sahaf

Then: Al-Sahaf was Saddam Hussein's minister of information at the beginning of the war. He often answered foreign reporters' questions with outrageously false claims and venomous insults of the enemy. "The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad," he once alleged. The media came up with several nicknames for al-Sahaf, including "Baghdad Bob" and "Comical Ali."

Now: Al-Sahaf has kept a low profile since the Hussein government was overthrown in 2003. In interviews with Al-Arabiya and Abu Dhabi TV, al-Sahaf said he had surrendered to U.S. forces and been released after questioning.

L. Paul Bremer

Then: As director of the Coalition Provisional Authority from 2003 to 2004, Bremer, a U.S. diplomat, was the highest-ranking official in Iraq. His group essentially governed Iraq and oversaw its rebuilding efforts until the Iraqis were ready to reassume power. When Saddam Hussein was captured, Bremer made the announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him!"

Now: Bremer has served on the boards of several corporations and nonprofits since he left Iraq and he has kept an active media presence by appearing on television and writing for newspapers. He has also published a book, "My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope."

Bremer also likes to paint. He has a website that promotes his work, and many of his oil paintings depict wintry landscapes in Vermont.

Donald Rumsfeld

Then: As secretary of defense under President George W. Bush, Rumsfeld managed the early part of the war in Iraq. Praised at first for the effectiveness of the campaign, he soon came under fire for his planning and execution, not to mention the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He resigned in 2006 and was replaced by Robert Gates.

Now: Since leaving his post, Rumsfeld has been outspoken in the media, appearing numerous times on CNN to talk about foreign policy issues. In October 2011, he reflected on the Iraq war with Fareed Zakaria:

"I think the world is better off having the Iraqi people, an important country, with a constitution they drafted, with a government that's respectful of the various diverse elements in that country. Is it perfect? No. Are people still going to be killing each other from time to time in that part of the world? You bet. But it is, I think, a situation that is better today than it was then.

"Now, it's taken time. It's taken money. It's taken lives. And that is always not predictable."

Rumsfeld has written a book, "Known and Unknown: A Memoir."

Muntadhar al-Zaidi

Then: Al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist, threw his shoes at President Bush during a news conference in December 2008. The defiant insult made al-Zaidi a hero in the eyes of many in the Arab world, but it also landed him a one-year prison sentence for assault.

Now: Released several months early for good behavior, al-Zaidi defended his act of protest. He said he felt compelled to act after witnessing what the U.S. invasion had wrought on his country: "I got my chance, and I didn't miss it. ... I saw my country burning." He published a memoir called "The Last Salute to President Bush."

Jill Carroll

Then: Carroll, a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, was kidnapped by an Iraqi militant group and held for nearly three months before her release in March 2006. Once back in the United States, Carroll denounced a propaganda video in which she appeared, saying it was a price she had to pay for her freedom.

Now: Carroll described her ordeal in the Monitor, writing an 11-part series called Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story. In 2008, she left the newspaper for Fairfax County, Virginia, where she was training to be a firefighter.

Ayad Allawi

Then: When he was sworn in as interim prime minister in June 2004, Allawi became the first Iraqi other than Saddam Hussein to lead the country in more than three decades. Allawi was co-founder of the Iraqi National Accord, a group that opposed Hussein's Ba'ath Party.

Now: Allawi's Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc won the most seats in 2010's parliamentary elections, and it has a power-sharing deal in place with the Shiite-backed State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. There has been political tension between the two groups recently, with Allawi's group accusing al-Maliki of cutting it out of the decision-making process. The Iraqiya bloc even pulled out of parliament in December, but it ended the boycott a month later.

Tommy Franks

Then: Franks, a four-star Army general who served three tours in Vietnam, led the invasion of Iraq while in charge of U.S. Central Command. Centcom oversees military operations in 20 countries, many of which are in the Middle East.

Now: Since retiring in 2003, Franks has traveled the world speaking about leadership, character and the value of democracy, according to his website. His 2004 autobiography, "American Soldier," debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times' best-seller list. Franks is currently on the board of directors for the group that runs Chuck E. Cheese restaurants.

David Petraeus

Then: As a four-star Army general, Petraeus relieved George Casey Jr. in 2007 to command coalition forces in Iraq. He oversaw the "surge" strategy that increased troop levels by 30,000.

In later years, he would take over command of the Afghanistan war effort and become director of the CIA,

Now: Petraeus resigned his CIA post in November, admitting he had an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Sources close to Petraeus said he would be making his first public appearance since his resignation later this month, speaking at a dinner honoring veterans and active duty military.

Cindy Sheehan

Then: Sheehan became the face of the antiwar movement in 2005, when she protested for weeks outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. She said she wanted to confront the president, whom she held responsible for the death of her son, a U.S. soldier slain in Iraq.

Now: Sheehan continues to be a vocal opponent of U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. She ran for Congress in 2008 but finished a distant second behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in California.

Sheehan has been sued by the federal government for not paying taxes. Sheehan told CNN affiliate KXTV last year that she refuses to pay: "If they can give me my son back, then I'll pay my taxes. And that's not going to happen."

Baby Noor

Then: Seven years ago, U.S. soldiers in Baghdad came upon Noor, a 3-month-old Iraqi girl struggling with spina bifida. They brought her to the United States for life-saving medical treatment.

Now: Noor is struggling back in Iraq, a war-ravaged country where disabled children are often treated as an afterthought. She cannot walk, and she likely never will because of her condition. She's also running low on catheters and suffers from urinary tract infections that result from abnormal bladder function. Complications from such infections could be deadly.

Noor attends a school for disabled children, but the school's social researcher fears Noor is suffering from depression and low self-esteem. Much of that may stem from the abandonment of her mother, who left the family with her second child and asked for a divorce. Noor rarely sees her mother anymore.

Youssif

Then: Youssif, a 5-year-old boy living in Baghdad, was horribly scarred when masked men set him on fire in 2007. His CNN story struck a chord with viewers, who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that brought Youssif to the United States for medical treatment.

Now: Youssif and his family continue to call California home, and he has had more than a dozen surgeries to reconstruct his face. He still needs more surgeries, but he has kept a positive upbeat attitude and adjusted well to his new life in the United States. He speaks English, attends school and plays soccer. He said in 2011 that he misses his home country and wants to grow up to be a doctor so he can help others.

Coming Thursday: Youssif, 6 years later

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