First, the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled. Americans were given the impression that the Iraq War was largely over and that a bit of clean-up would be done and the troops would soon be on their way home. Guerrilla actions began on a modest scale at first, but by July, it was apparent that a full-scale resumption of violent conflict was brewing.
In July, Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay were surrounded and were killed along with a man and a boy. There was no evidence at the site that the two Hussein brothers were connected to the country-wide resistance. The two brothers appeared to be on the run and no one came to their rescue when they were surrounded. Nevertheless, it was thought that this marked a decisive defeat for the resistance.
In December, Hussein himself was captured. It was obvious he was not in charge of any of the resistance groups as he hadn't even been able to get a shave during his time on the run. No one was in the vicinity of his spider hole and there was no mention of having to fight through anybody to get to him. Nevertheless, it was widely thought that this marked the end of the war and that all that remained was to roll up the remaining resistance fighters.
The next year, the United States formally turned over limited sovereignty to hand-picked Iraqis who were, coincidentally enough, former members of the American-assembled Governing Council. By that time, the atrocities of Abu Ghraib had become public and the First Battle of Fallujah (Otherwise referred to as Fallujah I.) had occurred. It was not at all clear that Iraqis would settle for being governed by expatriates that they themselves played no role in choosing, but things seemed to get quieter for a while.
After the American presidential election, Bush commanded that the Second Battle of Fallujah (Or Fallujah II.) begin. There was every reason to suspect that the resistance was prepared to lose, but that they had made provisions to make the American victory as costly as possible. After a grueling and non-stop battle of many days, the offhand killing of a helpless Iraqi prisoer defined for the world just what the struggle there was all about. No strong foreign presence was found, no significant leaders were caught or killed and no happy, welcoming citizens were on hand to greet the Americans who had allegedly come to liberate them.
Many actions started in other cities just as the fighting in Fallujah was winding down. Fallujah never quite got to the point where it was safe enough to let people back into the city and after the United States announced plans to take detailed biometric scans of each male of military age before letting them back in, violence has resumed.
With several more attacks taking place across the country (Reaching an average of 100 a day) and an American military base attacked with heavy casualties, it's now clear that again, as was the case before, the Iraq War has not reached a turning point, that a decisive victory has not been won, that the end is nowhere in sight.
Will the elections, scheduled for 30 January next year, be the factor that makes the difference? Not even the Bush Administration is of one mind on that.