- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 19 (UPI) — A defiant President Saddam Hussein Thursday addressed his nation — just hours after a series of strikes by the U.S. military against senior Iraqi leaders — urging his people to resist the coming U.S. assault, and lambasting President Bush for his decision to go to war.

"The criminal junior Bush has committed the crime he has threatened Iraq and humanity with," Saddam said.

The U.S.-led war, he declared, was an attack by "the criminal Zionists and their American allies" on the Arab and Islamic nations.

Saddam appeared on Iraqi television more than an hour after his aides announced that he would address the nation, following a series of strikes apparently aimed at killing him and other senior Iraqi leaders.

Although he made reference to the date, there was no indication of whether the broadcast was live or had been recorded earlier, perhaps before the U.S. strikes.

Wearing a military uniform and a black beret and flipping pages as he read from a note pad, Saddam urged the Iraqi nation to "fight American criminals with all the might you have."

"Draw your sword, draw your gun, keep your fingers on the trigger and fight," he declared.

"We must do everything to defend our valued nation and our principles, but I would say to the faithful, the patient, oppressed by the aggressors, to remember that these days will soon be over with the help of God," he said.

"God will give us victory," he said.

He called the U.S.-led military coalition that also includes Britain and Australia "enemies of humanity and God."

"We will confront the invaders and we will get them, God willing, where they will lose their patience and lose any hope of accomplishing what they were driven to by the criminal Zionists," Saddam said.

Shortly before his speech, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf appeared on television, announcing that "the president, the leader, the fighter, Saddam Hussein, may God protect him, will shortly address the nation, in this fighting day, in this great day."

Several times in his speech, Saddam addressed President Bush as "the tyrant of this era, the Zionist ally of this day," in an attempt to link the war in Iraq with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Referring to a Muslim religious injunction that says, "you can only fight those who attack you," Saddam said: "Those who are attacked and are treated unjustly have permission to fight."

March 20, he said, will be remembered as "the day when Bush Jr. … committed this crime against Iraq."

Thursday morning's attack on Iraq, he said, was one of "a series of crimes against Iraq and humanity" committed by the Bush administration and its allies.

"O all Iraqis and those who hear this (speech), pick up the banner fight for your religion, for your soul, and your family."

It's the duty of all "good people" to protect this nation," said the Iraqi leader, adding: "I say to each of you, in the family of Iraq, we are being treated unjustly by Iraq's enemies."

Saddam urged the Iraqis to remember that "this day, this great day will add to your shinning record and raise your status before God."

"You will be victorious O Iraqis, and yr enemies will face humiliation and defeat. God willing!"

"Let us confront the bad, the evil. Draw your sword. Keep your fingers on the trigger. Keep the fire burning."

"Call for God's help and the wounds will heal quickly. Those who fight evil in the world peace be upon them."

In his effort to invoke religious sentiments of the Iraqi Muslims he ended his speech with the chant, "God is great," which he repeated several times in his speech.

In the end he once again referred to the Palestinian conflict, saying:

"Long live Iraq and Palestine, long live jihad and long live Palestine."

The United Press International reporter in Baghdad said anti-aircraft guns were firing early Thursday, but it was not immediately known what they were attempting to hit. He said it also was not clear what if any targets had been hit by aircraft.

With reporting in Washington DC, by Krishnadev Calamur and Anwar Iqbal.

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