- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) — President George W. Bush on Saturday said helping the Iraqi people achieve a free and stable country would require a sustained commitment from the United States as coalition forces continued an air and ground campaign to oust the regime leadership.

"Our nation entered this conflict reluctantly, yet with a clear and firm purpose. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder," Bush said.

The president used his weekly radio address to the nation to tell the American people that the Iraqi conflict is a fight for the security of the nation and peace in the world.

"We will accept no outcome but victory," Bush said.

The showdown with Iraq was the culmination of 12 years of U.N. resolutions, capped in recent months by a newfound determination on the part of the United States to force Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to reveal and destroy the chemical and biological weapons it claims he has.

It was Wednesday night when the deadline expired Saddam to leave the country, an ultimatum issued by Bush two days earlier.

Ninety minutes after the deadline passed unheeded, the first bombs fell on Baghdad. The United States targeted a residence in Baghdad after "senior Iraqi leadership" arrived there Wednesday, a U.S. government official told United Press International.

By Friday there was speculation that Saddam had been injured in that attack and that he had been seen being removed from the rubble on a gurney.

Midday on Friday, the Pentagon began its so-called "shock and awe" campaign with a massive air campaign that destroyed presidential palaces and reduced

Bush said Saturday that American and coalition forces would face enemies "who have no regard for the conventions of war or rules of morality."

"Iraqi officials have placed troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for the dictator's army. I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm," Bush said Saturday.

Bush did not make reference in his radio address to those killed this week during the fighting. White House officials said he offered his condolences on Friday.

The first days of the campaign gave American and British forces their first casualties. Two U.S. Marines died in combat Friday during operations performed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to U.S. Central Command. One was killed in a firefight securing an oil pumping station in southern Iraq. A second Marine was killed after a skirmish with Iraqi forces near the port of Umm Qasr. Twelve U.S. and British Marines perished in a helicopter crash Friday 10 miles from the Iraqi border in Kuwait.

"The future of peace and the hopes of the Iraqi people now depend on our fighting forces in the Middle East. They are conducting themselves in the highest traditions of the American military. They are doing their job with skill and bravery, and with the finest of allies beside them. At every stage of this conflict the world will see both the power of our military, and the honorable and decent spirit of the men and women who serve," Bush said.

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