- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 28 (UPI) — President George W. Bush on Friday said the United States expected the Iraqi regime to commit war crimes but warned that the administration would not excuse those carrying out atrocities.

"Given the nature of this regime, we expect such war crimes, but we will not excuse them. War criminals will be hunted relentlessly and judged severely," Bush said.

The president made his remarks before war veterans gathered in the East Room of the White House. He said that regime that once terrorized all of Iraq now controls a small portion of the country as coalition troops advance on Baghdad.

"We're inflicting severe damage on enemy forces. We are now fighting the most desperate units of the dictator's army. The fierce fighting currently underway will demand further courage and further sacrifice. Yet we know the outcome of this battle: The Iraqi regime will be disarmed. The Iraqi regime will be removed from power," Bush said.

Bush said the American people have seen a dying regime where prisoners of war have been brutalized and executed. Saddam's paramilitary forces have donned civilian clothes and attacked coalition troops or pretended to surrender and opened fire.

"Against this enemy we will accept no outcome except complete victory," the president vowed.

The White House on Friday said it was premature to draw conclusions about U.S. battlefield strategy in the Iraqi war or to speculate on the potential duration of the conflict as the Bush administration deployed additional troops into the Gulf region.

Administration officials sought to rebuff the predictions of U.S. Army Lt. William S. Wallace, a U.S. commander in Iraq, who said in media reports that the war would likely take longer than military planners first assessed.

"The president understands people want to know, but it's also a unknowable issue," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said earlier in the day responding to questions on the duration of the war.

U.S. and British forces faced stiff resistance this week from Saddam's Republican Guard and paramilitary troops. Coalition forces faced with fierce resistance from Iraqi forces in the southern towns of Nasiriya, Basra and Umm Qasr, the gateway for humanitarian aid shipments.

An estimated 30,000 soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division and other units based at Fort Hood, Texas, were to be deployed to the region in the next few days. Another 100,000 ground troops were expected to be deployed in the next month.

Military strategists have said the United States and Britain did not anticipate the ferocity of Saddam's forces, particularly the paramilitary group Fedayeen, whose name literally means "those ready to sacrifice themselves for Saddam."

The White House said deployments were part of the original military blueprint.

"Just to be clear, all along, as part of the original plan, there was a flow of forces into the region that had been signed-off on a long time ago. So all flows of forces in now are part of that, and so there was no need for any new decisions to be made on this. It was all part of the preexisting plan," Fleischer said.

A defense official told United Press International that additional troop deployments were approved in December and January, and are being issued as part of the original combat plan.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to seek approval from the Cabinet Friday to send another 5,000 British troops as reinforcements to Iraq after a request from Bush, British officers at the coalition command headquarters in Qatar have been told.

U.S. and British troops regrouped Friday as the Bush administration was expected to deploy more than 100,000 additional troops into a war that the Army's senior ground commander said would likely last longer than many strategists had anticipated.

The report of additional troops came as the war entered its second week Thursday. The overnight bombing of Baghdad was intense while U.S.-led coalition forces pushed forward on a number of fronts after being stalled by sandstorms and what military officials called a series of minor setbacks.

Bush boarded Marine One for Camp David shortly after 3:30 p.m. Friday where he is expected to monitor the war from the secure military installation. Chief of Staff Andrew Card and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice are expected to join Bush at the presidential retreat.

On Monday, he is expected to travel to the Port of Philadelphia to make remarks on his war budget and homeland security.

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