- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

President Bush said yesterday the capture of Saddam Hussein vindicates Americas policy of “patience and resolve and focused action” in prosecuting the war in Iraq.

“The war on terror is a different kind of war, waged capture by capture, cell by cell and victory by victory,” the president said from the White House Cabinet Room in a stern, three-minute address to the nation.

Although Democrats have complained since the end of major combat on May 1 that Mr. Bush has failed to capture or kill the Iraqi dictator, the president has vowed in speech after speech in the past few months that U.S. armed forces would sooner or later find and punish Saddam.

Yesterday, the president said that doctrine stands.

“That is our strategy moving forward,” said Mr. Bush, who did not smile once while delivering the best news on Iraq that his administration has received to date. “Our security is assured by our perseverance and by our sure belief in the success of liberty. And the United States of America will not relent until this war is won.”

Democrats scrambled to react to the news yesterday, with White House hopeful Wesley Clark setting up a new standard of success for the president.

“I hope this will see a diminishing in the violence against American soldiers in Iraq,” said the general, just hours after Mr. Bush warned that Saddams capture will not solve all the problems in Iraq.

“Their work continues and so do the risks,” said Mr. Bush of U.S. forces. “Today, on behalf of the nation, I thank the members of our armed forces, and I congratulate them.

<*p(0,10,0,9.5,0,0,G)>Congratulations poured in from around the world, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Americas closest military ally, saying, “Where his rule meant terror and division and brutality, let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation and peace between all the people of Iraq.”

Even war opponents such as French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder praised the capture of Saddam, although they were snubbed by the White House in the diplomatic game of notifying allies.

At home, several Democrats [-] especially those not running for president [-] greeted with more cheer the dramatic news on the stunning capture of a bearded and bedraggled Saddam, who put up no fight when cornered in his tiny, underground “spider hole.”

“With Saddam Hussein captured, it changes the entire field,” said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Said Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut: “Praise the Lord.”

Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, called the capture vindication for “the administrations foreign policy.”

“By maintaining its resolve in the face of rising criticism here and abroad, the administrations foreign policy has once again been demonstrated to rest on a profoundly accurate understanding of the world. On this administrations watch, the interests of the United States have been defended and the world made more secure,” Mr. Hyde said.

In his brief comments about five hours after U.S. military leaders confirmed the capture of Saddam, Mr. Bush assured Iraqis that the tyrant is gone for good and will soon face the “justice he denied to millions.”

“The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him and for all who bullied and killed in his name,” he said, noting that “there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege” for Baathist supporters.

“And this afternoon, I have a message for the Iraqi people: You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again.”

Those Iraqis “who take the side of freedom have taken the winning side,” he said.

But Mr. Bush also warned that the capture of the Iraqi dictator will not immediately stop terrorist attacks on U.S.-led coalition troops.

“I also have a message for all Americans: The capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq. We still face terrorists who would rather go on killing the innocent than accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East.”

But the president vowed: “Such men are a direct threat to the American people, and they will be defeated.”

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice reiterated that belief, telling NBC News, “We do expect that those who will clearly lose their privileges and who have terrorized their fellow Iraqi citizens will continue to terrorize their fellow Iraqi citizens.”

A senior law-enforcement official told the Associated Press that no immediate intelligence suggested retaliatory terror attacks on U.S. soil and there was no discussion yesterday about raising the terror alert level in the United States.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, like the president, yesterday paid tribute to the efforts of the U.S.-led coalitions military forces, including the 450 U.S. soldiers who have died since the war began March 19.

“Though they are far from home during this holiday season, they are serving a truly great cause, the cause of liberty. As the American people celebrate the holidays, we do so with gratitude in our hearts for the forces and for their families, who sacrifice for us all,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

It was the defense secretary who first told Mr. Bush about the capture of a man who U.S. forces believed was Saddam, calling the president about 3:15 p.m. Saturday at Camp David.

“The conversation,” Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday, “began by Secretary Rumsfeld saying something to the effect of: ‘Mr. President, the first reports are not always accurate. The president interrupted the secretary and said, ‘This sounds like its going to be good news.

“And Secretary Rumsfeld then continued and said, ‘General [John P.] Abizaid [commander of the U.S. Central Command] called me, he feels confident that we got Saddam Hussein. The president said, ‘Well, that is good news,[ThSp]” Mr. McClellan said.

The president asked Mr. Rumsfeld how they know that it was Saddam Hussein [-] especially because the Iraqi dictator had made repeated use of body doubles in the past to elude those tracking him.

The conversation ended, and the defense secretary then “gathered a little bit more information,” the spokesman said.

He called the president back minutes later and said Gen. Abizaid had confirmed “through some identifying marks on Saddam Hussein” that it was the former dictator, Mr. McClellan said.

The president, using a secure phone line, then called Vice President Dick Cheney and Miss Rice to announce the initial report from Baghdad.

When he got off the phone, Mr. Bush told first lady Laura Bush: “It looks like weve captured Saddam Hussein.”

She responded with an emphatic: “Great.”

The president returned from Camp David to the White House late Saturday to avoid an overnight snowstorm that threatened to keep him from attending the taping of a television Christmas special last night at the National Building Museum.

A few hours before he was to attend Sunday church services, Mr. Bush, just waking up, got a call at 5:14 a.m. from Miss Rice. She reported that L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, had called to confirm that the prisoner in custody was Saddam.

The president canceled his trip to church and went to the Oval Office, where he called his closest military ally, Mr. Blair.

Others on the call list included the leaders of Spain, Australia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Portugal and Poland. Absent from the call list were the leaders of France, Germany and Russia, although Mr. Bush did call key members of Congress from both parties and other U.S. officials.

As top aides straggled into the West Wing through about four inches of fresh snow, Mr. Bush watched the television coverage of the 7:30 a.m. briefing in Baghdad, where Mr. Bremer announced, “We got him.”

Mr. Bush watched as a host of Iraqi journalists and civilians in the Baghdad briefing room jumped to their feet and cheered, with some chanting “Death to Saddam.”

A few minutes later, the president called Adnan Pachachi, a senior member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad.

“The president let him know that he was very moved by the outburst of joy from the Iraqis during the briefing,” Mr. McClellan told reporters at the White House yesterday. “And the president said that he believes in the future of the Iraqi people.”

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