- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar — President Bush, who has spent most of a weeklong trip abroad mending fences in Europe and exercising his diplomatic skills at a Middle East peace summit, yesterday returned to his favorite role — commander in chief.

Striding onto a stage in a large storage building at the headquarters for top U.S. war planners, Mr. Bush whipped off his suit coat and shoved up his shirtsleeves as more than 1,000 Army soldiers in desert camouflage uniforms gave him the VIP greeting — “Hoo-ah.”

In a speech to the soldiers, Mr. Bush yesterday repeated his insistence that the campaign to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction was justified, saying that the truth about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s capability to create and use chemical and biological weapons would be revealed in time.

“We’re on the look. We’ll reveal the truth,” Mr. Bush said to the troops, as he wound up a seven-day tour of Europe and the Middle East. He flew back to Washington along a path that took him over Baghdad.

Mr. Bush noted that coalition forces have already discovered two mobile biological-weapons laboratories, which the president says is proof of Saddam’s guilt.

“This is a man who spent decades hiding tools of mass murder. He knew the inspectors were looking for them. You know better than me he’s got a big country in which to hide them.”

Regardless of whether mass destruction weapons are found, Mr. Bush said, coalition forces still did the right thing.

“The world is now learning what many of you have seen. They’re learning about the mass graves, thousands of people just summarily executed.”

Yesterday’s visit to U.S. Central Command, led by four-star Gen. Tommy Franks, marked the end of a trip that saw Mr. Bush don a variety of presidential hats.

To European leaders who opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the president at first defiantly challenged them to do more for the world, but then met privately with the most outspoken opponents and put the Iraqi debate behind them.

At Wednesday’s peace summit in Jordan, Mr. Bush brokered new, substantial negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers and sternly told the two leaders he planned to “ride herd” on them to make sure they fulfill their promises.

But yesterday at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar, the president joked with the men and women who won the Iraq war with lightning speed.

“I’ve been on the road for a while,” he said at the top of his speech, “and I hope you didn’t mind us dropping by. We’ve seen a lot of sights, but there’s no finer sight than to see the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America.”

The president choked up and his eyes briefly filled with tears as he talked of those killed in the war to oust Saddam.

“Our military fights for the security of the American people. And we fight for freedom. And we sacrifice for freedom and we have lost some of our finest. And this nation will never forget and will always honor their memories for the sacrifices they made,” he said.

Mr. Bush gave a brief update on the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, saying that coalition forces are restoring order and removing members of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party. He said criminal courts are reopening and oil is again flowing.

The president praised Gen. Franks, saying Central Command was the spot from which “our commanders executed one of the most innovative war plans in the history of armed conflict.”

“And the man who designed these plans was Tommy Franks,” he said.

The continuing war on terror, Mr. Bush said, is making clear to the world that violence will not achieve the goals radicals desire. And while the United States once shied away from retaliatory strikes, Mr. Bush said the despots of the world are learning a stern lesson.

“Those who threaten the security of others now need to worry about their own,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush was briefed on the situation in Iraq by Gen. Franks, and L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq. He also met Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and thanked him for allowing the United States to run the Iraq war from the small Gulf state.

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