- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

President Bush yesterday decried Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's violations of the Geneva Convention, saying America was "fighting an enemy that knows no rules of law, that will wear civilian uniforms, that is willing to kill in order to continue the reign of fear."

But the president, meeting with his top military advisers at the Pentagon, asserted that the U.S.-led military coalition was "on a steady advance" and vowed "we will prevail."

"The Iraqi regime will be disarmed. The Iraqi regime will be ended. The Iraqi people will be free. And our world will be more secure and peaceful," said Mr. Bush, urging Congress to approve his $74.7 billion request swiftly to pay initial war costs.

The president's reference to the Geneva Convention puts a new onus on Saddam, who has violated treaties in other military operations, including using poison gas on Iraq's Kurdish civilians and on Iranian military units. Mr. Bush has vowed that any criminal action by Iraqi combatants will result in war-crimes charges.

"There is no question that there is a body of law that even governs the conduct of war," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday. "And as President Bush stated, in the conflict with Iraq, war crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished.

"We're seeing a growing pattern of war crimes, war-crime violations committed by the Iraqi regime, with the use of human shields, mistreatment of prisoners of war and various acts of perfidy, feigning injury or surrender, the improper use of the flag of truce, and fighting in civilian clothes," Mr. Fleischer said.

The spokesman said he was giving "another reminder to those smaller number of Iraqi officials who would follow orders or who would engage in this behavior, do not do it, because you will be tried as a war criminal."

Iraq and the United States are among the signatories of the 1949 Geneva Convention, which sets rules to protect civilians and prisoners of war and to ensure medical treatment for wounded combatants.

Coalition forces in Iraq have been killed by a mix of Special Republican Guards, Special Security Forces and Fedayeen ("Saddam martyrs"), who have faked surrenders and then opened fire, or dressed in civilian clothes and fired from civilian vehicles.

Some captured Americans with body and head wounds were shown in an Iraqi morgue. Some of 12 American soldiers reported missing over the weekend appeared to have been executed by shots to the head.

Bush administration officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, have accused the Iraqis of violating the Geneva Convention by using the video images for propaganda purposes.

Executing prisoners is considered a war crime under the convention.

The White House yesterday expressed disgust with some of the Iraqi strategies.

"When you take a look at the fighting tactics employed by the Fedayeen, when you see how he is willing to have civilians surrender, armed then with weapons because they're not civilians feigned civilians who pretend to surrender and then attack, it tells you that we're really dealing here with elements of terrorism inside Iraq that are being employed now against our troops," Mr. Fleischer said.

The White House said Iraq was using land mines in its main port to prevent the flow of humanitarian aid, a clear contrast with tactics used by the U.S.-led forces.

"There is one impediment to aiding the long-suffering people of Iraq, and that is the removal of these mines," Mr. Fleischer said. "This is a real sign of what the Iraqi regime will do. They are willing to block their own ports, starve their own people, stop humanitarian aid from getting through."

Mr. Fleischer said that "all the efforts that we are making in the middle of a shooting war to feed the Iraqi people are a reflection on how the United States and our allies fight wars."

In his brief comments at the Pentagon, Mr. Bush vowed to aid Iraqis.

"This nation and our coalition partners are committed to making sure that the Iraqi citizens who have suffered under a brutal tyrant have got the food and medicine needed as soon as possible," Mr. Bush said. "And soon, the Iraqi people will see the great compassion of not only the United States, but other nations around the world who care deeply about the human condition inside that country."

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