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Operation Iraqi Freedom

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 12, 2003

Operation Iraqi Freedom
President's Radio Address

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Over the last several days, the world has watched as the regime of Saddam Hussein began passing into history. We will always remember the first images of a nation released from decades of tyranny and fear. The conflict continues in Iraq, and our military may still face hard fighting. Yet the statues of the dictator and all the works of his terror regime are falling away.

From the beginning and to this very hour, members of the American and coalition forces have conducted themselves with all the skill and honor we expect of them. Our enemies have seen their valor. The people of Iraq are seeing their compassion as our military provides food, water and medical treatment to all in need, including captured Iraqi soldiers. As Army Master Sergeant Howard Kutcher, of Delaware, said of his service in the Middle East, "I am not here to conquer. I am here to help."

In one city, American soldiers encountered a crowd of Iraqi citizens who thought our troops were about to storm a nearby mosque. Just then, Lt. Colonel Chris Hughes ordered his men to get down on one knee and point their weapons to the ground. This gesture of respect helped defuse a dangerous situation and made our peaceful intentions clear.

Coalition forces have also come upon scenes that explain why fear runs so deep among the Iraqi people. In Baghdad on Tuesday, U.S. Marines helped to free more than 100 children who, according to one report, had been jailed for refusing to join the dictator's Baath Party Youth Organization. Malnourished and wearing rags, the children were overjoyed to see their parents and our liberating forces. In the words of Lt. Colonel Fred Padilla, Commander of the 1st Battalion 5th Marines, "The children just streamed out of the gates and their parents just started to embrace us." "Hundreds of kids," he said, "were swarming us and kissing us."

As Saddam's regime of fear is brought to an end, the people of Iraq are revealing the true hopes they have always held. It should surprise no one that Iraqis, like all people, resent oppression and welcome their own freedom. It should surprise no one that in every nation and every culture, the human heart desires the same good things: dignity, liberty, and a chance to build a better life.

As people throughout Iraq celebrate the arrival of freedom, America celebrates with them. We know that freedom is the gift of God to all mankind, and we rejoice when others can share it.

On Wednesday in central Baghdad, one of the Iraqi men who took a sledgehammer to the pedestal of the giant statue of Saddam had this to say, "I'm 49, but I never lived a single day. Only now will I start living."

Millions of Iraqis feel the same as their country is finally returned to them. The nightmare of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq is ending. Soon, the good and gifted people of Iraq will be free to choose their leaders who respect their rights and reflect their character. In all that is to come, they will have the goodwill of the entire world. And they will have the friendship of the people of the United States.

Thanks for listening.