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Bush Relays Stories of Oppression, Compassion and Respect

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2003 – Two worlds collided in Baghdad this week. Coalition forces and Western journalists were shocked by emerging evidence of Saddam Hussein's tyranny and inhumanity, and the long-oppressed Iraqi people experienced the compassion and respect of coalition troops.

President Bush addressed this week's historic events in his weekly radio address. He said coalition forces have witnessed scenes that "explain why fear runs so deep among the Iraqi people."

In Baghdad April 8, the president said, U.S. Marines helped free more than 100 children who had been jailed for refusing to join Saddam's Ba'ath Party Youth Organization.

"Malnourished and wearing rags, the children were overjoyed to see their parents and our liberating forces," Bush said. "In the words of Lt. Col. 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 and kissing us.'"

One of the Iraqi men who took a sledgehammer to the pedestal of the giant statue of Saddam April 9 in central Baghdad, Bush said, was heard to say, "I'm 49, but I never lived a single day. Only now will I start living."

In contrast to the Iraqi regime's thugs, the president said, coalition forces in Iraq have conducted themselves with skill, honor and 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," he said. As Army Master Sgt. 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," the president continued, "American soldiers encountered a crowd of Iraqi citizens who thought our troops were about to storm a nearby mosque. Just then Lt. Col. 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."

This week, Bush noted, the world has watched as Saddam Hussein's regime began passing into history. While the fighting continues, and hard battles may lie ahead, the nightmare of Saddam's rule 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," the president said. "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."

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