Bush: U.S. Will Do What It Can to Protect Iraqi Lives
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2003 Should Iraq force the United States to engage in armed conflict, this country will do everything possible to protect innocent Iraqi civilians, President Bush said today.
"It's (Saddam Hussein's) choice to make as to how he will be disarmed," Bush told a group of religious broadcasters in Nashville, Tenn. "He can either do so, which it doesn't look like he's going to, (or) for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition of willing countries and disarm Saddam Hussein."
In any war with Iraq, civilian casualties will be difficult to avoid because Hussein's regime positions military units near civilian targets, even inside civilian neighborhoods, Bush said. Iraq's use of this particular tactic during the 1991 Gulf War has been well documented.
Bush called Hussein "the true enemy of the Iraqi people," and said the dictator positions forces among civilians "in order to shield his military and blame coalition forces for civilian casualties that he has caused.
"Saddam Hussein regards the Iraqi people as human shields, entirely expendable when their suffering serves his purposes," the president said. "America views the Iraqi people as human beings who have suffered long enough under this tyrant."
Bush had a message directly for the Iraqi public. "The Iraqi people can be certain of this: The United States is committed to helping them build a better future," he said. "If conflict occurs, we will bring Iraq food and medicine and supplies, and most importantly, freedom."
The president explained once again that armed conflict is his last choice and that he takes his responsibilities as commander in chief "incredibly seriously."
"I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom," he said. "But should we need to use troops for the sake of future generations of Americans, American troops will act in the honorable traditions of our military and in the highest moral traditions of our country."
Bush warned that peace today is threatened by the "continuing threat of terrorist networks that hate the very thought of people being able to live in freedom, that hate the thought of the fact that in this great country we can worship the Almighty God the way we see fit.
"Probably what makes them even angrier is that we're not going to change," he added. The United States can't ignore the threat of Saddam Hussein providing these terrorist networks with "weapons of mass murder."
"My attitude is that we owe it to future generations of Americans and citizens in freedom-loving countries to see to it that Mr. Saddam Hussein is disarmed," Bush said.