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Bush Praises Coast Guard, Pledges to End Oppressors' Reign

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2003 – President Bush today saluted the efforts of U.S. Coast Guard members serving at home and overseas and offered words of hope to Iraqis who've been under Saddam Hussein's heel for more than 20 years.

Bush told hundreds of cheering Coast Guardsmen and women during his visit to the Port of Philadelphia that he appreciated their efforts in providing security against potential terrorism along America's coastline and at ports and waterways, as well as performing traditional maritime safety and drug interdiction missions.

The commander-in-chief lauded those Coast Guard members deployed overseas performing port, oil platform and other security missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and in other anti-terror war theaters.

"You are always ready to place your country's safety above your own," the president declared. "You shield your fellow Americans from the danger of this world and America is grateful."

Having increased Coast Guard funding to $6 billion, the highest level ever, the president noted, "we are supporting the men and women who defend us all" against desperate and dangerous enemies. Part of that new funding, he pointed out, will be used to buy 700 new quick response boats.

Bush noted the Coast Guard is now part of the new Department of Homeland Security, and he praised its chief, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, "for doing a fabulous job."

Today in Iraq, U.S. and coalition military members are fighting "to disarm a dangerous regime and to liberate an oppressed people," Bush pointed out, noting that Operation Iraqi Freedom is in its 11th day.

American troops in Iraq "have performed brilliantly, with skill and with bravery - they make us proud," the president emphasized, pointing out that coalition forces now control most of the western and southern portions of that country.

U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq have secured major bridges, opened a northern front, achieved almost complete air superiority and delivered tons of humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, he said.

By fast, decisive action, U.S. and coalition troops "are preventing Saddam Hussein from destroying the Iraqi peoples' oil fields," Bush declared. Allied forces have also seized Iraqi missile launching sites, he added, that had threatened other countries in the region.

Much danger still lies ahead for U.S. and coalition troops, Bush asserted.

Yet, "day-by-day we are moving closer to Baghdad ... and to victory," the commander-in-chief emphasized.

Allied victory in Iraq "will mean the end of a tyrant, who rules by fear and torture," Bush remarked. The triumph over Hussein and his followers, he added, will also "remove a sponsor of terror, armed with weapons of terror."

Victory over Saddam "will uphold the just demands of the United Nations and the civilized world," Bush continued, "and it will be shared by the long-suffering people of Iraq who deserve freedom and dignity."

Saddam and his regime continue to mistreat Iraq's people, Bush noted, by shooting down those who attempt to flee to a better life or simply disagree with the dictator's aims.

Saddam's paramilitary "death squads" have also cold-bloodedly killed any Iraqis "who show friendship to coalition troops," the president declared.

Iraq's people "have lived in this nightmare world for more than two decades," Bush pointed out.

To the citizens of Iraq the president pledged: "We are coming with a mighty force to end the reign of your oppressors. We are coming with food and medicine and a better life.

"And we are coming and we will not stop, we will not relent until your country is free," he concluded.

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