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Bush Praises Vets, Lauds New Generation of Troops' Performance in Iraq

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2003 – President Bush today praised military veterans for their past service and saluted the current generation of troops for their bravery and performance so far in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

America's veterans have "set an example of service and an example of sacrifice for future generations," Bush declared to veterans group leaders gathered at the White House.

And today's soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen "are not letting us down," the president pointed out. "Today's Armed Forces are upholding the finest traditions of our country and of our military."

U.S. troops "are making great progress in the war in Iraq," he said. "They are showing great courage and they are making this country proud."

Operation Iraqi Freedom is being fought in the interests of world peace, Bush remarked, and to make the United States and other nations more secure. "And, we're going to free the people of Iraq from the clutches of Saddam Hussein and his murderous allies," he declared.

The United States and its allies, Bush noted, "will not submit to a future in which dictators and terrorists can arm and threaten the peace without consequence."

The war in Iraq is also being fought to enforce United Nations' resolutions for Saddam's Iraq to jettison its weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, Bush pointed out.

The United States and 48 coalition partners are united in taking down Saddam's regime. When the war in Iraq is won, Bush noted, "All of who have joined this cause will be able to say to the Iraqi people: 'We were proud to fight for your freedom.'"

After a week of hard-fought battles in and around places named Nasiriyah, Najaf, Basra and other Iraqi towns and cities, U.S. and coalition forces are 50 miles from the capital of Baghdad.

Coalition troops have secured the key port of Umm Qasr, paving the way for humanitarian aid that began flowing off ship today. Air attacks have damaged Iraq's command and control capabilities.

Bush noted Saddam's regime now only controls a small portion of Iraq. Meanwhile, he said, U.S. and coalition air, ground and maritime forces continue to inflict severe damage on enemy forces.

The days and weeks ahead "will demand further courage and further sacrifice," Bush declared, as U.S. and coalition forces face off against Hussein's Republican Guard divisions deployed in and around Baghdad.

In the end "the Iraqi regime will be disarmed and removed from power," he emphasized.

Hussein and his minions truly have proven to be creatures of evil, having killed outright innocent Iraqis opposed to the dictator's regime, the president asserted. Additionally, he noted, members of Hussein's paramilitary units are suspected to have brutalized and executed a number of American and British prisoners of war, and committed a number of other violations of the rules of war under the Geneva Convention.

"Given the nature of this regime, we expect such war crimes, but we will not excuse them," Bush declared.

Any war criminals "will be hunted down relentlessly and judged severely," he concluded.

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