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.