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Bush sees celebrations, not anarchy, in Iraq

Bush evoked upbeat images of Iraqis celebrating their freedom from Saddam even as lawlessness swept through major cities.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2003 20:05 IST
Adam Entous (Reuters)
Adam Entous (Reuters)

US President George W. Bush evoked upbeat images of Iraqis celebrating their freedom from Saddam Hussein on Saturday even as looting and lawlessness swept through major cities and threatened humanitarian relief efforts.

But Bush warned in his weekly radio address that "hard fighting" might still lie ahead for US troops putting down pockets of resistance.

Recalling television pictures of a giant statue of the Iraqi President being toppled in the heart of Baghdad, Bush said the world this week witnessed a nation released from 24 years of iron rule by Saddam.

Bush said the US military was providing food, water and medical treatment "to all in need," though international aid officials warned that assistance could be delayed unless US and British troops imposed law and order.

"As people throughout Iraq celebrate the arrival of freedom, America celebrates with them," said Bush, who spent the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat, where he will receive an update from his war council on the latest battlefield developments.

The celebratory images evoked by Bush contrasted sharply with news reports chronicling an orgy of looting in major Iraqi cities.

In Baghdad, armed men and youths roamed the streets, robbing buildings and hijacking cars.

"Is this your liberation?" screamed one shopkeeper at the crew of a US M-1A2 Abrams tank, who watched as youths helped themselves to everything in his small hardware store.

Looting also raged in Basra, where humanitarian agencies said it was not safe to visit even during daylight hours.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and US Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted on Friday that the period of unrest would yield to law and order. They said Washington planned to help set up an Iraqi police force and interim government services.

Bush made no reference to the looting in his radio address.

Instead, the President focused on rejoicing Iraqis and the "valor" of US soldiers, who he credited for averting clashes with civilians by pointing their weapons at the ground and with freeing children who had been jailed for refusing to join Saddam's Baath Party Youth Organisation.

First Published: Apr 12, 2003 11:55 IST