Bush To Saddam — ‘Leave Within 48 Hours’

In a televised address on Monday, President Bush said Iraq will face certain
war with the United States if its leadership fails to step down by Wednesday
night.

“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours,” the
president said from the East Room of the White House. “Their refusal to do so
will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing.”

The speech sets the stage for an almost certain war between Iraq and a
coalition of nations led by the U.S. and U.K. that could commence as early
as mid-week. Currently, there are more than a quarter of a million American and
British troops in the Persian Gulf poised to coordinate an invasion of Iraq.

Throughout his remarks, the president reiterated his previously stated
reasons for taking the nation to war, arguing that Saddam Hussein poses a
risk to U.S. and global security.

“The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this
threat, but we will do everything to defeat it,” he said. “Instead of
drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety.”

While much of the president’s speech was aimed at an American public, his
remarks also contained distinct messages targeted at other audiences around
the globe.

To Iraqi citizens, the president looked beyond the likely coming hostilities
to a post-war Iraq. He said the U.S. will offer humanitarian and other aid
to help with reconstruction. “We will help you to build a new Iraq that is
prosperous and free,” he promised.

The president encouraged members of the Iraqi military to surrender before
the fighting begins and issued an ominous warning.

“Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone,
including the Iraqi people,” he said. “War crimes will be prosecuted, war
criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, ‘I was just
following orders.’ ”

To a global audience which appears largely opposed to war, President Bush
reviewed the history of U.S. dealings with Iraq since the close of the Gulf
War in 1991. The president said that the Iraqis have failed to comply with
“more than a dozen” United Nations resolutions.

“Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraq regime have failed again and again
because we are not dealing with peaceful men,” he said.

The president faulted the United Nations for failing to take a harder line
against Saddam Hussein and for not backing a resolution recently proposed
by U.S. ally Britain that would have given Iraq 10 days to disarm.

“The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its
responsibilities, so we will rise to ours,” he said. (Click to read the complete
transcript of President Bush’s address to the nation
).

Other key developments over the last 24 hours:

  • The Office of Homeland Security upped the nation’s Terror Alert from
    yellow, or “elevated,” to orange, or “high,” immediately following the
    president’s remarks. In his speech, Bush said he has ordered increased
    security at airports, seaports and other sensitive facilities.

  • On the advice of the U.S. government, U.N. inspectors, diplomats and
    members of the media are evacuating Baghdad.

  • Turkey may yet be willing to let U.S. troops stage an invasion of Iraq
    from inside its borders. The country’s cabinet was scheduled to meet Tuesday (March 18)
    to discuss a second parliamentary vote on the matter.

  • Wall Street reacted favorably to the possibility that
    hostilities might soon get under way. Investors appear to be assuming that
    the sooner a war starts, the sooner it will end. The Dow Jones Industrial
    Average posted a 282-point gain on Monday. Oil prices fell in early Tuesday
    trading roughly $34 a barrel.

  • A new CBS News poll released Monday shows that American support for
    military action is on the rise. A majority of those polled say they would have liked the U.S.
    to have secured backing from the U.N. but will back war regardless.

    —Ethan Zindler

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