WASHINGTON (BP)–Hundreds of Iraqi citizens, helped by American Marines, toppled a huge statue of Saddam Hussein in the middle of Firdos Square in Baghdad April 9, bringing a symbolic close to nearly 30 years of the dictator’s reign, while coalition forces continued to move closer to final victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Iraqis tied a rope around the Hussein statue’s neck and then took turns pounding at the base of the monument before U.S. Marines helped with a tank recovery vehicle to pull the statue to the ground.
While placing a chain around the neck of the statue, Marines briefly covered the dictator’s head with an American flag and then placed an Iraqi flag as a scarf around the neck before bringing the statue down. Iraqis then jumped and stomped on the statue, which had been erected last April 28 to celebrate Hussein’s birthday.
Iraqis then pulled the head of the Saddam statue through the streets, CNN reported.
The fallen statue is one of the most definitive proofs yet of President Bush’s words about the American objective. A timeline of the president’s remarks related to Operation Iraqi Freedom follows.
— March 17: In an internationally televised speech, the president said Hussein and his sons had 48 hours to leave Iraq or face a military invasion led by the United States. America is prepared to “apply the full force and might of our military” against Hussein’s regime, Bush said. “The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.”
— March 19: “Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force. And I assure you, this will not be a campaign of half measures, and we will accept no outcome but victory,” Bush said in an address to the nation after the initial airstrike.
“My fellow citizens, the dangers to our country and the world will be overcome. We will pass through this time of peril and carry on the work of peace. We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail.”
— March 27: “Over the last week the world has witnessed the skill and honor and resolve of our military in the course of battle,” Bush said at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. “We have seen the character of this new generation of American armed forces. We’ve seen their daring against ruthless enemies and their decency to an oppressed people. Millions of Americans are proud of our military, and so am I. I am honored to be the commander in chief….
“Our military is making good progress in Iraq; yet this war is far from over,” the president said. “As they approach Baghdad, our fighting units are facing the most desperate elements of a doomed regime. We cannot know the duration of this war, but we are prepared for the battle ahead. We cannot predict the final day of the Iraqi regime, but I can assure you, and I assure the long-suffering people of Iraq, there will be a day of reckoning for the Iraqi regime, and that day is drawing near.”
— March 28: “It isn’t a matter of timetable; it’s a matter of victory,” Bush said in a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Washington. “And the Iraqi people have got to know that. They’ve got to know that they will be liberated and Saddam Hussein will be removed, no matter how long it takes.”
— March 31: “Our victory will mean the end of a tyrant who rules by fear and torture. Our victory will remove a sponsor of terror, armed with weapons of terror. Our victory will uphold the just demands of the United Nations and the civilized world,” the president said at the port of Philadelphia. “And when victory comes, it will be shared by the long-suffering people of Iraq, who deserve freedom and dignity.”
— April 4: “A vise is closing, and the days of a brutal regime are coming to an end,” the president said at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“Our armed services have performed brilliantly in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Moving a massive force over 200 miles of enemy territory in a matter of days is a superb achievement,” Bush said. “Yet there is work ahead for our coalition, for the American Armed Forces and for the United States Marines. Having traveled hundreds of miles, we will now go the last 200 yards. The course is set. We’re on the advance. Our destination is Baghdad, and we will accept nothing less than complete and final victory.”
— April 8: “In fighting this war, we’re taking every precaution to protect innocent life,” the president said in a joint news conference with Blair in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “We’re showing respect for the Iraqi people, respect for their culture. There will be difficult fighting ahead, yet the outcome is not in doubt: Iraq will be free….
“I don’t know whether he survived. The only thing I know is he’s losing power,” Bush said in response to a question about whether Hussein was killed in the most recent strike on a target of opportunity.
“The only thing I can tell you is that [the] grip I used to describe that Saddam had around the throats of the Iraqi people [is] loosening. I can’t tell you if all 10 fingers are off the throat, but finger by finger, it’s coming off,” the president said. “And the people are beginning to realize that. It’s important for the Iraqi people to continue to hear this message: We will not stop until they are free. Saddam Hussein will be gone. It might have been yesterday, I don’t know. But he’ll be gone and they just need to know that, because we’re not leaving. And not only that, they need to hear the message that we’re not leaving after he’s gone, until they are ready to run their own government.”
Prior to the war, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington Feb. 6, Bush characteristically turned to God for help in dealing with the Iraqi conflict.
“We pray for wisdom to know and to do what is right,” he said. “And we pray for God’s peace in the affairs of men….
“We can be confident in America’s cause in the world,” the president said. “Our nation is dedicated to the equal and undeniable worth of every person. We don’t own the ideals of freedom and human dignity, and sometimes we haven’t always lived up to them. But we do stand for those ideals, and we will defend them.
“We can also be confident in the ways of Providence, even when they are far from our understanding. Events aren’t moved by blind change and chance. Behind all of life and all of history, there’s a dedication and purpose, set by the hand of a just and faithful God,” Bush said. “And that hope will never be shaken.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GOING, GOING …, MARK HIS WORDS, RED, WHITE & BLUE FACED, THE TUG, HALF-WAY DOWN and THE ROPE.