The Oval Office
The White House
March 19, 2003
10:16 P.M. EST
My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the
early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and
to defend the world from grave danger.
On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military
importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening
stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign. More than 35 countries
are giving crucial support -- from the use of naval and air bases, to help
with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every
nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor
of serving in our common defense.
To all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces now in the Middle
East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people
now depend on you. That trust is well placed.
The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people
you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American
military. In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for
conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi
troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women
and children as shields for his own military -- a final atrocity against
I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make
every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh
terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult
than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country
will require our sustained commitment.
We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization
and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq,
except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own
I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who
serve will return safely and soon. Millions of Americans are praying with
you for the safety of your loved ones and for the protection of the innocent.
For your sacrifice, you have the gratitude and respect of the American people.
And you can know that our forces will be coming home as soon as their work
Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure.
The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live
at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of
mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy,
Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies
of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.
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.
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.