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3/23/03 - RUMSFELD TO IRAQI CIVILIANS - 2003-03-24

The military campaign to disarm Iraq and liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein is underway. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made clear, the United States and its coalition partners are committed to minimizing harm to Iraqi civilians. Mr. Rumsfeld gave this advice to the Iraqi people:

“Stay in your homes and listen to coalition radio stations for instructions on what to do to remain safe and out of the line of fire. Iraqi civilians, do not go to work. Stay away from military targets and any facilities where Saddam Hussein has moved military assets. Arrangements are being made to care for refugees and displaced persons inside of Iraq. There is no need for Iraqis to flee across their borders into neighboring countries. Listen for instructions on how to get food, water, and medical supplies.”

To help the Iraqi people, the U.S. is sending a large disaster assistance response team to the region. Indeed, said John Negroponte, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, it is the largest such team ever put together. The U.S. has already put in place more than sixteen-million dollars’ worth of food rations and relief supplies. [OPT] In addition, the U.S. has contributed more than sixty-million dollars to U-N agencies and non-governmental aid organizations. “As we increase U.S. contributions,” said Ambassador Negroponte, “we also urge other donors to contribute to these critical efforts.”

The coalition’s goal is liberation, not occupation. The coalition aims to eliminate the threat posed by the Saddam Hussein regime and help Iraqis achieve the political and economic freedom that are the birthright of all human beings. As Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said:

“Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. And once Saddam Hussein’s regime is removed, we intend to see that functional and political authority is placed in the hands of Iraqis as quickly as is possible.”

U.S. officials have stressed that coalition forces will stay in Iraq only as long as necessary to finish the job, and not a day longer.