The U.S.-led coalition is fighting hard to liberate the people of Iraq as quickly as possible and with a minimum of civilian casualties. But as President George W. Bush pointed out, Saddam Hussein's regime is using fear and murder in an attempt to continue his domination:
"Many Iraqis have been ordered to fight, or die by Saddam's death squads. Others are pressed into service by threats against their children. Iraqi civilians attempting to flee to liberated areas have been shot and shelled from behind by Saddam's thugs."
The story of three Iraqi friends -- Bassam Salah Madlool (bah-sahm sa-lah mahd-lool), Mushriq Ahmad Hashem (moosh-rick ah-mahd hah-shem), and Abbas Fahid Mushin (ah-BAHS fah-HEED moo-shin) -- is typical. As recounted by the U-S-A Today newspaper, the three young men from Basra made a pact in late March to escape from the Iraqi army. But they faced a tremendous obstacle -- execution squads created by security officers of the ruling Baath Party. The squads' only job is to keep Iraqis, civilian and military, from escaping to freedom.
With skill and a good bit of luck, the three managed to elude both the death squads and the mine fields. When they reached freedom, the young Iraqis spoke of their experience. "I feel like I've been born a second time," said Bassam Salah Madlool. "For the first time in my life," he said, "I feel free."
Madlool, Hashem, and Mushin described the life of a typical Iraqi soldier as one of backbreaking work, intolerable living conditions, and constant scrutiny by security. Many soldiers, they said, have tried to escape. In the two days before they ran for freedom, they said, Baath Party execution squads killed ten soldiers who tried to get away.
Clearly, this is a very difficult time for the Iraqi people. But for those who yearn for freedom, President Bush has a message:
"We are coming with a mighty force to end the reign of your oppressors. We are coming to bring you food and medicine and a better life. And we are coming and we will not stop, we will not relent, until your country is free."
"When victory comes," said President Bush, "it will be shared by the long-suffering people of Iraq, who deserve freedom and dignity."