Bush Not Ready To Declare Victory

Bush spoke with reporters at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland
In his first public remarks since the fall of Baghdad, President Bush said he doesn't know if Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, "but I do know he's not in power."

Even so, he declined to declare victory in the war in Iraq.

"I want to hear our commanders say we have achieved the clear objectives that we have set out. That's when we will say this is over," Mr. Bush told reporters Friday after visiting wounded servicemen and women in two military hospitals.

"We've had a historic week," he said. "I don't think I'll ever forget, and I'm sure a lot of other people will never forget, the statue of Saddam Hussein falling in Baghdad."

Mr. Bush said he prays that the Americans who had been held prisoner by Iraq are still alive. He said if they are, the U.S. military will find them.

The president's comments came as residents of Baghdad blockaded streets and beat up looters as disorder spread. The U.S. military instituted a curfew in areas under its control.

The northern Iraqi city of Mosul fell into U.S. and Kurdish hands Friday after an Iraqi army corps disappeared. Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, descended into anarchy, with looting, arson and shootings. U.S. Special Forces were sent in to restore order.

Saddam's hometown of Tikrit was the last major holdout of Saddam loyalists, but no major Iraqi troop units remained in the country, U.S. defense officials said at the Pentagon in Washington.

In other developments:

  • U.S. Central Command says it's looking for 55 key leaders of the Iraqi regime who may be trying to flee the country. Posters and fliers are going up, and troops are getting a deck of "most wanted" playing cards. "There are jokers in this deck," Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said, and Saddam was the ace of spades.
  • U.S. Marines in Baghdad opened fire on a car that allegedly failed to stop at a checkpoint, killing three adults, including the parents of a 5-year-old girl who was wounded.
  • Capt. Frank Thorp said Zalmy Khalilizad, the U.S. special envoy to Iraq, is scheduled to moderate a meeting next week to discuss Iraq's future, to be attended by local leaders and Iraqi exiles.
  • Iran says some 100,000 Iraqi refugees have rushed to its border in the past two days. About 200 Iraqis stormed their embassy in Teheran Friday, smashing photographs of Saddam and shouting against the missing Iraqi leader and the United States.
  • Turkey's top military and political leaders, alarmed by Iraqi Kurdish moves into Mosul and Kirkuk, met to discuss a possible Turkish response.
  • A $7 billion government contract to fight oil fires in Iraq was awarded without competition to a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. – once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Friday. Details of the contract were disclosed to Congress in a reply to inquiries from a Democratic congressman.
  • A total of 111 Americans and 30 Britons have died in the war. Seven U.S. troops are considered prisoners of war and 11 are listed as missing. Neither Iraq nor the coalition has released an estimate of Iraqi military casualties. Iraq says nearly 600 civilians have been killed and more than 4,000 wounded since the war began

    In Baghdad, the Ministries of Education and Industry were looted and set on fire, sending dark smoke over the city. The Foreign and Information Ministries and the Baath Party headquarters were sacked along with the city's engineering and nursing colleges. The Trade and Planning Ministries also were smoldering, along with one of the main markets in the city center.

    Amid what it dubbed "anarchy and general chaos," the International Committee of the Red Cross said it "fears that the hospitals in Baghdad are no longer functioning and have been largely deserted by staff and patients." The Al-Kindi hospital has reportedly been looted of beds and equipment.

    "Tell the Americans to stop the killing and the looting," pleaded one Baghdad woman, Jabryah Aziz, 41. "We can't live like this much longer, with Muslims looting other Muslims."

    U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Geneva Conventions stipulate that preventing looting is a responsibility for the occupying force, meaning the Americans and the British.

    Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said U.S. forces were trying to get control without repressing recently liberated Iraqis. "We are not exercising the same kind of grip on the population that the regime did. That's by design," he said.

    Officers with the 7th Marine Regiment said they received orders Thursday night to try to stop looting. The regiment planned to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew Friday in the area it patrols in eastern Baghdad.

    American troops still face enemy fighters in the capital. In the Al-Mansour district in western Baghdad, pro-Saddam bands of Arab volunteers manned sandbagged positions, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles. Residents said they were mostly Syrians.

    On Friday, a car carrying an Iraqi family drove through a checkpoint in Baghdad without stopping, and Marines opened fire. Three adults were killed, and a 5-year-old girl was wounded.

    On Thursday night, a vehicle containing explosives was driven to a checkpoint near the Saddam City section of Baghdad and detonated, Brooks said. Four Marines and one medical corpsman were wounded, he said, without providing details.

    A short time later, soldiers killed a man who approached a checkpoint and did not heed orders to stop. He turned out to be unarmed.

    In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld characterized the widespread looting in Iraq as a period of "untidiness" and suggested it was only a transitional phase on the way to freedom from Saddam's rule.

    "If you go from a repressive that transition period, there is untidiness," he told a Pentagon news conference.

    Rumsfeld said coalition forces were providing security for Iraqi citizens and stopping looting when they see it.

    He said he didn't know if Saddam was dead or alive. "If I had a conviction, I would say so and I don't. And I see a lot of information," he said.

    Rumsfeld also said he wasn't surprised that biological or chemical weapons have not yet been uncovered, suggesting they are deeply hidden somewhere.

    "It's a big country," he said. "We're going to find the people" who can help lead allied forces to them, he added.