BAGHDAD, Iraq – President Saddam Hussein accused the United States of commiting a “shameful crime” by attacking Iraq, urging his people in a nationally televised address Thursday to “go draw your sword” against the enemy.
Saddam appeared on television, wearing a military uniform, vowing that “Iraq will be victorious,” about two hours after U.S. cruise missiles hit targets in and around Baghdad. U.S. officials said the strike targeted Saddam himself and other leadership figures.
The Iraqi leader appeared subdued, and his puffy face showed signs of strain. He wore reading glasses — something he has avoided in public. He appeared less vigorous than during a meeting of his Revolutionary Command Council last week.
“We promise you that Iraq, its leadership and its people will stand up to the evil invaders, and we will take them to such limits that they will lose their patience in achieveing their plans, which are pushed by criminal Zionism,” he said.
“They will face a bitter defeat, God willing,” he said. “You will be able to achieve glory and your despicable infidel enemies will be dfeated.”
“This is added to the series of their shameful crime against Iraq and humanity,” Saddam said, describing the U.S. president as ‘little, evil Bush.”
“Draw your sword and be not afraid,” he urged the Iraqi people, before ending the speech by chanting, “Allahu akbar” or God is great, and saying, “Long live jihad (holy war) and long live Palestine.”
After the U.S. strike, Iraqi broadcasters repeatedly announced that the Iraqi leader would appear. Baghdad radio carried a message from his son, Odai, calling on the people to be steadfast and promised them victory.
Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, the information minister, also on Iraq radio, called on Iraqi people to be steadfast and described this day as a “an eternal day in history and that Allah honored the Iraqis with this test.”