Bush: Free Our Hostages : Iraq Seizes Another 12 Americans
President Bush demanded today that Iraq release all foreigners detained in Iraq and Kuwait, saying “whatever these innocent people are called, they are in fact hostages.”
He said a regime that uses civilians as pawns will face the scorn and condemnation of the entire civilized world.
As Bush spoke--for the first time describing the foreigners held by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein as hostages--the official Iraqi News Agency said that, as promised, some Westerners have been moved to military targets scattered throughout Iraq for use as shields to ward off aerial attacks from American planes and missiles in Saudi Arabia.
A short time later, the State Department said at least 12 Americans, along with a number of other foreign nationals, had been taken from hotels in Kuwait’s capital and moved to undisclosed locations. Protests were lodged by U.S. diplomats in Kuwait and Iraq, but the whereabouts of the Americans remained unknown, spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Iraqi authorities warned their own people about harboring foreigners, saying anyone doing so faced the “severest punishment.” A radio report said the rule applied to Iraq’s “entire administrative border,” apparently including Kuwait.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, on a trip to the Persian Gulf region, announced earlier in the day that the United Arab Emirates had agreed to allow U.S. C-130 cargo transports to operate out of the moderate Arab federation.
Cheney, who made the announcement along with the president of the Emirates, Sheik Zayed ibn Sultan al Nuhayan, was traveling later in the day to Oman and Saudi Arabia to discuss the U.S. military buildup.
Also today, Hussein’s government informed diplomats they had until Friday to close their missions in Kuwait or lose their special status.
Several countries said they had no plans to close their embassies. They included Austria, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Soviet Union and West Germany.
Bush did not discuss those developments in his speech to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Baltimore.
He again compared Hussein to Adolf Hitler and Hussein’s takeover of Kuwait to Hitler’s aggression against neighbors in the 1930s.
“A half-century ago, the world had the chance of stopping a ruthless aggressor--and missed it,” Bush said, “and I pledge to you, we will not make that mistake again.”
Later, aboard his plane on a flight to a Republican fund-raising event in Rhode Island, Bush was asked if his use of the term hostages to describe the interned Westerners was an escalation.
“I don’t think there’s any turning up the heat,” he told reporters. “It’s a recognition of the fact that now demands are being made for the release of people and that, I think, is the definition of hostages.”
About 3,000 Americans and thousands of other foreign citizens are under Iraqi control.
Beyond the demand that Hussein release the Americans and others, Bush offered no details about how he would gain their freedom.
But he said that “America will not be intimidated” and will stand against aggression.