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Bush: Major Combat in Iraq Has Ended

In a 25-minute speech focusing on the U.S. victory against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Bush says a major ally of al Qaeda has been toppled but warns that war against terror is not over.

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The Commander in Chief with his men: "A crucial advance in the campaign against terror"

Speaking before sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier recently back from the Persian Gulf, U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday morning declared the end of the major military campaign in Iraq and said the regime of Saddam Hussein had fallen.

"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed," said Bush, to cheers from those aboard.

From the deck of the ship, Bush hailed the arrival of a new era -- one marked by "images of falling statues" -- and pledged that U.S. soldiers would depart from Iraq as soon as their work was done, leaving behind a "free" country.

"Other nations in history have fought in foreign lands and remained to occupy and exploit. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home," Bush said.

Victory in war against terror

Bush described the success in Iraq as a major victory in the war against terror that commenced after the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

"The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror," he said. "We have removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime because that regime is no more."

New tactics, precision weapons

The regime toppled with relatively few deaths -- 171 U.S. and British soldiers died in fighting or war-related deaths and approximately 1,252 Iraqi civilians have been killed according to Abu Dhabi TV -- a tactical success alluded to by Bush in his speech.

"With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians," he said. "No device of man can remove the tragedy from war. Yet it is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.

Throughout his speech, Bush sought to emphasize successes in the war against terror -- including the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as the arrest of at least half of the senior operatives of the al Qaeda terror network.

But Bush warned that terrorism still remains a serious peril.

"Our mission continues. Al Qaeda is wounded, not destroyed. The scattered cells of the terrorist network still operate in many nations, and we know from daily intelligence that they continue to plot against free people. The proliferation of deadly weapons remains a serious danger. The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we."

Many have criticized Bush for using the war against terror to justify military action against Iraq. No major ties between Baghdad and al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden have been uncovered, and U.S. investigators have failed to find any of the weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration has accused Saddam's former regime of possessing.

Yet despite the apparent military success in Iraq, both Saddam Hussein and bin Laden remain at large. And tracking them down isn't the only problem -- there's also the issue of restoring order in cities like Fallujah, where anti-American protests in recent days have grown violent and deadly.

Challenging reconstruction effort

With major resistance to U.S. soldiers among parts of the Iraqi population, the U.S. government still has considerable work ahead.

"We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated," Bush said.