WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush late Wednesday said U.S. and coalition forces were in the "opening stages" of what he called a "broad and coercive campaign" against Iraq.
"American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger," Bush said.
The war against Saddam Hussein's regime began about 90 minutes after the expiration of a 48-hour deadline Bush gave to the Iraqi leader and his two sons on Monday. Saddam was told to step down or face a U.S.-led military invasion.
In his approximately five-minute Oval Office address to the nation, the president cautioned that the war "could be longer ... than some predict."
Bush said the first strikes were against "selected targets of military importance."
The president added that the Iraqi leader has "no regard for convention of war or rules of morality." Bush said Saddam "has attempted to use innocent, men women children" as shields.