U.S. President George Bush says Saddam Hussein's execution is an important milestone for Iraq, but will not stop the violence there. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush is working on what he says will be a new way forward in the war in Iraq.
President Bush says Saddam's hanging comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for U.S. troops.
In a written statement from his Texas ranch, Mr. Bush said bringing the former dictator to justice will not end the violence in Iraq. But he called it an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.
Those are the benchmarks that President Bush has been using to define success in Iraq at a time when he and his senior advisers are working on what they say will be a new way forward in the war.
In his statement, Mr. Bush says Saddam's execution reminds Americans how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of the former Iraqi leader's rule. He says that progress would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of the U.S. military.
December has been the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years, with the overall death toll now approaching 3,000.
President Bush says many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead in Iraq, but the safety and security of the American people require that there be no relenting in U.S. efforts to ensure that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress.
Two-thirds of Americans doubt a stable, democratic government will ever be established in Iraq. A public opinion poll taken for The Associated Press earlier this month also showed that more than 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the war in Iraq.
Disaffection over Iraq was one of the key issues attributed to opposition Democrats winning control of Congress in last month's elections. In the Democrats' weekly radio address Saturday, incoming Congressman Jerry McNerney said voters clearly want a change of direction.
He said, "The Iraqis need to understand that the responsibility for the future of that country is theirs. Beginning the redeployment of American forces would send that message."
"We must also improve the training of Iraqi security forces by ensuring that Iraqi units are not infiltrated by either militia members or insurgents," he continued.
Among the options President Bush is considering for his new Iraq policy is a temporary surge of several thousand more U.S. troops to improve security in Baghdad.
Mr. McNerney says that would be a mistake, showing the president following what he called the same failed logic.
President Bush spoke briefly with his national security adviser Saturday about world reaction to Saddam's execution. Mr. Bush had been briefed on the plans and went to sleep Friday evening before the hanging.
Many Arab-Americans in the state of Michigan celebrated Saddam's death by waving Iraqi flags. Some said they had family members killed by Saddam forces, and saw the execution as an act of justice and revenge.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said the hanging was cruel and inhumane, despite the former dictator's widespread human rights violations. The group said his trial was "deeply flawed."
President Bush says Saddam received a fair trial, something he says was unimaginable under what he called Saddam's tyrannical rule.