President Bush, who spent most of the day behind the scenes with top advisers, praised the military efforts and ordered the Treasury Department to seize $1.4 billion in frozen Iraqi assets and set the funds aside for rebuilding efforts.
After waking early, President Bush spent a busy day conferring behind the scenes with top military, intelligence and security advisers, senior administration officials said.
He began with a 6 a.m. ET update from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who called to fill him in on overnight developments, a senior administration official said.
The president arrived in the Oval Office at approximately 6:55 a.m. Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director George Tenet were seen arriving at the White House shortly after. Other top administration officials attended a senior staff meeting at 7:30 a.m. ET.
Bush then had his intelligence briefing, followed by an FBI briefing.
He also met with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and had lunch with the vice president around midday.
The question on everyone's mind was whether the previous night's air attack on a bunker where Saddam Hussein was believed to be sleeping had actually struck the leader.
But after the strikes, Saddam gave a defiant speech on Iraqi television. As the day went on, early hope that Saddam had perished, and that one of his doubles made the speech, faded away.
"We have reached no conclusions about that videotape about whether that was Saddam Hussein," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters. Sources told ABCNEWS that intelligence officials believe it was Saddam and he appeared slightly different simply because he was having a colossally bad night.
Feelings of Relief
One administration official told ABCNEWS that there is a huge sense of relief now that the waiting is over and at least the initial stages of the war are progressing. The president seems to be pressing forward in a determined and deliberate fashion on the military, diplomatic and financial front, the official said.
The president summoned his Cabinet for a mid-afternoon war update at the White House. There Bush praised the performance of U.S. troops in the beginning hours of war with Iraq.
"There's no question we've sent the finest of our citizens into harm's way," Bush said. "They performed with great skill and great bravery. We thank them. We thank their loved ones. We appreciate their sacrifice."
The president was cool and terse during a brief session with reporters, but sought to reassure the American public, saying that the Cabinet is confident that U.S. troops would achieve their objectives.
"I called my Cabinet together to review our strategies to make the world more peaceful, to make our country more secure, to make the lives of our citizens as healthy and as prosperous as possible," Bush said after the meeting.
Aides say that the strain of war hasn't hurt Bush's usual exercise regimen, and that he is still sticking to a diet he has recently been on.
Seizing Iraqi Assets
The president's day was spent mostly out of public sight, but his administration acted on a number of fronts.
The administration sought to dismantle Saddam's government by ordering the seizure of $1.4 billion in Iraqi assets frozen after the first Gulf War.
"We're today directing a world-wide hunt for the blood money that Saddam Hussein and his associates have stolen from the Iraqi people," Treasury Secretary John Snow said. Treasury officials believed it marked the second time since World War II that the government confiscated financial assets.
The assets, which were frozen by the government in 1990, are sitting in accounts at 18 banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America and Wachovia, in the United States.
The plan is to have the funds actually flow to the Iraqi people once Saddam Hussein is ousted from power, Treasury officials said.
Targeting Iraqi Diplomats
The president also asked 68 countries around the world to expel Iraqi diplomats and cease dealing with the current regime, expanding on an operation launched last month to prevent possible attacks by Iraqi intelligence agents masquerading as diplomatic officials. In addition, the administration called for the release of 600 million tons of grain from an emergency grain reserve for what is expected to be a serious humanitarian emergency in Iraq.
With U.S. troops now engaged alongside British and Australian forces, but without the combat support of any other nation, the White House sought to send a public message about the widening scope of the president's 40-nation ad hoc "coalition of the willing," nations who are supportive of military action against Iraq.
"All told, the population of the coalition of the willing is approximately 1.18 billion people around the world," Fleischer said. "The coalition countries have a combined [gross domestic product] of approximately $21.7 trillion. Every major race, religion and ethnic group in the world is represented."
Bush was scheduled to have dinner at the White House tonight with Cameroon President Paul Biya. Cameroon is one of three African countries currently serving on the U.N. Security Council.
Reported by ABCNEWS' John McWethy at the Pentagon and Terry Moran at the White House.