Triumphant Roman emperors paraded legions and were crowned with victory wreaths. President Bush gloried in the closest American parallel Wednesday night - addressing a flag-waving, cheering and chanting joint session of Congress.

He thanked all responsible for winning the six-week Persian Gulf war against Iraq. He pledged a special celebration next July 4 for troops returning from Desert Storm as a token for their having missed Thanksgiving and Christmas. He announced the first units are on their way home.And then he challenged America to use its new confidence to win new objectives, such as resolving Arab-Israeli disputes, controlling weapons of mass destruction, stabilizing the Middle East and passing important domestic legislation.

"We went halfway around the world to do what is moral and just and right. We fought hard, and - with others - we won the war. We lifted the yoke of aggression and tyranny from a small country that many Americans had never even heard of, and we ask nothing in return."

Bush added, "We're coming home now - proud, confident - heads high. There is much that we must do at home and abroad. And we will do it. We are Americans."

Praise for Bush was bipartisan. Democratic House Speaker Thomas Foley broke long tradition of merely announcing the president at a joint session to offer "our warmest congratulations on the brilliant victory of the Desert Storm operation." Congress chanted, "Bush, Bush, Bush."

Then Bush - who was escorted in by House members who have children serving in the Persian Gulf - spread the praise to others: Secretary of State James Baker, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, coalition commander H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the allies and the American public.

But he gave his highest praise to the troops.

"In a very real sense, this victory belongs to them - to the privates and the pilots, to the sergeants and the supply officers, to the men and women in the machines, and the men and women who made them work.

"It belongs to the regulars, to the reserves, to the National Guard. This victory belongs to the finest fighting force this nation has ever known in its history."

He also praised the way they won.

"I'm sure many of you saw on television the unforgettable scene of four terrified Iraqi soldiers surrendering. They emerged from their bunker - broken, tears streaming from their eyes, fearing the worst. And then there was the American soldier. Remember what he said? He said: `It's OK. You're all right now. You're all right now.' That scene says a lot about America," Bush said as tears clouded his eyes.

"Americans are a caring people. We are a good people, a generous people. Let us always be caring and good and generous in all we do."

After his speech officially ended, he was also heard thanking God as he waved.

He made a promise to all he had thanked: "For all that Saddam has done to his own people, to the Kuwaitis and to the entire world - Saddam and those around him are accountable."

He then gave them a challenge: "Our uncommon coalition must now work in common purpose to forge a future that should never again be held hostage to the darker side of human nature."

Bush outlined keys to that: creating new security arrangements in the Middle East, controlling weapons of mass destruction, resolving Israeli-Arab disputes and creating new economic opportunities for Middle East stability.

Postwar security will mostly be handled by American allies in the Middle East, he said - but America stands ready to help when needed.

"This does not mean stationing U.S. ground forces on the Arabian Peninsula, but it does mean American participation in joint exercises involving both air and ground forces. And it means maintaining a capable U.S. naval presence in the region . . .. Let it be clear: Our vital national interests depend on a stable and secure gulf."

Bush urged action to control against a new arms race for weapons of mass destruction and said Iraq must be watched especially carefully. "Iraq must not have access to the instruments of war."

He also noted that in the war, "Israel and many of the Arab states have for the first time found themselves confronting the same aggressor. By now it should be plain to all parties that peacemaking in the Middle East requires compromise. At the same time, peace brings real benefits to everyone."

He urged Arabs to recognize Israel's right to exist, and Israel to give Palestinians legitimate rights and possibly territory for peace. "The time has come to put an end to Arab-Israeli conflict."

Bush also pledged to seek new economic opportunities for the Middle East. "America will work tirelessly as a catalyst for positive change."

But he also urged Americans to put their domestic problems in order. "It's time to turn away from the temptation to protect unneeded weapons systems and obsolete bases . . .. It's time to rise above the parochial and the pork barrel - to do what is necessary, what's right and what will enable this nation to play the leadership role required of us."

He especially urged quick action on transportation and crime bills. "If our forces could win the ground war in 100 hours, then surely the Congress can pass this legislation in 100 days." He urged later action on civil rights, education and energy.

Bush said the top domestic priority is to get the economy rolling. "Now the war is over, oil prices are down, interest rates are down and confidence is rightly coming back. Americans can move forward to lend, spend and invest in this, the strongest economy on earth."

Bush also hoped the war will truly lead to a new world order - but said large obstacles still lie ahead.

"Twice this century, out of the horrors of war, hope emerged for enduring peace. Twice before, those hopes proved to be a distant dream, beyond the grasp of man.

"Until now, the world we've known has been a world divided - a world of barbed wire and concrete block, conflict, Cold War. Now we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order," Bush said.

"The gulf war put this new world to its first test. And my fellow Americans: We passed that test."