Bush says U.S. will win ‘first war of 21st century,’ Cheney sent to Camp David as a precaution
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush called the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington ”the first war of the 21st century” on Thursday and his administration labeled fugitive Osama bin Laden a prime suspect.
The United States promised to wage all-out retaliation against those responsible and any regime that protects them. Action could take weeks or months rather than days, a senior administration official indicated.
As part of the effort, the United States urged Pakistan to close its border with neighboring Afghanistan, where bin Laden operates, and to cut off funding for terrorist groups.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States also asked Pakistan for permission to fly over its territory in the event of military action.
The nation’s capital remained tense two days after the attacks that leveled the World Trade Center and severely damaged the Pentagon.
Close-in Washington Reagan National Airport remained closed, indefinitely. And authorities closed all three New York area airports just hours after allowing them to reopen.
Vice President Dick Cheney was working in the security of Camp David as a precaution, administration officials said. The Secret Service widened the protective buffer around the White House and Air Force jets patrolled the skies over major U.S. cities.
The White House canceled its tours for Friday, and the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial also were closed after being briefly reopened.
In another sign of security concerns, the Capitol was evacuated in the middle of a Senate vote Thursday evening because of a bomb threat. Members were allowed to return when bomb-sniffing dogs did not find explosives.
Meanwhile, U.S. investigators worked to identify terrorist collaborators and explored the possibility that some individuals involved in Tuesday’s plots may still be at large, four U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press. Fresh intelligence suggested a continuing threat, the officials added.
Tears welling in his eyes, Bush spoke earlier of a need to win the battle against terrorism.
”I’m a loving guy. And I am also someone, however, who’s got a job to do and I intend to do it. And this is a terrible moment,” Bush said, talking to reporters in the Oval Office.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the administration’s retaliation would be ”sustained and broad and effective” and that the United States ”will use all our resources.”
”It’s not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism,” Wolfowitz said.
Senior administration officials said that Bush is planning a far-reaching anti-terrorist campaign that will likely last several years and target not only those who attacked Tuesday and their sponsors, but all terrorist activities.
Bush is determined not to bow to pressure for a quick strike that might undermine his efforts to build a major global campaign, an official said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, meanwhile, was considering asking for presidential authority to call to active duty members of the National Guard and Reserve, a defense official said.
The president comforted burned Pentagon workers and said he would go to New York on Friday. He also proclaimed Friday a national day of mourning and remembrance and said he would attend a memorial service in Washington with members of Congress.
Officials said they were speeding benefit checks of $150,000 to families of police, firefighters and other public-safety workers killed in the attacks. Stock markets are to reopen on Monday.
Cheney’s spokeswoman, Juleanna Glover, said the vice president had been spending time at the presidential retreat in Maryland as a ”purely precautionary measure.”
Officials said he had been spending nights there since Tuesday.
Meanwhile, searchers found the black box of one hijacked airliner in Pennsylvania and received a signal from the recorder box of the plane that crashed at the Pentagon. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the FBI was working on ”thousands and thousands of leads” in the investigation of the attacks
Ashcroft said a total of 18 hijackers were on the four planes – five on two and four on the other two. All 18 were ticketed passengers, said FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Determined to show a united front, Congress moved with rare haste toward approving a $40 billion anti-terrorism and cleanup package – twice what Bush initially requested. An 11th-hour disagreement, with White House officials seeking fewer congressional restraints on spending much of the money, dashed leaders’ hopes of completing the measure on Thursday.
Leaders were hoping to push the spending measure through the House as early as Friday, with the Senate to follow. A Saturday session of Congress was looking increasingly likely.
Leaders of both parties endorsed the president’s handling of the crisis. ”I think Osama bin Laden ought to say his prayers,” said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said of the terror attacks: ”This will not stand.”
Confirming what other administration officials had been saying privately, Secretary of State Colin Powell said ”yes” when asked whether Saudi-born terrorist bin Laden, operating in Afghanistan under the protection of the ruling Taliban, was a top suspect.
Bin Laden has been linked to an earlier bombing at the World Trade Center and the 1998 attacks on two U.S. embassies in east Africa.
”We are looking at those terrorist organizations who have the kind of capacity that would have been necessary to conduct the kind of attack that we saw,” Powell said.
As the administration weighed military options, both Bush and Powell said the United States had been in diplomatic contact with Pakistan, and wanted to give the government there an opportunity to cooperate.
Pakistan has ties with the government of Afghanistan and is one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban. Pakistan was an important U.S. ally during the Cold War, although relations more recently have been strained.
Bush announced he would visit New York to get a firsthand look at the devastation in lower Manhattan, where city officials say some 4,700 people remain missing.
”There’s a quiet anger in America that is real,” Bush told New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the state’s governor, George Pataki, in a telephone call shown on national television.
He said the federal government was poised to provide ”anything it takes to help New York.”
Speaking with reporters after the phone call, Bush said, ”I weep and mourn with America. … I wish I could comfort every single family whose lives have been affected.”
He added, ”My resolve is steady and strong about winning this war that has been declared on America … the first war of the 21st century.”
At the same time, Bush urged Americans not to exhibit prejudice toward Arab-Americans and Muslims because of the possible ethnic origins of suspects.
He later visited the Washington Hospital Center with the first lady to visit victims of the plane crash at the Pentagon.
About 190 people perished in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, including 64 aboard the plane. The Army suffered the heaviest blow with 74 people lost, the Pentagon said. Human remains pulled from the building were being taken to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be identified.
Bush made a round of calls to world leaders to receive condolences and seek support for the United States as it struggles to recover from the most devastating terrorist attack in its history.
Bush called Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson and Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.
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