Bush, Congress vow 'war' against terrorism

Thursday, September 13, 2001

AP Special CorrespondentWASHINGTON (AP) -- With a sense of urgency on every front, the government deployed agents to the nation's awakening airports Thursday to help make the return to the skies safe, and intensified efforts to prepare Americans and the world for an assault on terrorism.

The reopening of the U.S. air space, planned in late morning, was bringing one slice of everyday life back to a country frozen in horror since Tuesday's terrorist attacks. But flying promised to be anything but normal; Attorney General John Ashcroft sent U.S. marshals and other agents to airports and airliners to usher in the new era of securty.

In Washington, congressional leaders spoke of a strong and sustained -- if unspecified -- response to terrorism.

"I believe it may take a lot of time, a lot of American treasure and perhaps some American blood," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the morning talk shows Thursday.

President Bush pledged a global war on terrorism and reached out to other world leaders for their support. "This battle will take time and resolve," he said Wednesday. "But make no mistake about it. We will win."

Administration officials cautioned that no military action was imminent, but that did little to slake the thirst for revenge.

"I think everybody is so angry they want to hit somebody," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Wednesday as lawmakers discussed an initial installment in the $20 billion range for the anti-terrorism effort. "But before we hit somebody, we need to know who that is."

There was no indication when that might happen.

Numerous officials said intelligence information pointed toward a coordinated attack masterminded by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire expatriate living in Afghanistan. Despite an intensive investigation and widely televised police raids on hotels in the Boston area, Ashcroft said no arrests had been made in connection with attacks that left the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center in rubble and the Pentagon badly damaged.

Adding insult to incalculable injury, he added, "A number of hijackers were trained as pilots in the United States."

Ashcroft would not say Thursday whether arrests were imminent. "We are pursuing thousands of credible leads," he said. "There's a sense of urgency that's understood by all of us."

In all, terrorists commandeered four jetliners on Tuesday, flying two of them into the towering buildings in Manhattan and one into the Pentagon. The fourth -- possibly aiming for the White House -- crashed southeast of Pittsburgh after passengers apparently struggled with the hijackers.

There were 55 confirmed fatalities in New York, but that was only the beginning. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani indicated city officials had asked the federal government for 6,000 body bags.

Washington-area hospitals treated at least 94 people from the Pentagon, more than 10 of them in critical condition.

Congress moved quickly to vote money for Bush's war on terrorism. Officials discussed legislation providing $20 billion, and said it could reach the House floor on Thursday.

Drafts also circulated of a separate measure authorizing the administration to undertake military action under the War Powers Act. Officials said there had been some discussion of a formal declaration of war, as well, although that seemed less likely.

Bush and the rest of his administration sought to reassure the nation that life was returning to normal -- and the White House was reopened to public tours to prove it.

But there were glaring exceptions.

The New York financial markets, not far from the site of the New York terror attack, were shut down for a third straight day Wednesday with no date yet set for reopening. The nation's air traffic system was largely shut down, as well, pending implementation of strict new security measures. And major league ballparks were dark for the third night, autumn pennant races put on unprecedented hold.

Then there were the scenes of destruction themselves, battle zones in a war brought to American soil as never before.

The remnants of one of the towers collapsed during the day, sending up yet another thick plume of smoke. Searchers used picks and axes and moved slowly for fear of bringing down a pile of rubble. "The air down there is totally toxic," said one, Peter Coppola, who said he had found four bodies in 24 hours of searching.

The Pentagon smoldered still. Bush paid a late-afternoon visit, saying the devastation made him sad and angry. "The nation mourns," he said, "but we must go on."

"Our country, however, will not be cowed by terrorists, by people who don't share the same values we share."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent a morale-building message to the nation's armed forces. Invoking the memories of past heroes -- and those who behaved bravely in Tuesday's attack -- he said the nation would need more heroes in the not too distant future.

America's NATO allies bolstered Bush's case for military action, declaring the terrorist attacks an assault on the alliance itself. Bush sought to build a global alliance with phone calls to leaders of France, Germany, Canada, Britain and Russia; he talked twice to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"An attack on one is an attack on all," NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said.

And the world's wealthiest countries pledged a coordinated effort to use their central banks to prevent disruptions to the global economy.

Ashcroft and others described an extraordinary investigation. It stretched from the Canadian border, where officials suspect some of the hijackers entered the country, to Florida, where some of the participants are believed to have learned how to fly commercial jetliners before the attacks.

Locations in Massachusetts and Florida were searched for evidence. Internet service providers said they were complying readily with search warrants seeking information about an e-mail address believed connected to the attacks.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: