Bush vows to lead world to victory in first war of 21st century

Thursday, September 13, 2001

AP Special CorrespondentWASHINGTON (AP) -- Fighting back tears, President Bush vowed Thursday that America would "lead the world to victory" over terrorism in a struggle he termed the first war of the 21st century.

He announced plans to visit New York, site of the World Trade Center twin towers that were destroyed by attacks earlier in the week.

"I weep and mourn with America," the president said at the White House as officials said the death toll from attacks in New York and on the Pentagon Tuesday would reach into the thousands.

"There is a quiet anger in America," Bush said in a telephone conference call with New York Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

"My resolve is steady and strong about winning this war that has been declared on America," the president added. "It's a new kind of war. ... This government will adjust and this government will call other governments to join us."

Bush's eyes were red and wet as he ended his news conference, his head and hands trembling slightly as he made his remarks.

Bush spoke as Congress hastened to vote $20 billion as a first installment on recovery and anti-terrorism efforts. There was also discussion about passage of legislation authorizing a military response to the attacks in New York and Washington, although administration officials made clear they believed the president already had the authority he needed.

"We have just seen the first war of the 21st century," he said. He said he had consulted a broad range of foreign leaders, had found "universal support" for the United States and expected there would be backing for whatever retaliation he ordered.

He also said pointedly the United States had been in diplomatic contact with Pakistan, and wanted to give the government there an opportunity to cooperate. Pakistan has close ties with the government of Afghanistan, which harbors Osama bin Laden, a suspect in Tuesday's fearsome attacks.

In later comments to reporters, Bush said firmly, "Now that war has been declared on us, we will lead the world to victory. Victory."

The president spoke as officials in New York said the list of those missing was roughly 4,700 from attacks that leveled the twin towers at the World Trade Center. In addition, the Defense Department said it appeared about 190 people had died in the attack on the Pentagon, a preliminary estimate that included victims both in the building and in the hijacked airline that plowed into the structure.

Search teams had recovered about 70 bodies by morning, said Jerry Roussillon, deputy fire and rescue chief for Fairfax County, Va. "We're making inroads into the impact area foot by foot now," he said. The teams were pulled back from the rubble by a bomb threat made by telephone near dawn, but the threat apparently came to nothing and work resumed.

The reopening of the U.S. air space, planned later Thursday, 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 a new era of security.

Bush started work in the Oval Office at 7:10 a.m. Thursday with another round of calls to world leaders as part of his effort to build a multinational coalition. Leaders of Japan, Italy, Saudi Arabia and NATO "have all said they will stand together with the United States to combat terrorism," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.

He would not say what exactly Bush asked of his counterparts. The president had also talked to a half dozen leaders Wednesday.

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. Similar expressions of unity and conviction came from Democrats.

"This is a national crisis," said House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo. He said political leaders were as unified now as they were after Congress voted to commit to the Gulf War.

Some of the options under consideration by Bush would go beyond the low-risk unmanned cruise missile strikes that have been deployed in past anti-terrorist operations, a senior administration official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Among them: bombings from manned aircraft and the deployment of special troops on the ground.

The official said Bush has made no decision because investigators are still trying to determine with "as much certainty as possible" who masterminded the attacks and what country, if any, harbored those individuals.

Officials reaffirmed their belief that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire expatriate living in Afghanistan, is one prime suspect.

The thirst for revenge was apparent in Washington.

"I think everybody is so angry they want to hit somebody," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Wednesday.

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.

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.

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