Military, Americans prepare for a campaign against terrorism

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House rejected a proposal by Islamic clerics on Thursday that Osama bin Laden leave Afghanistan voluntarily. As President Bush prepared to address Congress, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld predicted a sustained campaign against terrorism.

"It is marathon, it is not a sprint," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing. "It's not easy, it's difficult. And it will certainly require the patience of all of us. And it will require a lot of international support."

Islamic clerics, meeting in the Afghan capital of Kabul, urged terrorist suspect bin Laden to leave on his own -- but set no deadline. Such a proposal "does not meet America's requirements," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "It's time for action and not words."

Nine days after the suicide hijacking attacks that left more than an estimated 5,000 dead or missing in New York and Washington, Bush planned a 9 p.m. EDT address to Congress and the nation to unite Americans for a long battle.

In a rare show of bipartisan unity, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said there would be no Democratic response to Bush's address. "We want America to speak with one voice tonight," Gephardt said.

With U.S. military forces on the move, Army Secretary Thomas E. White told reporters a deployment order signed by Rumsfeld includes Army as well as Air Force troops. The Pentagon, he said, is bracing for "sustained land combat operations."

Rumsfeld, speaking later, would not elaborate. But he acknowledged ordering a movement of troops "to get ourselves arranged in the world ... to places that could be useful in the event that the president decided to use them."

Stocks fell sharply yet again on fears of adverse economic fallout. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan acknowledged that economic activity virtually ground to a halt after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But, he told a congressional panel that the country's long-term prospects remained strong.

"An enormous effort will be required on the part of many to cope with the human and physical destruction," Greenspan said in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee.

In his speech, Bush will make the case against No. 1 suspect bin Laden and his al-Qaida network, officials said.

With the speech in the Capitol taking place under exceptionally tight security, Fleischer said that Vice President Dick Cheney will not attend but will remain in a secret, secure location in recognition of "the continuation of important government issues" should terrorists strike again. British Prime Minister Tony Blair will attend.

In the Afghan capital, said they are prepared to call for a holy war against the United States if U.S. troops attack Afghanistan in an attempt to capture him and members of his al-Qaida terrorist organization.

Conveying Bush's rejection, Fleischer said, "This is about much more than any one man being allowed to leave -- presumably from one safe harbor to another safe harbor, if what he's doing is voluntary."

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said after a meeting with Bush that Saudi Arabia would do "everything that is in our capacity to fight this scourge of terrorism." As to bin Laden, he said, "We're still hopeful that the Taliban will accept the wisdom of handing over criminals to face justice."

Also Thursday:

--FBI Director Robert Mueller, speaking at the rural Pennsylvania site where one of the four hijacked airliners crashed, said the government was "transcribing and in some cases translating what little dialogue there is" on the voice recorder recovered there. Passengers on that flight, United Flight 93, "were absolute heroes" Mueller said, for trying to foil the hijackers apparent plans to fly the plane to a target in Washington. -- A delegation of 40 members of Congress toured the World Trade Center disaster site in lower Manhattan. "America has been hit a tremendous blow...but it has pulled us together," said Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

--New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said searchers will keep looking for survivors in the ruins of the World Trade Center. He told NBC's "Today" show that some remains may never be identified "given the nature of this implosion and the temperatures -- 1,000, 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit."

--An administration package to provide $5 billion immediately to help struggling airlines would also give them "temporary terrorism risk insurance" on all domestic flights for 180 days. Currently, only international routes have such coverage.

--Rumsfeld declined to rule out Iraq as a target of the anti-terrorism campaign. "There are a number of nations that are on the official, public list of terrorist nations," he said on NBC's "Today."

In his address to Congress, Bush will not seek a declaration of war or announce that a military strike is under way, officials said. Instead, he will ask Americans for their patience in the long hunt ahead for terrorists.

Meantime, the pursuit of bin Laden and his elusive, loose-knit group of terrorists continued on several fronts.

A Middle Eastern man, Nabil Al-Marabh, 34, was arrested Wednesday night outside Chicago for questioning in the investigation. Federal agents said false visas, passports and what appeared to be a diagram of an airport flight line had been found in a Detroit house with his name on the mailbox.

With the number of people detained on immigration charges for questioning rising to 115, the FBI sent a list of the alleged hijackers to banks asking them to search for any transactions involving 21 suspects. Agents also investigated the possibility that some of the suspected suicide hijackers used fake identities of people who may still be alive.

The Pentagon has given the coming struggle a name -- "Operation Infinite Justice." The military action began in earnest Wednesday as the Air Force dispatched dozens of warplanes to the Persian Gulf area.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt also was sent toward the Mediterranean to join two carriers already in the region near Afghanistan.

The terrorist attacks and a two-day, federally ordered shutdown of the air travel system set in motion a crisis for airline companies -- American and United airlines announced 40,000 layoffs Wednesday.

The parent company of American, the world's largest airline, said it will lay off at least 20,000 of its 138,350 workers. The cuts by AMR Corp. will affect American, TWA and American Eagle.

United matched the bad news, saying it would lay off 20,000 of its 100,000 workers. Just a day earlier, Boeing said it planned to cut as many as 30,000 jobs by the end of next year.

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