Bush to visit stricken New York, vows to lead world to victory in 'first war of 21st century'
Thursday, September 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (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. Secretary of State Colin Powell identified Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect in Tuesday's attacks in New York and Washington.
``There is a quiet anger in America,'' Bush said, adding he would travel Friday to New York, site of the World Trade Center twin towers obliterated in fearsome attacks earlier in the week.
Bush spoke as officials said 4,763 people were unaccounted for in New York, where terrorists on Tuesday flew hijacked jetliners full of fuel into first one tower and then the other. The death toll was likely to reach 190 at the Pentagon, which took a similar hit.
The nation's anger rising as the death count climbed, Congress hastened to vote $20 billion as a first installment on recovery and anti-terrorism efforts. There also was discussion about passage of legislation authorizing a military response to the attacks, although administration officials made clear they believed the president already had the authority he needed.
There was a jarring reminder of the events of Tuesday at the White House. At midafternoon, streams of people left the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House, saying they had been told to evacuate by the Secret Service. However, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said there was no evacuation. Uniformed officers cleared people from Lafayette Park across from the White House in what Fleischer said was an expansion of the security perimeter around the presidential compound.
Two days after the terrorists hit, officials said they believed there had been 18 hijackers in all on four planes _ one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania _ and were pursuing thousands of leads in the investigation.
A few hours after Bush spoke, Powell confirmed publicly what other officials had been saying privately. He said bin Laden, linked to the bombing of the World Trade Center and attacks at American embassies in Africa in the 1990s, was the prime suspect in Tuesday's attacks. Bin Laden uses Afghanistan as his base of operations.
``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 Asked later whether he was pointing to bin Laden, he said, ``yes.''
The president and Powell both said 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 Taliban government of Afghanistan.
One senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the military options under consideration by Bush would go beyond the low-risk unmanned cruise missile strikes that have been deployed in past anti-terrorist operations. Among them: bombings from manned aircraft and the deployment of special troops on the ground.
At a midday briefing, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the administration would mount a ``broad and sustained campaign'' in retaliation for the attacks. ``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,'' he said.
For all the planning of retaliation, the nation was struggling to return to business three days after the attacks.
The Transportation Department began giving clearance for airports to open for the first time since Tuesday. But the New York financial markets remained closed and the National Football League canceled a full slate of games scheduled for this weekend.
``My resolve is steady and strong about winning this war that has been declared on America,'' the president said. ``It's a new kind of war. ... This government will adjust and this government will call other governments to join us.''
He spoke first in a telephone conference call with New York Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, then later answered questions from reporters.
``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. ``I'm pleased with the outpouring of support _ Jiang Zemin, Vladimir Putin,'' he said, referring to the leaders of China and Russia.
His eyes were red and wet as he ended his news conference, his head and hands trembling slightly as he made his remarks.
His eyes still moist, Bush walked a few minutes later into Washington Hospital Center with the first lady to visit victims. Mrs. Bush held her husband's right arm.
In earlier comments to reporters, Bush said firmly, ``Now that war has been declared on us, we will lead the world to victory. Victory.''
In New York, Giuliani said the city had 30,000 body bags available to hold the pieces taken from the rubble, and parts of 70 bodies had been recovered. There were just 94 confirmed dead; 30 or fewer had been identified.
``Let's just say there was a steady stream of body bags coming out all night,'' said Dr. Todd Wider, a surgeon who was working at a triage center. ``That and lots and lots of body parts.''
Search teams had recovered about 70 bodies by morning from the wreckage at the Pentagon, 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.
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.