WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush summoned all nations to wage war on terrorism Thursday night and vowed “justice will be done” against those who killed thousands in last week’s attacks. With warplanes and ships on the move, he urged an anxious America to be calm, “even in the face of a continuing threat.”
Bush issued a series of demands — not open to negotiation or discussion — to Afghanistan’s rulers to turn over Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the attacks, and his al-Qaida network.
“The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate,” he said.
Bush spoke as American military personnel began moving out from bases around the country, fully aware they could soon be in harm’s way. Fighter pilots and jets from Colorado, bombers and crews from Idaho; Marines from North Carolina — all were called to duty.
Nine days after the suicide attacks that leveled the once-soaring World Trade Center and wounded the mighty Pentagon, Bush addressed a joint session of Congress and a nationwide television audience counted in the millions.
“Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom,” he said “Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution.”
Security concerns were high enough to keep Vice President Dick Cheney away from the Capitol. The 35-minute speech won robust bipartisan applause 30 times. And then, in a vivid display of national unity, the president stepped off the rostrum to embraces from the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate.
A few hours before the commander-in-chief spoke, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani sharply revised the number of missing and presumed dead upward — to 6,333 — at the World Trade Center twin towers, destroyed by the impact of hijacked jetliners. An additional 189 are believed dead from a similar attack on the Pentagon, and 44 more perished when a fourth hijacked plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
Compounding the nation’s woes were concerns about the economy, and Bush pledged, without additional explanation, steps to “put our people back to work.” Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said “much economic activity ground to a halt” after the attacks, and the country’s main stock index suffered its third triple-digit loss of the week, down more than 300 points for the day. The cost of the response to the terrorism could reach $100 billion, possibly returning the nation to deficit spending.
With planes flying far below capacity and public confidence shaken, lawmakers and the administration labored through the day on economic relief for the airline industry, coupled with measures to limit their liability from lawsuits. House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he hoped for legislation by Friday, and Bush said he and lawmakers would find a way to stabilize a sudden vulnerable industry.
The extraordinary developments unfolded as a delegation of senators traveled by train to New York to view the rubble that once was the World Trade Center. “The magnitude of it, the horror of it,” said Senate GOP Leader Trent Lott.
More than 200 miles west, Attorney General John Ashcroft visited the Pennsylvania crash site of another hijacked plane. A gash in the ground marked where the plane hit short of its presumed Washington target — after what Ashcroft said was a heroic struggle waged by passengers against the terrorists on board. The widow of one of those passengers was Bush’s guest Thursday night.
Bush’s speech marked an occasion unlike any other in recent history. Security, normally high for a presidential address, was tightened considerably, as bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the Capitol and barricades were erected on the streets outside.
“Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution,” he said. “Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”
To other nations around the world, he said, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded…as a hostile regime.”
Bush sought to reassure Americans at the same time he announced measures to improve its defenses against further terrorist attacks. He announced the creation of a Cabinet-level homeland defense office, charged with coordinating efforts to prevent terrorism, and named Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to run it.
Congressional Democrats passed up their opportunity to offer a televised response to Bush’s speech. Instead, the Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and Lott spoke, one after the other, from the same microphone. “We are resolved to work together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans,” said Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat.
And Army Secretary Thomas E. White, speaking from a Pentagon conference room 50 yards or so away from where terrorists inflicted their damage, said the Army is ready to conduct “sustained land combat operations.”
“I don’t know if it will be dangerous, but if it is, that’s what I signed on for,” said Carl Townley, 38, a Navy reservist in Shreveport, La.
“We will rally the world to this cause, by our efforts and by our courage,” Bush said. “We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.”
He called on Americans to recognize that this would be a war against terrorist extremists, not the Muslim faith.
Bush, who has met with nearly a dozen foreign leaders in the past nine days to build an international coalition, said he was asking for the help of “police forces, intelligence services and banking systems around the world.”
To government leaders around the world, Bush stated: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.”
The administration pressed its demand for the extradition of bin Laden throughout the day.
“We want action, not just statements. He should not be given haven,” said Secretary of State Colin Powell after Afghanistan issued a statement politely encouraging the suspected terrorist mastermind to leave the country.