- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

President Bush yesterday told Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia there is still time to avoid total annihilation, if they reverse policy on Osama bin Laden and his extremist al Qaeda group, and "cough him up."
"My focus is bringing al Qaeda to justice and saying to the host government 'You had your chance to deliver,'" Mr. Bush said in his first prime-time nationally televised press conference, which occurred exactly one month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington.
"Actually, I will say it again: If you cough him up and his people today, that we'll reconsider what we're doing to your country. You still have a second chance," Mr. Bush said. "Just bring him in. And bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him."
A relaxed Mr. Bush opened and closed his first formal press conference in the White House East Room with prepared statements, the fifth draft as prepared by senior aides, including counselor Karen Hughes. The first updated Americans on the current military campaign, the second urged each child in the nation to "give a dollar" to help provide food and medicine for children in Afghanistan.
In the 45-minute news conference, Mr. Bush said Americans need to return to their business and ways of life even as the FBI issued a two-sentence statement warning of "additional terrorist attacks" in the next days.
"I have urged our fellow Americans to go about their lives: to fly on airplanes, to travel, to go to work. But I also want to encourage them by telling them their government's on full alert. And that alert put out today from the Justice Department was such an action," Mr. Bush said.
He also issued a warning to Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein to abstain from developing weapons of mass destruction.
"We know he's been developing weapons of mass destruction and so we're watching him very carefully," he said, addressing his comments directly to Saddam, whom he called "an evil man."
But Mr. Bush urged Americans to resume their ways of life or lose the way at home against terrorism.
"We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't where we don't conduct business, where people don't shop," he said with a chuckle.
"Their intention was not only to kill and maim and destroy; their intention was to frighten to the point where our nation would not act. Their intention was to frighten our government that we wouldn't seek justice, that somehow we would cower in the face of their threats and not respond abroad or at home."
But he acknowledged that life had changed after Sept. 11.
"I think there's a certain sacrifice when you lose a piece of your soul," he said, recounting a stop earlier in the day at the Pentagon, where a emotional memorial ceremony for the 189 killed there moved Mr. Bush nearly to tears.
Mr. Bush said he was satisfied with the progress in the campaign against al Qaeda and its Taliban backers.
"All missions are being executed according to plan on the military front," he said.
The president touted the U.S. effort to freeze financial assets of terrorists and said members of al Qaeda are being rounded up.
"On the law-enforcement front, terrorists are being swept up in an international dragnet. Working with countries around the world, we have frozen more than $24 million in al Qaeda or Taliban assets," the president said. "All is strong and united on the diplomatic front."
"There are al Qaeda organizations in roughly 68 countries. And over 200 have now been apprehended. And every time I talk to a world leader, I urge them to continue finding the al Qaeda representatives and bring them to justice," Mr. Bush said.
While Mr. Bush has repeatedly warned that the war against terrorism will be long, he said he had learned the lessons of Vietnam.
"Perhaps the most important lesson that I learned is that you cannot fight a guerrilla war with conventional forces. That's why I've explained to the American people that we're engaged in a different type of war, one, obviously, that will use conventional forces, but one in which we've got to fight on all fronts."
"The Greatest Generation was used to storming beachheads. Baby boomers such as myself were used to getting caught in a quagmire of Vietnam where politics made decisions more than the military sometimes.
"Generation X was able to watch technology right in front of their TV screens you know, burrow into concrete bunkers in Iraq and blow them up. This is a different kind of war that requires a different type of approach and a different type of mentality."
While the United States and its allies are targeting al Qaeda and its leaders especially bin Laden Mr. Bush said bin Laden is just one terrorist.
"Success or failure depends not on bin Laden. Success or failure depends upon routing out terrorism where it may exist all around the world. He's just one person, a part of a network, and we're slowly but surely, with determined fashion, routing that network out and bringing it to justice," he said.
But the president acknowledged "I don't know [whether bin Laden is] dead or alive." He said U.S. intelligence agencies do know that al Qaeda members are on the move within Afghanistan.
In a light moment that drew laughter from reporters, Mr. Bush asked himself a question, saying it was "an old trick."
"How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I'll tell you how I respond: I'm amazed."
The president said America has got "to do a better job of making our case. We've got to do a better job of explaining to the people in the Middle East, for example, that we don't fight a war against Islam or Muslims."
Mr. Bush also drew laughter when asked for the third time what specific actions Americans can take to protect themselves and others.
"You know, if you find a person that you've never seen before getting in a crop duster that doesn't belong to you " he said, leaving the sentence unfinished.
At the end of the press conference, Mr. Bush made a "special request to the children of America." Explaining that Afghanistan has been through "a great deal of war and pain," the president asked each child to donate to help the children there, many of whom are malnourished.
He asked that they earn and send a dollar in an envelope to America's Fund for Afghan Children, "right here to the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C."
As he delivered his closing statement, he used his right foot to discreetly drag behind the podium a Sharpie marker he had knocked to the floor earlier in the news conference. Then he thanked the reporters for their questions and departed.
Earlier yesterday, for the first time in five days, Vice President Richard B. Cheney was spotted at the White House, arriving in full view of TV cameras shortly before 3 p.m. and departing at 5 p.m.
Although Mr. Cheney might have spent time at the White House in the first five days after the U.S.-led retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan, administration officials would only say he had been at "a secure location."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide