- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

The United States and Britain yesterday unleashed a "sustained, comprehensive and relentless" attack against the Taliban, raining missiles on the regime 26 days after terrorist attacks against the United States.
"On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," President Bush told the nation from the White House Treaty Room.
As Vice President Richard B. Cheney was moved to a secure location away from the White House, allied planes and warships led by the United States lobbed missiles at targets in Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan. The allied strikes are expected to continue for several days.
"These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime," the president said.
While military strikes were being conducted on Afghanistan, the allies also air-dropped humanitarian aid to starving Afghan civilians.
The White House said yesterday that Mr. Bush had told congressional leaders Saturday he had given the go-ahead for strikes on Afghanistan. "He called the congressional leadership last night. He notified them of impending military action," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who declined to specify when Mr. Bush made the decision to order the attacks.
The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, called the raids a "terrorist attack" and warned that America "will never achieve its goal."
In a tape shown on Egyptian television, Osama bin Laden denounced Americans as "sinners" and "infidels" who shrug off the deaths of Iraqis and Palestinians, only to cry "when the sword falls on the United States."
The White House dismissed the tape as propaganda.
"They obviously released it after the military strike to create an impression," said Mr. Fleischer. "But it was a rather false picture, given the fact that it's the middle of the night in Afghanistan, yet the tape shows him in broad daylight."
The assault came one day after Mr. Bush warned that "time is running out" for the Taliban, which refused U.S. demands to deliver bin Laden and shut down terrorist camps. Early yesterday morning, the president ignored a last-ditch offer by the Taliban to put bin Laden on trial in an Islamic court.
The president arrived at his office at 10:45 yesterday morning to look over his speech.
"He did say to me in the Oval [Office], 'I gave them fair warning and they chose not to heed it,'" Mr. Fleischer said. "He never saw any indications from the Taliban that they were going to do that. No American president undertakes a military mission with anything other than a full understanding of the seriousness of it. But I can tell you having traveled with the president on September 11th he very firmly, right away from the beginning, recognized that this was war, and that he was going to steel the nation for it because our country had been attacked."
Mr. Bush seemed a bit more solemn than usual, although not grim, after paying tribute to fallen firefighters at a ceremony in Emmitsburg, Md., yesterday morning. Returning earlier than expected to the White House, he recalled the list of demands he had issued to the Taliban regime, which has been harboring bin Laden and his al Qaeda network widely suspected to have masterminded the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"None of these demands were met," Mr. Bush said in his 1 p.m. address to the nation. "And now, the Taliban will pay a price.
"By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans. Initially the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice."
But even as the United States hammered the Taliban with bombs and missiles, it also air-dropped food, medicine and supplies to starving Afghan refugees. The humanitarian aid was designed in part to counter claims by the Taliban that America seeks to wage war against Islam.
"The oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and our allies," Mr. Bush said. "The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith."
In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair called yesterday's U.S.-led assault a "moment of utmost gravity." Mr. Blair said British submarines joined American warships in firing missiles at targets in Afghanistan yesterday. In the next few days, he pledged British warplanes would enter the fray.
American and British military forces are expected to be reinforced soon by troops from Canada, Australia, Germany and France.
"More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and across Asia have granted air transit or landing rights," Mr. Bush said. "Many more have shared intelligence. We are supported by the collective will of the world."
Yesterday's offensive came less than four weeks after Mr. Bush began assembling his global coalition against terrorism. By comparison, his father spent 51/2 months building a coalition before attacking Iraq in 1991.
But that was a conventional military coalition, unlike the multifaceted patchwork of overt and covert allies stitched together by the younger Mr. Bush.
"This military action is a part of our campaign against terrorism, another front in a war that has already been joined through diplomacy, intelligence, the freezing of financial assets and the arrests of known terrorists by law-enforcement agents in 38 countries," Mr. Bush said.
It was the first time the United States lashed out at bin Laden since August 1998, when President Clinton ordered a single day of failed missile strikes in Afghanistan and the Sudan. That attack came less than two weeks after terrorist strikes against U.S. embassies in Africa.
Mr. Bush yesterday promised not to abandon his anti-terrorism offensive after the first wave of bombing.
"Given the nature and reach of our enemies, we will win this conflict by the patient accumulation of successes, by meeting a series of challenges with determination and will and purpose," he said. "In the months ahead, our patience will be one of our strengths."
He added: "The battle is now joined on many fronts. We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail."
Although the Taliban has always been the first target in the president's anti-terrorism effort, he promised to hit others. "Today we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader," Mr. Bush said.
"If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril.
Historically, presidents have given televised addresses to the nation from the familiar surroundings of the Oval Office. But Mr. Bush chose to speak from the Treaty Room, with the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial visible in the distance through a window, because he said it is "a place where American presidents have worked for peace."
"We're a peaceful nation," Mr. Bush said. "Yet, as we have learned, so suddenly and so tragically, there can be no peace in a world of sudden terror.
"In the face of today's new threat, the only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it," he added. "We did not ask for this mission. But we will fulfill it."
Yesterday marked the second time in less than a month that Mr. Cheney was moved out of the White House for security reasons. The first movement came on the day of the attacks against America, as Mr. Bush was hopscotching around the nation aboard Air Force One amid reports that the White House would be targeted.
By contrast, Mr. Bush remained in the White House yesterday as Mr. Cheney was moved to a secure location in the afternoon. With the Taliban warning of retaliatory strikes, the White House did not want the top two members of the administration in the same building.
"The American people need to be alert threats do remain," Mr. Fleischer said. "And the government and the law-enforcement agencies are taking all necessary precautions. But threats do remain. This is a war."
Yet Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, when asked about possible retaliation by terrorists for the allied assault, said the mass-casualty attacks like those on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were planned months and even years in advance.
"So, the idea that any attack that could occur now would conceivably characterize as in retaliation for something I think would be a misunderstanding of the situation," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Still, the United States is postured in a "state of heightened awareness" for some type of attack. "And the armed forces around the world are on a state of higher alert than is normal," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The State Department yesterday issued a warning to U.S. citizens abroad telling them to "limit their movement" because the allied strikes could lead to terrorist attacks against Americans and U.S. interests.
Mr. Bush, who recently asked governors to call up National Guardsmen to patrol airports, made it clear that the danger to the United States is far from over.
"I know many Americans feel fear today and our government is taking strong precautions," the president said. "All law enforcement and intelligence agencies are working aggressively around America, around the world and around the clock."
To help coordinate this vigilance, the president today will swear in former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to head the Office of Homeland Security, a Cabinet-level post created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. A White House spokesman said last night that Mr. Ridge would have 100 employees, a West Wing office and significant input into the security aspects of various Cabinet budgets.
Since those attacks, which are believed to have killed 5,637 persons in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, Mr. Bush has received high marks from Democrats and Republicans alike for playing the first of many roles expected of a president at such a time consoler of the nation's shocked psyche.
But with the commencement of military action yesterday, the president enters a much more perilous phase of the post-Sept. 11 era. Having essentially promised to eradicate all vestiges of terrorism, Mr. Bush has set a high bar for himself. By his own admission, the president has performed best when measured against the low expectations of his detractors.
Moreover, yesterday marked the first time Mr. Bush has sent American troops into war. He urged them "to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives."
"A commander in chief sends America's sons and daughters into battle in a foreign land only after the greatest care and a lot of prayer," the president said.
Bill Gertz contributed to this report.


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