- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

President Bush decided on Tuesday to strike targets in Afghanistan and dispatched Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the region at midweek to make sure "everything was still in place," a senior administration official said yesterday.
The timing of Sunday's attack was initially set Sept. 17, following a Camp David meeting of the Bush national security team. During that session, the president outlined the strategy he envisioned and what steps must be met before a retaliatory strike could begin.
For instance, Mr. Bush wanted to make sure the "humanitarian piece" in the form of food for refugees and aid to Afghans about to be affected by the military strikes was in place.
Two senior administration officials yesterday described for reporters the atmosphere in the White House during the runup to the attack.
On Friday, Mr. Bush asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers whether the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks, the in-theater commander, was prepared to begin strikes.
"He turned to General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, looked him right in the eye, and said, 'Dick, is Tommy Franks ready to go?' And General Myers said, 'Yes, sir, he's ready to go.' And he gave the go-ahead. And at that point then, of course, military operations actually began," the senior official said.
The next day, "at the end of that NSC meeting the president gave the go-ahead for the bombers to be launched," said another senior Bush official.
The mood at the presidential retreat, where the president and first lady go nearly every weekend to get away from Washington, often with the company of close friends, was different this past weekend.
"We all tried our best to try to be somewhat normal. There was, you know, a football game on in the background a couple of times, and but there was a lot of my colleague was being paged all the time, and the chief of staff was having messages delivered, and I even had a few messages delivered," one of the officials said.
"So it was I think there was a feeling that there was a seriousness of there was a weighty feel to the weekend. And almost a somber undercurrent that what was taking place was very profound," that official said.
Mr. Bush began preparing on Tuesday to address the nation, although the selected time exactly 1 p.m. on a Sunday, as football fans across the country sat down to watch the day's games was not chosen then.
"After his National Security Council meeting, he called me to the Oval Office and told me that he was preparing to launch a military operation and asked me to start thinking about an address to the nation. He was very aware that he would need to define the goals of the operation to the nation," one of the officials said.
"And I have a quote here. He said, 'The Bush administration will enforce its doctrine.'"
After the strikes began, those who planned them for weeks felt a bit out of place and helpless.
"The secretary of defense called to say that the operation had begun. The president then went down to make his remarks to the country. The interesting thing, of course, about something like this, is that once the operation starts to unfold, it's unfolding. And you're not participating in its unfolding," one official said.
"We were sitting, waiting for the secretary of defense to come out and brief from the Pentagon. And so we had the big-screen TV on, and the secretary hadn't come out yet. And I remember looking at everyone, and saying, 'What do we do now?'"
The other White House official responded: "Now we wait."

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