- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

President Bush yesterday said Osama bin Laden may "slither" out of Afghanistan, but the U.S.-led coalition will "get him" and bring the terror kingpin to justice.
Mr. Bush also offered military support to nations battling terrorism and said "next year will be a war year."
The time for talk is over, the president said. The worldwide coalition nearly 90 nations participating in at least one facet of the U.S.-led war on terror must begin to produce results.
"Many of the world leaders that have been here in the Oval Office will tell you that one of the strong messages that I send is, 'Thank you for your condolences. I appreciate your flowers. Now arrest somebody, if they're in your country,'" Mr. Bush told reporters in the Oval Office.
"I'm a performance-oriented person. I believe in results. And if you're a member of the coalition, we expect you to perform."
The president pledged to help any nation battling terrorism with intelligence even troops, if necessary. "The enemy needs to know that we're on the hunt."
Mr. Bush said he had ordered the National Security Council to devise plans for handling the cases of captured forces in Afghanistan, including American John Walker, who fought for the Taliban. He has not decided what to do about Walker, but said he has not ruled out treason charges.
Later in the day, Mr. Bush said the coalition had made great progress in the war on terrorism but predicted: "Next year will be a war year as well, because we're going to continue to hunt down these al Qaeda people in this particular theater, as well as other places."
Meanwhile, administration officials said they did not deliberately omit details in the translation of a videotaped conversation between bin Laden and several allies released last week.
On Wednesday, one of the government's hired translators delivered a new translation of the tape to the Pentagon that details bin Laden speaking fondly of several of the September 11 hijackers.
Bin Laden asks Allah to "accept their action," according to translator George Michael.
Mr. Michael would identify only three of the hijackers mentioned on the tape: Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi and Wail Alshehri.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said administration officials had encouraged the media to seek independent translations. Any detail arising from such translations, Mr. Fleischer said, "doesn't change anything for the president."
The president and his wife, Laura, leave today for Camp David, where they will spend Christmas with friends and family, including former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara. The Bushes will go to their ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Dec. 26 and return to Washington Jan. 6.
The president, who early yesterday invited reporters into the Oval Office to see a new rug commissioned by himself and the first lady, said he is, in fact, keeping a "scorecard" on who among the coalition is performing.
"I'm an old baseball guy and I like to keep the score. I like to see who's performing and who's not performing. It's a part of being a coalition," the one-time owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team said.
Mr. Bush said Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the war in Afghanistan, compared the war to a baseball game.
"Of course, my ears perked up," Mr. Bush said, prompting laughter. "He said there will be a lot of moments of boredom, and then there would be some great joy."
The president said the first phase has gone according to plan and that he is prepared to see the job through.
"You're talking to a patient man when it comes to achieving the objectives, because I understand the degree of difficulty has increased significantly."
Mr. Bush said he thought the public also will be patient. Everyday at 6:50 a.m., Mr. Bush begins work in the Oval Office, reading the latest "threat matrix" and being briefed by his national-security team. He thinks daily about the "possibilities," he said, and that "reminds me that my most important job of all is to protect the American people from further attack."
The president said the nation is "more secure today and less vulnerable to attack" than before September 11 in part because the United States is responding forcefully to attacks on its own soil.
Intelligence, which is said to have lapsed under the Clinton administration, has taken on a new prominence.
"We have got a much better system of sharing information information we gather overseas to agencies here at home. So, oftentimes, we'll get a lead from an intelligence service, say, in the Middle East, or in Europe, and that piece of information will be analyzed and passed immediately on to the FBI, that has now shifted its culture from one of doing important work, like white-collar crime or spy-on-spy work, to prevention.
"That is the most primary job of the FBI to prevent a further attack," Mr. Bush said, noting that some 4,000 agents are "working on every single lead we get."
"The American people need to know that even though we go into a holiday season, this government will be doing everything we can to keep our country safe."
In a short, end-of-the-year review, Mr. Bush pronounced 2001 a success for the Republican domestic agenda as well as the nation's budding war on terrorism. He praised lawmakers for cutting taxes and reshaping federal education programs, but called the Democrat-controlled Senate's failure to pass economic legislation "a big disappointment."
"A lot of people are going to ask the question, 'Why couldn't you get something done?'" Mr. Bush said.
But he refused to criticize Senate Democrats for blocking the Republicans' economic stimulus bill and said he would not call a special session of Congress to force lawmakers to finish the job.
"I'm not angry at all. I'm joyous. I welcome the holiday season. No, I don't intend to bring them back early."
But he added: "I know there was enough votes to get it out of the Senate, had there been the will to get the bill done. And maybe early next year we can work on it again."
Mr. Bush also praised Congress for passing his tax-reform bill. "I strongly believe that by providing the first phase of tax relief, it helped cushion what could have been a very, very hard landing."
The president and first lady showed off the new Oval Office floor covering, a cream-colored rug with golden bolts streaming from an American seal. A lone star, a taste of their native Texas, is stitched into the border. It is traditional for each president to design his own office rug.
As reporters arrived to see the latest addition, Mr. Bush joked: "Don't step on the new rug."
This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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