- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

The Bush administration is mounting a massive media blitz at home and abroad to shore up international support for the military campaign in Afghanistan and to persuade Americans all is well in the homeland.

As part of the effort, President Bush next week will deliver a national address perhaps from a sports stadium to update Americans on the war against terrorism. He also will meet with the leaders of Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Ireland, Brazil and Algeria, and speak by satellite hookup to a Warsaw gathering of central European states.

"The president thinks it's vitally important to make certain that the American people are kept informed about the nature of the threat that we face and the progress of our response," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

The new public relations effort also includes establishing propaganda offices in London and Pakistan to respond quickly to claims by the al Qaeda terrorist network, which is under the protection of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. The United States has not been able to address such claims until nearly half a day after they are made.

"So, for example, if the Taliban alleged that they have shot down an American airplane, the person on the ground in Pakistan will be able to get information quickly, and that way they can distribute that to the Pakistani press so that people in Pakistan don't have to wait for the news to be made in the United States, which can often be many, many hours later," said Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer.

The White House has created a new information war room, located in the Old Executive Office Building and directed by presidential counselor Karen Hughes, to disseminate the administration's message.

In addition, the White House is courting David Aikman, a veteran Time magazine reporter who worked as bureau chief in Jerusalem, to sell the administration's message to Muslim and Arab nations. Mr. Aikman, who now works at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, was traveling abroad yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Fleischer said the new effort was not prompted by dissatisfaction over the way the public relations side of the war against terrorism was being handled.

The administration has been criticized by the media for providing disparate versions of events. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft provide briefings to reporters nearly every day. Mr. Fleischer and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also brief reporters daily. Providing information consistently as events unfold has been a challenge.

In his speech to the nation, Mr. Bush hopes to address Americans' fears, which have increased since Mr. Ashcroft's announcement last week about a second terrorist-threat alert.

"He will speak to the American people about the ways in which our everyday lives have changed necessarily since the horrific events of September 11th, and his optimism and resolve that, despite these changes, American values are constant and impermeable," Miss Rice said.

When Mr. Bush addresses leaders gathered in Warsaw, "He will talk about the importance of world leaders and coalition allies, he will define the nature of the global response to terrorism, and update the progress on the war on terrorism, talking about the responsibilities of those who have joined the coalition," she said.

The week will end with Mr. Bush addressing the United Nations in a speech Nov. 10 in New York.

Some European publications yesterday said the worldwide coalition was beginning to splinter. Summing up European sentiment, the French journal Le Monde said in its lead story yesterday that "Europeans are worried."

"They are not expressing this publicly because they know they have no immediate alternative to maintaining their solidarity with the military campaign waged by the U.S. in Afghanistan. Their hesitations, however, and even their refusal to comment on the logic and the increasingly worrisome consequences of the American bombings against the Taliban regime are worth more than many words," the article said.

Mr. Fleischer dismissed the reports as irrelevant.

"The president does not think that anybody should take a military action because the polls say people are for or against it," he said. "The United States will take a military action to defend our country, because our country has been attacked. And the president is resolute and determined to continue in that campaign."


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