- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

President Bush yesterday went to Red Cross headquarters to thank American children for donating money to their counterparts in Afghanistan, where a Red Cross supply depot was bombed accidentally.
Although witnesses in Kabul said the depot was hit by American forces during the 10th day of attacks against Taliban targets, the Bush administration said anti-aircraft fire might have been the culprit.
Mr. Bush made no mention of the bombing, which slightly injured one Red Cross worker, when he spoke at the organization's headquarters in Washington. Instead, he thanked American children for deluging the White House with 90,000 letters, which were being opened cautiously in light of the anthrax scare.
"Last week, I asked America's children to send a dollar to the White House to help provide food and medicine to the children of Afghanistan," Mr. Bush said. "Today, I'm pleased to report that in just a few short days, children all across our country have responded with remarkable generosity and deep compassion."
The president first asked for the donations during a press conference Thursday evening. By Monday afternoon, the White House had received 8,000 letters. Within the next 24 hours, another 82,000 poured in.
The avalanche of mail coincided with the arrival of anthrax-contaminated letters at media outlets and the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. That prompted the White House, which already employed strict mail-handling procedures, to redouble its caution.
"Security is beefed up even more," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "That includes the mail that the White House receives. So there have been a series of precautions put in place that put the White House in a different spot, a more protective spot."
Mr. Bush said the outpouring of letters from children sent a powerful political message.
"One way to fight evil is to fight it with kindness and love and compassion," Mr. Bush said. "It points up how ugly and repressive the Taliban government is of Afghanistan.
"And the message stands in stark contrast to the message of hate that our boys and girls have seen on TV," he added. "There's evil in the world, but we can overcome evil. We're good. We're good-hearted people."
The president reminded children "how fortunate we all are to live in America." He said the children of Afghanistan "need warm clothing. And they need food, and they need medicines."
At the White House, a reporter asked Mr. Fleischer how Mr. Bush can "ask for children to send money for the Afghanistan children when many children of the victims at the World Trade Center still have not received funding."
"To compare the plight of the children of Afghanistan to people who are blessed to live in this country, even those whose lives have been affected by the attack on our country, really is not equal," Mr. Fleischer replied.
"The children of Afghanistan have no food or they have barely any food it's been taken away from them by the Taliban," he said. "The children of Afghanistan don't have access to medicine. They often don't have access to blankets and to clothing."
Mr. Fleischer acknowledged many Americans "have suffered a tragedy in human terms and in family terms that has touched everybody in this country. But you can't compare the resources available to help those families to the resources available to help the children of Afghanistan."
Mr. Bush was scheduled to leave the White House this morning for his longest journey since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He planned to travel to Sacramento, Calif., and then proceed to Shanghai for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, despite the security concerns of some in his administration.
"The president has absolute faith in the Secret Service to secure his safety," Mr. Fleischer said. "Presidents before have traveled to places that were dangerous, and Shanghai certainly does not fit that description."

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