Everybody leads with President Bush’s speech last night to a joint session of Congress, in which he committed the U.S. to “defeat the global terror network.” This is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page worldwide news box. Bush issued a number of specific demands to the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, which is harboring Osama Bin Laden, whom Bush once again implicated in last week’s terror: 1) Immediately turn over to the U.S. Bin Laden and all the other leaders of his terrorist organization Al Qaeda who reside in Afghanistan. 2) Shut down all terrorist camps and give the U.S. full access to them to confirm that this has indeed been done. 3) Release the foreign nationals, including two Americans, currently imprisoned in Afghanistan on charges of proselytizing for Christianity. Bush stated that these demands are non-negotiable. “The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists,” Bush said, “or they will share their fate.” The coverage points out that yesterday Afghanistan’s leading clerics for the first time announced that Bin Laden should be persuaded to leave the country. The White House quickly rejected this as falling far short of its requirements.
The papers note that while not getting into details, President Bush made it clear the upcoming anti-terror campaign will include overt and covert military actions, executed over some period of time, not stopping until “every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.” The Washington Post sees the “global reach” qualifier as carefully crafted to maximize international support for the upcoming U.S.-led campaign, by, for instance, alleviating concerns among Arab states that the U.S. was proposing war on Palestinian liberation groups. The Post also notes that Bush compared Bin Laden’s network to fascism, Nazism, and totalitarianism, but not to communism, an omission the paper sees as “an unmistakable nod to China,” a country whose support Bush would like to have.
The New York Times sees “global reach” as meaning that such countries as Iraq, Iran, and Syria could also be on the receiving end of the new U.S. anti-terror efforts. The Los Angeles Times says those countries have been offered an “amnesty” if they join the U.S. campaign. The WSJ says that some Arab leaders are expressing concerns about what other terrorist groups could be targeted if the focus turns away from Bin Laden.
The WSJ reports that late Wednesday a top CIA official briefed a select group of members of Congress on the administration’s anti-terror plans, which the paper says will include “an aggressive set of covert operations, some inside Afghanistan.” The paper also says that besides the elite Army commando forces that started moving out to the Middle East yesterday, larger deployments of support forces will follow in the weeks ahead.
Everybody notes the extraordinary protective measures in force for the president’s speech, which included jet fighters on patrol above the Capitol, and Dick Cheney absent from the vice president’s traditional chair directly behind the president because, for security reasons, he had been taken to a separate undisclosed location.
The editorial pages like the president’s speech very much, as did most members of Congress. The biggest negative review found among politicians comes with the LAT’s report that a mostly impressed Barney Frank didn’t care for Bush’s declaration that in the struggle against terror “God is not neutral,” because according to Frank, “We’re suffering from too many people invoking God on their side.”
USA Today’s Jack Kelley has this comment from the Taliban’s deputy leader: “We don’t want a confrontation with the U.S. We never asked for this. … But if President Bush wants war, then we will give it to him.”
USAT’s front reports the FBI has concluded that the hijackers, aided by co-conspirators still alive today, practiced their attacks “for months” by repeatedly riding the flights they later commandeered, counting passenger loads, and testing airline security.
The LAT reports that both CIA and FBI officials have denied the paper’s Thursday story saying that before the hijacks, Israel’s intelligence service had warned them that hundreds of Islamic militants were slipping into the U.S. The paper reports today that the unidentified law enforcement official who was the story’s source now says his information came from a report citing a British newspaper story, and was not further confirmed. The paper runs this inside, even though the original story ran on the front page.
The NYT fronts word that law enforcement officials in New York say shops below the World Trade Center were looted last week, and police are investigating whether the thieves were police officers, firefighters, National Guard troops, or some other sort of rescue worker.
The WP reports that when a civilian Pentagon worker who ran the coffee and bottled water mess in her department called her supplier to report that its equipment could no longer be used because it was in the part of the Pentagon that was crashed into last week, she was told–by two different company employees, one a supervisor–that she would be held financially responsible for the loss. The company, Aqua Cool of Lorton, Va., later changed its mind about this, apparently out of embarrassment. That’s Aqua Cool of Lorton, Va.
Both the NYT’s Tom Friedman and the WP’s Charles Krauthammer point out a fact that’s rather inconvenient for Muslims who vilify America: Most of the people whose lives were saved by the last three U.S. military campaigns–Desert Storm, Bosnia, and Kosovo–were Muslims.