The Los Angeles Times lead is that Pakistan has told the leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement to surrender Osama Bin Laden within three days or face “massive military action” from a U.S.-led international coalition. The paper reports that today the head of Pakistan intelligence will deliver the same message in person to the Taliban’s leader. The LAT says Pakistan expects a quick response because of the sense that the military operation could begin “very rapidly.” The Washington Post lead also has the Pakistani demarche but goes higher with chat show comments by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld warning of the possibility of more terror against U.S. targets. USA Today leads with its fresh poll that indicates Americans “overwhelmingly support retaliation” against those behind last week’s attacks “even if it means a lengthy war that would cost American lives and lead to an economic recession, higher taxes and further attacks on the [U.S.]”; 65 percent of respondents say they would support military action even if 1,000 U.S. troops are killed and 66 percent say they would even if the campaign lasted several years. The top story in the Wall Street Journal front-page worldwide news box is another poll suggesting much support for President Bush’s handling of the crisis, but the Journal also reminds that such support can be ephemeral, as was illustrated by the post-crisis re-election misfortunes of a number of previous presidents, including the first President Bush. The New York Times leads with the “informal coalition” of government and business leaders making efforts to keep the U.S. stock market stable when it reopens today. Prominent among them is Warren Buffett, who is quoted as having said in a TV interview last night that he won’t be selling anything at the open and that if prices go low enough, “there’s some things I might buy.” The paper also reports that a Manhattan minister used his sermon yesterday to tell his congregants to buy some stock today. The papers all report the release yesterday of a statement attributed to Bin Laden that denied responsibility for the hijack attacks.
The LAT lead explains that Pakistan’s pressure on the Taliban regarding Bin Laden comes even though Pakistan is widely believed to have provided them with arms, fuel, and financial support because: 1) Pakistan believes the U.S. has already decided to attack Afghanistan to get Bin Laden, and 2) helping the U.S. achieve its goals now presents Pakistan with enormous opportunities because the U.S. has informed Pakistani officials that whatever had happened in the past between the two countries is no longer relevant, and that instead all that matters is what Pakistan does now. The paper reports that Pakistan is hoping to gain in return a U.S. lifting of sanctions, economic aid, and a more active U.S. role in helping Pakistan resolve its Kashmir dispute with India.
The WP goes inside to report that late last week, the Pentagon issued a “warning order” to some elite U.S. Army infantry units to prepare for a possible imminent combat mission. The paper says the Army has been informed that most of the missions being contemplated “could require ground combat forces.” The story adds that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which has been sailing in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf, has stopped showing its location on its Web page and has also shut off outgoing e-mail. The USAT front “cover story” says that according to experts, an option involving elite ground forces is “among the most likely.” But the story says those experts also think such an operation is more likely to “come later rather than sooner.”
There is also much in the papers today about momentum building within and without the Bush administration for reconsideration of current rules preventing U.S. agents from carrying out assassinations, preventing ready use of wiretaps in terrorism investigations, and preventing the U.S. from employing as intelligence agents persons who’ve committed human rights violations.
The LAT lead and a NYT fronter both make an effort to puzzle out the consequences of the new hard-line Bush administration stance on harboring terrorists for countries besides Afghanistan. The NYT sees the new stance as probably only meaning no more than “limited military pressure” on the likes of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan. But the LAT says that on Sunday Bush administration officials “began to hint vaguely Sunday at the possibility of military action against some of those other countries.”
The papers give much coverage to revelations Sunday by President Bush and Dick Cheney that last Tuesday, Bush had authorized U.S. fighter pilots to shoot down airliners that didn’t follow radioed instructions to turn away from targets. But the sheets seem diverted by this dramatic news from pressing on the shocking point that despite having air defense fighter aircraft (which can fly twice as fast as the airliners were flying) stationed at bases along the East Coast, the U.S. wasn’t able to intercept any of the four hijacked planes. Note to editors: How about a story pinpointing exactly when and exactly what the FAA told the Air Force about the hijacked planes? And what about one describing the numbers and locations of and annual budget for these fighters that utterly failed to protect U.S. airspace?
The USAT “Money” front reports that it’s not just passengers who are now much more hesitant to fly–so are some flight attendants. On Friday, says the paper, a dozen American Airlines flight attendants left the Dallas/Fort Worth airport after deciding security wasn’t stringent enough, and since Tuesday, about 300 of Northwest’s 11,500 flight attendants have applied for unpaid leave.