|San Diego Union-Tribune
October 12, 2001
War going as planned, Bush says
Taliban is offered 'second chance' to give up bin Laden
By GEORGE E. CONDON JR.
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- President Bush warned Americans last night that "it may
take a year or two" to root out Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, but he
assured them that the opening rounds of the war on terrorism are going
"according to plan."
On the one-month anniversary of the attacks on the United States, the
president issued what he called a "report to the American people on the state
of our war against terror."
"One month after great suffering and sorrow, America is strong and
determined and generous," Bush said in his first prime-time news conference.
After five days of military operations, Bush said, "we have ruined terrorist
training camps, disrupted their communications, weakened the Taliban military and destroyed most of their air defenses."
In short, he said of the terrorists hiding inside Afghanistan, "we've got them on
In his "report," the president:
Offered the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan a "second chance" to turn over
bin Laden and be spared further punishment of the sort they have absorbed
since the first allied missiles and bombs rained down on the country Sunday
Said he does not know if bin Laden is dead or alive.
Acknowledged that Vice President Dick Cheney is keeping out of sight for
security reasons, but somewhat lightheartedly disclosed that Cheney had
slipped into the Oval Office yesterday and is "looking swell."
Urged Americans to report anything suspicious but also to be confident that
the government is being vigilant, as indicated by the warning of possible
attacks issued earlier in the day by the FBI.
Said the Sept. 11 attacks strengthen the case for strategic missile defense,
even if that means abrogating arms-control treaties like the Anti-Ballistic
The question about the treaty, along with one about Middle East peace, were
the only two of 14 queries not directly about the war on terrorism. Bush took
pains to both counsel patience and herald what he called a "great deal" of
progress so far in the monthlong campaign.
To make that point, Bush used what was once a staple of presidential
discourse, the prime-time news conference. But such events have fallen out of favor in recent years as the networks expressed reluctance to break into
programming to cover them. The last evening news conference was held by
President Clinton on April 20, 1995.
But with bombs falling in Afghanistan and rubble still being sifted in New York
City, the president this time had the attention of the nation. He cited the
warning issued earlier in the day by the FBI as proof that "your government is
doing everything we can to recover from these attacks and to try to prevent
What Bush called "a blanket alert" was triggered by a "general threat" against
the country picked up by intelligence agencies. He expressed hope that it may be the last such alert, adding, "But given the attitude of the evildoers, it may
Bush asked Americans to assist the government by reporting anything unusual
"If they see something that is suspicious, something out of the norm . . . they
ought to notify local law authorities," he said, quickly adding that people
should not use such situations to vent prejudice.
"People need to be logical," he said. " . . . I want to urge my fellow Americans
not to use this as an opportunity to pick on somebody that doesn't look like
you or doesn't share your religion."
Bush gave an upbeat report on the progress made on the various fronts of the
anti-terrorism campaign -- diplomatic, military, legal and financial.
"We're mounting a sustained campaign to drive the terrorists out of their
hidden caves and to bring them to justice," he said. "All missions are being
executed according to plan on the military front. All is strong and united on the
He also brought up the question of how long the military campaign might take.
"This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaeda to
justice," Bush said. "It may happen tomorrow. It may happen a month from
now. It may take a year or two. But we will prevail."
Reminded by a reporter that he had said bin Laden was "wanted -- dead or
alive," the president chose not to focus solely on the man believed to have
masterminded the hijackings that claimed more than 5,000 lives.
"I don't know if he's dead or alive. I want him brought to justice, however,"
"We'll get him running. We'll smoke him out of his cave, and we'll get him
But Bush urged Americans to focus on the bigger picture of taking on
"Success or failure depends not on bin Laden. Success or failure depends
upon routing out terrorism where it may exist all around the world," he said.
"He's just one person, a part of a network, and we're slowly but surely, with
determined fashion, routing that network out and bringing it to justice."
The president said the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan had been warned that to "avoid punishment they should turn over the parasites that hide in their
country. They obviously refuse to do so, and now they're paying a price."
Bush said the offer still stands.
"If you cough him up and his people today . . . we'll reconsider what we're
doing to your country," he said. "You still have a second chance. Just bring
him in -- and bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals
At the same time, the president indicated he does not intend to let the Taliban
regime reclaim the government. Instead, he called on the United Nations to
build a new government.
He was cautious in speaking about widening the war to other countries
suspected of supporting terrorists, suggesting that he will always give a
government the chance to cooperate.
Asked about Iraq, he called President Saddam Hussein "an evil man."
"And so, we're watching him very carefully," Bush said about the man his
father, former President Bush, defeated in a war a decade ago.
Asked about Cheney, the president said he takes seriously the possibility that
the vice president may be called on to keep the government running. But then
he joked about the second in command.
"I shook hands with the vice president today in the Oval Office, welcomed
him out of his secure location. . . . I was pleased to see him. He's looking
On other matters, Bush said he was "amazed" at the hatred of America in
parts of the world. He then concluded his news conference with an appeal "to the children of America."
Evoking visions of starving and suffering children in Afghanistan, he urged
children across the United States to wash cars, mow lawns or hold bake sales so each can contribute $1 to a special White House relief fund to alleviate that
suffering 7,000 miles away.