Washington — "I know many Americans feel fear today," President Bush said Sunday. Truer words were never spoken.
The military campaign now under way exposes Americans to retaliation from the same shadowy forces who engineered the Sept. 11 suicide attacks that killed more than 5,000.
"People are scared," said Charles O. Jones, a presidential historian from Wisconsin. "Never before, at least not since we killed each other in the Civil War, have we had to face the possibility that military engagement will lead directly to domestic casualties."
Those days are over.
As of last week, the Justice Department had analyzed 240 new threats that it deemed serious and credible. In response, the government arrested or detained more than 500 people, many of them being held on immigration violations to keep them off the streets.
The terrorists could revert to form, and strike Americans overseas. The State Department issued a worldwide alert Sunday, warning of the possibility of "strong anti-American sentiment and retaliatory actions against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world."
In closed-door sessions with lawmakers last week, government officials said terrorists were virtually certain to try to strike back. Chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons are feared to be within reach of some terrorist groups.
Chilling words of warning were heard Sunday from Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of attacks on Washington and New York.
"There is America, hit by God in one of its softest spots. Its greatest buildings were destroyed, thank God for that. There is America, full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that," bin Laden said in a video shown Sunday on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic satellite station.
"I swear by God ... neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before we live it in Palestine, and not before all the infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad," bin Laden said.
White House officials dismissed the videotape, saying it clearly was made before the U.S. retaliation.
Bush pledged Americans won't bow to the likes of bin Laden, even in the face of great danger. "There can be no peace in a world of sudden terror," the president told the nation Sunday. "In the face of today's new threat, the only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it." He asked for patience "in all the sacrifices that may come."
Phil Coyle, senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank, said bin Laden or other terrorists are likely to strike again at symbols of American might, or perhaps trains or utilities. All are just the kind of "soft spots" that bin Laden spoke of with derision.
"What happened on Sept. 11 was our own enterprise, our own commerce, our own technologies were turned against us," Coyle said. "These were our aircraft , our office buildings which represent our success and they were turned into weapons against us."
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Americans need to "prepare for casualties in this war." For more than a century, those casualties have involved soldiers abroad not innocent civilians on U.S. soil.