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Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Bush seeks to reassure Americans about security

President addresses nation in first prime-time news conference

October 11, 2001

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— President Bush said Thursday night that after a five-day aerial bombardment aimed at the al-Qaida network, "we've got them on the run." He said he doesn't know whether Osama bin Laden "is dead or alive. I want him brought to justice."

At a prime-time news conference at the White House, Bush said the war on terrorism "may take a year or two, but we will prevail."

President Bush answers questions from reporters as he holds a news
conference in the East Room of the White House Thursday, Oct. 11,
2001 in Washington.

President Bush answers questions from reporters as he holds a news conference in the East Room of the White House Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001 in Washington.

The president said that an FBI warning issued earlier in the day was the result of a "general threat" of possible future terrorist acts the government had received. "I hope it's the last, but given the attitude of the evildoers it may not be," he added.

At the same time, Bush sought to reassure Americans the government was doing all it could to make them safe. "If we receive specific intelligence that targets a specific building or city or facility I can assure you our government will do everything possible to protect the citizens," he said.

Bush also said that Syria, a nation often linked with terrorist groups, had expressed a desire to help with the anti-terror coalition, "and we'll give them an opportunity to do so." He did not give specifics on the type of assistance Syria offered, but said he takes it seriously.

"If you want to join the coalition against terror, we will welcome you," Bush said.

Bush suggested that once the U.S. military involvement is complete, and the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan routed, that the United Nations become involved in creating a stable new government.

Asked whether he was calling for sacrifice from Americans as part of the war against terrorism, Bush said, "I think there's a certain sacrifice when you lose a piece of your soul." He said he had seen tears in the eyes of some of the people attending a ceremony of remembrance earlier in the day at the Pentagon.

Bush spoke at the first prime-time news conference of his presidency, but more importantly, one month to the day after terrorist attacks in New York and Washington murdered thousands, damaged the nation's economy and shattered its complacency.

In the month since, the president has labored to construct a foundation for an international war on terrorism, moving to choke off the funding essential for terrorists to carry out their strikes, lining up support from other nations, creating a new Office of Homeland Security and _ beginning on Sunday _ unleashing the nation's military.

The news conference capped a national day of remembrance. There were memorial services around the nation to remember the more than 5,000 people killed when suicide hijackers seized four commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside.

The president attended one ceremony, at the Pentagon, where he said the hijackers had "died in vain." He said their co-conspirators in terrorism "will be isolated, surrounded, cornered until there is no place to run or hide or rest."

The nation bore signs of recovery, the stock markets regaining much of the ground they lost, the postseason major league baseball playoffs under way. And yet reminders of the loss and continuing threat were everywhere.

At the World Trade Center, fires still smoldered. Vice President Dick Cheney was removed to an undisclosed secure location, returning to the White House only on Thursday. And the FBI issued the latest in a string of cautions that Americans should be on alert for more attacks.

Asked about whether he envisioned expanding military action beyond Afghanistan to Iraq and Syria, Bush said that the United States would "bring to justice" nations that harbor terrorists. In particular, he called Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an "evil man" and added, "we're watching him very carefully."

While the current focus is on Afghanistan, he said "we're looking for al-Qaida cells around the world" _ and if the United States find any, it will pursue them.

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