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U.S.: Bush Asks World To Back Campaign Against Terror

  • Andrew Tully

As America prepares to root out international terrorism, U.S. President George W. Bush sought last night to prepare his fellow citizens -- and the world -- for a long and difficult campaign. He delivered a formal address before both houses of Congress on the challenges facing his country -- as well as the fate that he says faces terrorists and those who help them.

Washington, 21 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush is challenging the other countries of the world to decide where they stand: With Americans or with international terrorists.

Speaking last night before a joint session of Congress, Bush singled out Saudi exile Osama bin Laden as the likely mastermind of last week's acts of terror against New York and Washington that are believed to have killed more than 6,500 people.

Equally responsible, he said, is the Muslim fundamentalist Taliban militia, which controls most of Afghanistan, where bin Laden has been hiding. But he emphasized that Americans do not believe all Muslims are guilty.

Bush also tried to prepare Americans for a long campaign, and warned that there would be more casualties among the troops sent to root out international terrorism.

The president declared that bin Laden is not his only target. He said civilized nations can no longer abide nations that harbor terrorism.

"We will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

He said these states will share the same fate as bin Laden. And he warned the Taliban that American demands for bin Laden's surrender are not, as he put it, "open to negotiation or discussion."

But even though the Taliban and bin Laden share a devotion to a form of Islam, Bush said Americans do not see all Muslims as their enemies.

"I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful. And those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah."

Bush put the world on notice that Americans are determined to pursue terrorism relentlessly, and that they will be successful. He said the shock at last week's attacks has turned to grief, then to anger, and finally a resolve that will not lose its focus.

"Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us. Our nation, this generation, will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future."

Finally, Bush told the American people that he knows they will find the strength to endure a long struggle against terrorism. He said they should not expect a quick and spectacular series of air strikes -- like those during the Kosovo campaign -- with quick and spectacular results.

The enemy that the U.S. is now pursuing is shadowy, he said, and it does not fight in formation. The president said rooting out terrorists will be time-consuming. But he vowed results -- in time.

Bush said he bases his confidence on the support of Britain, and said that the U.S. has "no truer friend than Great Britain." He indicated British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in the Capitol to hear the address.

At the White House, less than an hour before Bush spoke, Blair pledged his country's unconditional support of the campaign against terrorism. He recalled that Americans stood by Britain during the German attacks, known as the Blitz, in World War II.

"My father's generation went through the experience of the second world war when Britain was under attack during the days of the Blitz. And there was one nation and one people that, above all, stood side by side with us at that time. And that nation was America, and those people were the American people. And I say to you, 'We stand side by side with you now, without hesitation.'"

Security was tight at the Capitol, and several leaders who are in the line of succession to the president were not present in the event of a new terrorist attack. Vice President Dick Cheney -- the first in succession -- was absent.

Customarily, any major presidential address is followed by a response from a member of the opposing party. Bush is a member of the Republican Party. Democrats did not offer a response last night, however. House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri) said his party wants to show the world that "America speaks with one voice."

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