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U.S.: Home Front United Against Terrorism

If one key objective of the 11 September attack on the U.S. was to undermine American resolve, the assault was clearly a failure, according to U.S. President George W. Bush. Millions of Americans are coming together on the home front in the war against international terrorism, he says.

Washington, 19 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush says the war against international terrorism already has begun with millions of Americans pulling together to provide a united home front.

Bush, speaking at the White House yesterday, paid tribute to rescue workers, firefighters, police, local leaders and ordinary citizens at the demolished World Trade Center in New York and the damaged Defense Department headquarters in Washington.

More than 5,000 people are feared dead as a result of the 11 September terrorist attack, the worst in U.S. history.

Bush said ordinary Americans are spearheading recovery efforts.

"Our compassion and generous citizens have led the first phase in the war on terrorism. They have sustained and strengthened the home front." The U.S. Congress has appropriated $40 billion for recovery efforts and to fund the campaign against terrorism. The U.S. has identified Saudi-born millionaire Osama bin Laden as the chief suspect in masterminding the attacks. Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

In his remarks, Bush sought to bolster America's spirit. Bush said:

"Last week America suffered greatly. Thousands of our citizens lost lives. Thousands were hurt. But thousands of our citizens rose to the occasion to help. Last week was a really horrible week for America. But out of our tears and sadness, we saw the best of America as well. We saw a great country rise up to help."

The president urged Americans to donate to charities providing relief. In fact, Americans already have donated tens of millions of dollars to help the victims and rescue workers. The donations ranged from thousands of dollars from corporations to a few dollars by individuals. One small company in the southern state of Virginia raised $600 for the American Red Cross by selling lemonade.

Bush said the spirit of America will not be broken.

"Nobody can threaten this country. Oh, they may be able to bomb a building, and obviously disrupt lives. But we're too great a nation to allow the evil-doers to affect our soul and our spirit."

As sirens blared in the background, Bush led a moment of silence at the White House to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attack that occurred exactly a week ago yesterday. Many Americans observed similar moments of silence around the nation.

Thousands of federal agents continued their investigation. A number of potential material witnesses have been detained. Attorney General John Ashcroft, America's top law enforcement official, said investigators cannot exclude the possibility that more than four airplanes -- two involving the New York attack, one in Washington, and a fourth that crashed in Pennsylvania -- had been targeted by hijackers.

"We are unable to confirm that there are additional planes, but we have not ruled that out."

The White House also has begun broadening its attention from the immediate aftermath of the attack to long-term consequences.

U.S. officials said this included work on an economic stimulus package if needed to combat a recession many analysts say may now follow. A financial aid package was under consideration to help the airline industry, which was particularly hard hit by recent events.

Preparations also continued for a possible military strike. One such potential target was said to be Afghanistan.

At the Pentagon, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday that America will not be forced to retreat from its obligations.

"[They] try to force the United States of America and our values to withdraw from the world or to respond by curtailing our freedoms. If we do that, the terrorists will have won, and we have no intention of doing so."

Rumsfeld said the U.S. has a clear choice -- either to change its way of life, which he said is unacceptable, or to change the way that terrorists live. He said the U.S. has chosen the latter.