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Sketching in the outline of an aggressive new American foreign policy, the Bush administration and senior officials cast aside diplomatic language, promising the response to Tuesday’s attacks in New York and Washington would be a “campaign,” not a single action, that might last a year or more. Such a campaign could involve U.S. forces in protracted fighting against a number of Asian and African countries, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and even nuclear-armored Pakistan, which occupies a vital, strategic position south of Afghanistan, where the Islamic militant Osama bin Laden is believed to be based. Other top officers at the battered Pentagon made it clear that “ending states who sponsor terrorism meant wiping out governments that refuse to cooperate.” Secretary of State Colin Powell used language similar to the warlike phrases he employed in 1991, when he said of Saddam Hussein’s army in Kuwait, “First we’re going to cut it off, then we’re going to kill it.” By equating acts of terrorism and even the harboring of terrorists with acts of war, the administration is going well beyond traditional international practice. In this new kind of war, it is saying, there are no neutral states and no clear geographical confines.
The administration has asked Congress for an immediate $20 billion to begin building the military and intelligence force required to start the military campaign. Congress is moving swiftly to approve the funds, although some lawmakers, citing the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and other earlier blank checks written to presidents to conduct undeclared wars, expressed uneasiness about Congress’s so quickly ceding its constitutional powers to declare war and control the national treasury. The planning and the language used by administration officials was read by military analysts as a sign that Secretary Powell, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is preparing the way for a military force that could ultimately be used to occupy Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, and overthrow the ruling Taliban. The Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, while the United States fought a proxy war using mujahideen rebels against the Soviet troops, who began to withdraw in 1988.
The Bush administration yesterday singled out Osama bin Laden, who operates, it is believed, from Afghanistan, as a prime suspect in Tuesday’s catastrophic terror attacks and vowed a comprehensive military campaign to demolish terrorist networks and topple regimes that harbor them. Late yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recommended calling up 50,000 members of the Reserve, initially to help support the combat air patrols flying over major U.S. cities and possible military action. Congress, despite some misgivings from lawmakers over granting President Bush open-ended authority, moved to give the administration $40 billion to wage its initiative.
Hoping to prevent future attacks, House and Senate lawmakers expressed broad support yesterday for funneling more money into intelligence operations, beefing up spy networks, and creating one agency to handle “terrorism.” The nation spends an estimated $10 billion a year to fight terrorism, a sum that many lawmakers from both parties called inadequate, and that is likely to be increased this session.
People of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, or even those who appear to be, are increasingly becoming the targets of harassment and violence by civilians and of intense scrutiny by police officers under pressure to track down suspects in the attacks. From Texas to Chicago to Long Island, there have been reports of arson, personal attacks and the police stopping men in Middle Eastern-style head coverings. The incidents are increasing despite many interfaith prayer services and calls from President Bush and other officials for the public not to single out anyone because of religion, race or ethnic origin. In Denton, Texas, the police are investigating a firebomb attack that damaged the Islamic Society of Denton’s mosque early yesterday. In suburban Cleveland, Sukhwant Singh, a Sikh priest who lives at the Guru Gobind Sikh Temple, awakened early yesterday to find bottles filled with gasoline hurled in the temple’s windows and flames pouring out. No arrests have been made. In Louisiana, schools in Jefferson Parish were closed on Wednesday after officials reported students of Middle Eastern origin were being taunted and harassed. In Jackson, Mississippi, a group of people went into the local bank and demanded that the tellers who were of Middle Eastern origin be fired.
As rescue workers continued to search yesterday for survivors in the smoking wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, representatives of American Airlines and United Airlines began lobbying Congress to restrict lawsuits seeking compensation. In written and oral presentations to the Senate and House Commerce Committees, representatives of the airlines asked for legislation that would limit their financial responsibility to only the passengers and crew of the three planes that crashed in New York and Washington and an aircraft that plowed into a field in Pennsylvania.
A drumbeat for war has begun to permeate the blanket TV news coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Mixed among the sober reports on heroic rescue efforts, heartbreaking personal loss and the fast-moving FBI investigation, a range of tough voices, including those of the President, members of Congress, military experts and television commentators, have discussed options for retaliation, from possible assassinations to full military engagement. Polls of the U.S. public since the attacks showed an overwhelming majority ready to go to war. Among every network’s guest commentators were hawks, many of their comments spurred by the questions of their hosts. Producers said there was nothing wrong with presenting talk of war and polling American views on war so soon after the attacks and that television is not pushing the bounds of its mandate to be unbiased. Producers said they were simply presenting the evolution of the national psyche and the decision-making process in Washington.