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Copyright 2001 The Chronicle Publishing Co.  
The San Francisco Chronicle



LENGTH: 764 words


Bush promises to conquer a new kind of enemy;

President sees battle between 'good and evil'

SOURCE: Washington Bureau Chief

BYLINE: Marc Sandalow

DATELINE: Washington

President Bush, denouncing the terrorist assaults as "acts of war," yesterday pledged a prolonged and all-out battle against the forces behind Tuesday's attacks on New York and Washington.

"This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil," Bush said after a meeting with his national security team. "But good will prevail."

Preparing the nation and the world for a yet-to-be-defined U.S. response, Bush said "the American people need to know that we're facing a different enemy than we have ever faced." "This is an enemy that preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover. But it won't be able to run for cover forever," Bush said.

"We will rally the world," Bush declared. "This enemy attacked not just our people, but all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world."

Administration officials said that evidence pointed toward associates of Islamic extremist Osama bin Laden. The White House refused to discuss what, if any, plans were being made to retaliate. However Bush, thrust into a crisis that will almost certainly define his presidency, made it plain that the response will be overwhelming.

"This enemy attacked not just our people, but all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world," Bush said. "The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy."

The increasing words of hostility -- as close as an American president has come to asking for a declaration of war since Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 -- came as administration officials said they had credible information that the targets of Tuesday's attacks included the White House and Air Force One.

White House officials said the plane that crashed into the Pentagon appeared originally to be headed directly toward the White House before making a sudden turn, crashing into the Defense Department headquarters less than two miles away.

The information was put forward as Bush faced criticism over his decision not to return to Washington immediately upon learning of the plane crash into the World Trade Center. Bush was in Florida to promote his education plan at the time.

After cutting his Florida stop short, Bush returned to Air Force One, which then zigzagged -- first traveling east, then north, and finally west before landing at an air base in Louisiana.

On television, Bush was compared unfavorably to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who visited the rubble in Lower Manhattan while the fires were still burning, and even President Kennedy, who remained in Washington even when the city was under nuclear alert during the 1963 Cuban missile crisis.

Aides said yesterday that Bush wanted to return to Washington, but his security forces told him it would be unwise in light of "real and credible" information that the president himself was a target of the attacks.

The president was told, "it would be wise and in the interest of the country for Air Force One not to return to the location that would have been predictable," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Bush returned to Washington, accompanied by three jet fighters, moments before the sun set Tuesday evening. Yesterday, he talked to world leaders, met with his national security team and visited rescue workers at the Pentagon.

"Coming here makes me sad, on the one hand; it also makes me angry," Bush told workers standing before a gaping hole in the enormous defense building.

Earlier in the day, Bush invited cameras into his Cabinet room after a meeting with his national security staff, where he made a brief public statement.

"The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war," Bush said.

After meeting with congressional leaders from both parties, the White House said Bush would ask Congress for billions of dollars in immediate emergency funds to help New York and Washington rebuild from Tuesday's violence and prevent future attacks.

The president initially planned to send the request to Congress yesterday, but leaders of both parties balked at a White House plan to seek a virtual blank check for taking whatever actions the president considered necessary.

"I didn't come here to have written on my tombstone that any president could, if he wanted, put eight divisions into Afghanistan or go to war with the entire Arab world . . . without consulting with any other human being in government," said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.E-mail Marc Sandalow at msandalow@sfchronicle.com.

GRAPHIC: PHOTO (2), (1) FBI investigators searched the roads and grassy areas near the Pentagon for any evidence related to the hijacked jet that slammed into the Pentagon on Tuesday., (2) President Bush, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thanked rescue workers for their efforts as they examined the damaged Pentagon. / Associated Press

LOAD-DATE: September 13, 2001