A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 9 2001 6:49 AM

W Is for War



The Washington Postand USA Todaylead with and the  New York Times and Los Angeles Timestop-front President Bush's state-of-the-anti-terrorism-effort speech last night before firefighters, police officers, and postal workers in Atlanta. Bush urged Americans to be "resolute" (USAT headline) in the war against terrorism and to "help in fighting terror" (WP headline) by accepting "new responsibilities" (NYT headline) such as volunteering and striving to be alert but not anxious. The speech is also atop the Wall Street Journal's worldwide news box. The NYT leads with the first Pentagon briefing by the American commander of combat operations in Afghanistan who hinted that larger deployments of U.S. troops may well come since Afghan rebel militias need the help. The LAT lead reports that the Justice Department plans to reorganize to make counterterrorism its top priority, perhaps shortchanging pre-Sept. 11 priorities such as drug enforcement, organized crime, and antitrust investigations.


The papers report that Bush's "pep talk" (NYT, LAT) was mostly about helping Americans prepare to live with the constant threat of, in the NYT's words, "catastrophic terrorism." Bush offered some specifics on just how the U.S. government plans to help Americans do that: First, Bush would like to see a volunteer civil defense service, hopefully 20,000 strong, which would back up fire, police, and public health officials in emergencies. Second, Bush has created a task force that within 40 days will come up with ideas for how American citizens can prepare for terrorism. The president also repeated requests he's made before: that Congress get him legislation on airport security and an economic stimulus quickly. On airport security, the papers report that Bush is expected to expand the presence of National Guard troops at airports during the holidays. The White House had marketed the speech as one that would inform Americans about homeland defense but, the WP notes, the president also used his remarks to renew his pledge to destroy al-Qaida.

The papers report the White House hoped the speech would demonstrate coherence, if not progress, in the government's plan to defend the home front to a public dismayed by vague warnings on terrorist threats and mixed messages on anthrax. The NYT lead editorial thought the speech was OK but was underwhelmed by the administration's plan to convey confidence to the American people: "Americans would have more reason to be sanguine if there were more of an aggressive effort to bring coherence to the management of homeland issues and not just to the discussion of them."

Last night's prime time speech didn't receive the welcome that Bush's Sept. 20 speech, in which he announced that the U.S. would defeat terrorism, did. The papers report that NBC thought Phoebe, Ross and Rachel were more appealing than George, and other networks, swept up in November sweeps, didn't broadcast the speech either. In addition, the speech didn't make many editorial pages.

Everybody reports Bush's closing remark, borrowed from the last words of a United Flight 93 passenger: "We have our marching orders. My fellow Americans: Let's roll."

The NYT lead reports that Gen. Tommy R. Franks' announcement that more U.S. troops might be on the way to Afghanistan came at the same time that, in Franks' words, there was "a big fight" going on between Northern Alliance and Taliban forces near the city of Mazar-i Sharif, which, if captured by rebels, would give the U.S. a land bridge to its forces stationed in Uzbekistan. The Northern Alliance claimed to be moving closer to the city, but the NYT points out they've made that claim for three days now, and the Pentagon hasn't confirmed this. A WP fronter is optimistic, reporting that the Northern Alliance now holds important towns south of Mazar-i Sharif.

The WP takes a below-the-fold look at Gen. Franks, who, the paper reports, is being unfavorably compared to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf of the Persian Gulf War. One major criticism of Franks is that his war effort is too timid. A LAT front-page report on rebel gains near Mazar-i Sharif has Franks' response to such criticism: "It is only those who believe that all of this should be done in two weeks' time or in one month or perhaps two months who are disappointed."

The LAT lead reports that 10 percent of the staff of Justice Department headquarters will now be assigned to field offices around the country, and funding will be transferred to counterterrorism from nonessential operations. In announcing the changes, Attorney General John Ashcroft emphasized that federal law enforcement will no longer focus on past crimes so much as it will try to prevent future terrorist attacks. Justice will also, report the LAT lead and the WP front, now allow itself to listen to conversations between lawyers and their clients in federal custody if the attorney general has a reasonable suspicion that such conversations are being used to develop terrorist attack plans. The LAT says the new rule would apply to about 100 people currently in custody who are believed to be a threat to national security.