President George Bush put aside mourning yesterday and declared total war against the terrorists who devastated New York and Washington last week, vowing to "smoke them out and get them" wherever they were.
Singling out the Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden as a prime suspect, Mr Bush stated flatly: "We are at war." For America's men and women in uniform, he had a simple message: "Get ready."
Pakistan pledged its support last night for the international campaign against Mr bin Laden and his protectors, the Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan. Despite pressure from radical Islamists at home and threats from the Taliban of a "holy war" against any neighbours who work with the US, President Pervez Musharraf's government is expected to close its border with Afghanistan and give American and allied warplanes overflying and landing rights. A ground force is far more problematic, but Pakistan may agree to allow one on its soil, so long as it can be presented as multinational.
The work of building a worldwide alliance against terrorism and its sponsors began as Mr Bush emerged from a council of war with senior advisers at Camp David. Tony Blair stayed in Downing Street, rather than going to Chequers, so that he could remain in charge of planning. "We have to protect freedom and democracy," said a cabinet source. But even America's closest allies are calling for consultation and insisting that Mr Bush does not have a blank cheque.
In a remarkable step, representatives of 15 Arab states including Syria, which the US has accused in the past of supporting terrorism were summoned to the State Department and told to join the coalition or be regarded as pariahs. As one State Department official put it, "Either they're with us, or against us."
Asked about Mr bin Laden, Mr Bush said: "There is no question he is a prime suspect. If he thinks he can hide and run from the United States and its allies, he will be sorely mistaken." Finding evidence of a link between Mr bin Laden and the attacks will be a crucial element in enlisting international support, and investigators claimed their first breakthrough yesterday. A man arrested in New York with a pilot's licence issued to his brother was a "material witness", police said.
The last few days have galvanised Mr Bush. In his regular weekly radio address, and in impromptu remarks after the Camp David meeting, he spoke in terms not heard from an occupant of the White House since 1941, when Franklin Roosevelt vowed vengeance on Japan after its attack on Pearl Harbor.
As the President spoke, normality began to creep back into everyday lives. All but one of the country's airports were open even Logan International in Boston, where two of the hijacked flights originated although severe new security restrictions were in place. In New York, funerals took place for some of the 300 firefighters and police officers feared dead in the collapse of the two towers of the World Trade Centre. Meanwhile, rescue work continued in the fading hope of finding alive some of the 5,000 people still missing.
Tomorrow sees the resumption of dealings on Wall Street and will provide the first real gauge of how the events of 11 September have affected the struggling US economy. Hardest hit are the airlines, all of which are operating reduced schedules and needing emergency funding to avoid bankruptcy. Continental, which announced it was losing $30m (£20m) a day, cut flight schedules by a fifth and laid off 12,000 employees.
In Washington, the feeling was that it might be some time before every piece is in place for the US-led counterattack to begin. Officials made clear that the offensive will be on many fronts not just military, but diplomatic, economic and financial as well.Reuse content