Congress OKs Use of Force
Congress voted overwhelmingly Friday to grant President Bush authority “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against those behind Tuesday’s devastating terrorist attacks, part of a burst of activity as the nation’s capital focused on mobilization as well as mourning.
Bush called up 35,000 military reservists, some of whom are expected to be on duty within days, aiding recovery efforts and serving on dozens of military aircraft now patrolling the nation’s skies.
In the first direct warning to Afghanistan, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said its Taliban leadership faces the same fate as Osama bin Laden--named as a prime suspect in the attacks--if it continues to harbor the Saudi militant and his supporters.
The Justice Department released the names of the 19 hijackers, and in New York, federal officials made their first arrest of a material witness.
And both houses of Congress unanimously approved $40 billion in emergency funding, in what Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) described as a mere “down payment” on a rescue and rebuilding effort of historic proportions.
In the midst of these steps, Washington’s leadership ranks--past and present--trudged through steady rain to the National Cathedral for a solemn midday memorial service.
In brief remarks before an audience that included former Presidents Ford, Carter, Bush and Clinton, President Bush outlined what he described as the nation’s looming mission.
“Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history,” Bush said. “But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”
The president then departed for his first tour of the moonscape-like scene where the World Trade Center once stood in New York City. Examining the rubble, Bush, speaking through a bullhorn, shouted encouragement to the relief workers, who chanted “USA! USA!”
When someone in the crowd called out “I can’t hear you,” Bush replied: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
Washington, meanwhile, remained under tight security, with police and military vehicles ubiquitous on city streets, the Capitol closed to tourists, and Reagan National Airport shut down indefinitely.
The tragedy has prompted a rare sense of urgency and unanimity among lawmakers, who moved rapidly Friday to finish their first two legislative responses to the attacks.
“These are different times,” said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). “And we have got to act decisively. The American people expect it of us, and they will accept nothing less.”
The Senate’s endorsement of the use-of-force resolution was one of the most decisive votes approving military action since Congress voted with only one dissenter in 1941 for three war declarations against the Axis powers of World War II. The Persian Gulf War resolution, by contrast, cleared both houses by narrow, partisan margins.
The House approved Friday’s resolution 420 to 1. The sole dissenter was Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).
The resolution was markedly different from every other congressional referendum on armed conflict throughout the country’s history. Most significant, it specified no certain enemy.
Instead, it authorized the president to retaliate against “nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.”
Those words reflected the will of a Congress eager to show its support for the president but still careful to impose certain boundaries on his authority.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said the resolution requires any U.S. reprisal to be aimed at the perpetrators of Tuesday’s attacks, or the nations and organizations that harbored and aided them.
“It does not give the president a blanket approval to take military action against others under the guise of fighting international terrorism,” Kerry said. “It is not an open-ended authorization to use force in circumstances beyond those we face today.”
Bush sought the resolution largely for its symbolism. He, like most of his predecessors, takes the position that presidents don’t need authority from Congress to take military action.
But many in Congress regard the resolution as an assertion of their status as a “co-equal” branch of government. And party leaders made it clear that they expect to be consulted by the White House as military plans unfold.
The resolution cleared the Senate on a 98-0 vote, with Sens. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) and Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) not voting. In the House vote, Lee said she feared a U.S. retaliation might cause international relations to “spiral out of control.”
“I have agonized over this vote,” she said. “But I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful memorial service today. As a member of the clergy so eloquently said, ‘As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.’ ”
But Lee’s dissenting voice was a faint one in a capital that is otherwise girding for battle.
At the Pentagon, officials called up 35,000 reservists for two missions: to help in the stepped-up anti-terrorist defense of the United States and to assist civilian authorities in cleaning up in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
The group will include fighter and cargo plane pilots, military police, medical specialists, engineers, search and rescue and mortuary workers, and chaplains, defense officials said.
Among the services, the Air Force will get the largest share of reservists, with 13,000 expected to be called. They will be devoted to a homeland defense role and will include Air National Guard pilots, crews and air controllers.
The Army National Guard will provide about 10,000 personnel, most of whom will be assigned to help civilian authorities respond to the attacks; about 5,000 reservists already are helping in New York City. They will provide security, transportation, medical care services and engineering assistance.
As many as 2,000 Coast Guard reservists will be called to help with stepped-up patrols of U.S. harbors. About 7,500 Marines and 3,000 sailors will also be called up.
The U.S. reserves consist of men and women who hold civilian jobs but are trained for military duties and can be called on in emergencies. Since the Cold War, the reserves have become an increasingly important part of the overall military force, and many reservists serve overseas to reduce the strain on the active duty force.
While tens of thousands of other reservists could be called to duty if the United States conducts wide-scale military strikes, which the administration has hinted, officials said it was too early to discuss those numbers or assignments. The authorization allows the Pentagon to call up 1 million members.
Reserve leaders said that just as thousands of Americans are offering to enlist in the military services for the first time, tens of thousands of reservists have volunteered to go back to duty since Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials estimated that repair to the damaged structure in Arlington, Va., would take two years to complete. It would cost “more than $100 million, by quite a bit,” said Defense Department official John Irby.
After four days of intense firefighting, the crippled portion of the building continues to smolder; officials said that when the rubble shifts, air pockets open and ignite new flames. More than 100,000 square feet of the 3-million-square-foot building were damaged by the crash. Still, officials said they haven’t given up hope that they may yet find some of the missing alive under the rubble.
On Capitol Hill, Congress unleashed a torrent of new funds to pay for the recovery efforts in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, where a fourth hijacked plane crashed in an empty field.
As part of a $40-billion emergency spending bill passed unanimously in both houses, at least $20 billion will be earmarked solely for disaster recovery and assistance.
Members of the New York delegation fought for that stipulation after raising concerns that earlier versions of the funding bill would have allowed--though not required--a disproportionate share of the money to go toward bolstering military, law enforcement and intelligence operations.
“New York has two words to America: thank you,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the Senate vote. “You shined a little light in our great darkness.”
The final package, approved 96 to 0 by the Senate and 422 to 0 by the House, was twice the amount Bush had proposed. Lawmakers predicted that the price tag would continue to mount and were already turning their sights to other future expenses, including a possible bailout of the airline industry that could cost billions of dollars.
That Congress is so eager to dole out vast sums underscores how much the political landscape in Washington has changed this week, which began with lawmakers quibbling over whether to dip into the Social Security surplus.
At the State Department, Powell issued a firm warning to the Taliban, which is believed to have harbored Bin Laden and many of his supporters.
“To the extent that you are providing havens, support, encouragement and other resources to organizations such as the organization headed by Osama bin Laden,” Powell said, “you need to understand you cannot separate your activities from the activity of these perpetrators.”
Powell spent the day working on expanding a new international coalition on terrorism, particularly in South Asia and the Middle East. He talked to top officials in Saudi Arabia, Syria, India, Israel, Algeria, Japan and Portugal.
“We continue to work hard to build the coalition--and to get this campaign plan in place,” he told reporters Friday.
The United States had hoped for a reply from Pakistan on Friday to a list of detailed requests for assistance, but as of late Friday, it had not been received.
Times staff writers Paul Richter, James Gerstenzang and Robin Wright contributed to this story.