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America Under Attack: Washington Picking Itself Up

Aired September 13, 2001 - 06:13   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in the meantime, we're going to show you this shot that we talked about earlier. There it is, the American flag draped over the side of the Pentagon just off to the side from where a jetliner crashed into this military nerve center of the United States. Just one symbolic show of support for the rescue operations going there and what we are increasingly seeing as the undying spirit of the American people as Washington and our nation's leaders try to consider what sort of response is necessary to these terrorist attacks.

In fact that will be a big day at the White House today. President Bush and his advisors are pressing Congress for billions of dollars for cleanup as well as for this investigation. In fact, they're talking about as much as $20 billion.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace joins us with more on that.

Hi, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi again, Carol, that's exactly right. In fact, lawmakers likely to get an emergency spending bill up to about $20 billion, as you noted, to the president's desk as early as this afternoon. This would basically authorize the U.S. to go ahead and spend that money for search and rescue efforts, for rebuilding operations and, of course, for the investigation and any counter terrorism effort.

Now the second part of what you mentioned, we do know negotiations underway between White House officials and lawmakers over what would be a congressional resolution basically authorizing the U.S. to retaliate for those terrorist attacks. We know negotiations continued well into the night last night, likely to continue today. The big sticking point is really over the wording of this resolution because while lawmakers of both parties definitely believe the U.S. should respond and certainly hold those deemed responsible accountable, there is a concern on the part of some lawmakers about any resolution in essence giving the president a blank check for military action.

Now as for some developments to report, we did see lawmakers turn out Wednesday evening for a prayer vigil. Lawmakers of both parties getting together to reflect on the tragedy that has hit many cities and the entire country and to come together. And then, of course, we did see the president heading over to the Pentagon yesterday -- late yesterday afternoon. The president saying he was really overwhelmed by the devastation there. The president also noting that while he may be sad about what he is seeing and angry that to the U.S. will not be cowed by terrorism.

Now a couple of other things we did learn, the White House saying that the plane that actually hit the Pentagon, the White House having "real and credible information" -- in its words -- that the intended target for that plane was the White House. The White House also saying it has credible information that Air Force One was an intended target and that the White House hoping to put to rest any questions and criticisms about why President Bush went from Sarasota, Florida to two military bases, one in Louisiana and then in Nebraska, before eventually coming back to Washington late on Tuesday evening.

Now as for President Bush, likely to be meeting with his national security team again on this day. We have seen the president stepping up the rhetoric a bit, saying that these acts were more than acts of terror but acts of war. The president working the phones, reaching out to world leaders, trying to build what the administration is calling an international coalition against terrorism. Not unlike perhaps the coalition his father tried to build during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

The U.S. also somewhat gratified or very gratified by the statement by NATO on Wednesday, NATO saying that an attack on one member of the alliance amounts to an attack on the entire alliance.

Now U.S. officials, Carol, not speculating on what kind of military response or what kind of response the U.S. will take, but clearly the White House trying to build international support for any step it will take.

Carol, back to you.

LIN: Sure, and Kelly, more and more Pakistan is becoming the focus of many of these discussions. A few minutes ago, we heard from Tom Mintier reporting from Islam Ibad (ph) about the meeting between the United States Ambassador and Pakistan's military leadership. It seems that the symbol being sent is that Pakistan might be willing to allow the United States or NATO forces to use Pakistani air to fly through their airspace. Is the Bush administration likely to ask Pakistan to be able to stage military operations from their border with Afghanistan would the Taliban -- should Osama bin-Laden be definitively identified as responsible for these terrorist attacks?

WALLACE: Well, Carol, a lot of questions there, of course. Certainly I heard Tom's report and definitely want to get some reaction to that but have not been able to from the National Security Council staff just yet.

You know the White House and the U.S. officials certainly won't be talking about any kind of presteps that the military or the administration will take before any -- the administration launches any retaliation, but certainly it will be heartened (ph) to hear that message form the Pakistani government. We do know that U.S. State Department officials I believe have been talking to Pakistani officials as recently as yesterday, so this is something the administration clearly is probably talking to through diplomatic channels -- Carol.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much, Kelly Wallace, very early on the White House lawn -- Vince.

VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: Upon touring the Pentagon on Wednesday, President Bush described himself as -- quote -- "overwhelmed by the devastation." And we are going to go there and check in with the Pentagon right now and our CNN national correspondent Bob Franken who picks up our coverage and the recovery efforts there -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Vince, it's easy to be overwhelmed. Of course the site behind me of that gash -- that massive gash in the wall of the Pentagon where the plane collided is enough. But now becomes the tragic story, the tragic loss of life, and we saw as the day went on yesterday that we -- the officials were able to get to some of the bodies that were inside and to remove them by stretcher. We were given no figures. We have been given no figures about the number of casualties who have been taken out already nor have we been given any figures on estimates how many in fact will have lost their lives in this attack on the Pentagon.

We are told that it's going to be far short of some of the estimates that went into the figures near 800. We were told by the Pentagon that there are about -- about 150 who are unaccounted for here, not including those 64 who were on the plane. As a matter of fact, estimates that you get that are unofficial place the final casualty count here at about 200.

And while that very grim work was going on inside the Pentagon, there was also the work of keeping the military going and the work of planning for retaliation, among other things. The Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told armed forces overseas in a message he sent that there could be military action ahead.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It is my duty as head of this department to tell you that more, much more will be asked of you in the weeks and months ahead. This is especially true of those who are in the field. We face powerful and terrible enemies. Enemies we intend to vanquish so that moments of horror like yesterday will be stopped.


FRANKEN: All of the people who work at the Pentagon are expected back to work today. About half of them were brought in yesterday. All are expected to show up. They'll be assigned, if they cannot get to their offices for the obvious reason, assigned to other facilities while the military gets back up to full operation here and full speed as it plans probably as its primary objective, Vince, the retaliation against those responsible for this. CELLINI: All right, thank you much. Bob Franken reporting live to us from the Pentagon.



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