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Bush Addresses Nation, Urges Commitment Against Terrorism

By Mike Allen

President Bush, urging the nation to avoid both a state of panic and a state of denial, said Thursday night that individual citizens will be responsible for personally confronting terrorism in coming years despite a government pledge to protect American soil.

Bush said the government remains on high alert and asked viewers of the nationally televised address to add their eyes and ears to the effort. He said the nation has “entered a new era,” with “new responsibilities, both for the government and our people.”

“This is a war that must be fought not only overseas but also here at home,” Bush said. “We must be vigilant, inspect our mail, stay informed on public health matters. We will not give in to exaggerated fears or passing rumors. We will rely on our good judgment and our common sense.”

His announced theme was homeland defense, but Bush used the occasion to deliver a broad message that ranged from calls for personal vigilance and community service, to a progress report on anthrax investigations, to a renewed commitment to destroying Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network. Looking relaxed and confident, Bush said the United States and the coalition he has assembled “are deliberately and systematically hunting down these murderers and we will bring them to justice.”

“We are at the beginning of our efforts in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan is only the beginning of our efforts in the world,” he said. “No group or nation should mistake America’s intentions: Where terrorist groups of global reach exist, the United States and our friends and allies will see it out and destroy it.”

Bush spoke at a time when polls show that roughly 90 percent of the public supports his war on terrorism, although only a little more than half believe the government is prepared to prevent future attacks. Administration officials said they hoped the address would help Bush convey his mastery of the war at home as successfully as he framed his goals for the military strikes on Afghanistan in his address to Congress on Sept. 20.

Since then, the White House has been criticized for an initially plodding response for anthrax attacks that have killed four people, including two postal workers in Washington, D.C., who were not treated immediately.

Last month, Bush created an Office of Homeland Defense, headed by former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, but many lawmakers have said Ridge was given too little authority and hasn’t made a sure-footed debut. The administration’s efforts also have been plagued by contradictory warnings and reassurances officials have issued since Sept. 11, which have included unspecified terrorist threats.