For a new kind of war, it had an old sort of start. In the places where soldiers and sailors live in Norfolk, Va.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; in a hundred other towns of the Republic and far beyond its shores the rhetoric of impending battle was rendered into the humdrum details of military life. Bills were paid; kit bags packed; wives, husbands and children hugged. Patriotism hung in the air, as palpable as the first chills of fall; flags sprouted on a million lapels and fluttered from a thousand taxicabs in a wounded but defiant New York. On television, the reports came from Islamabad, not as they had a decade ago from Riyadh or Baghdad or Amman. And as predecessors in his high office including his father had done before, George W. Bush drove from the White House to the Capitol, and in an address to Congress and the watching world, discharged the weightiest responsibility that any President can ever be asked to shoulder. Americans, Bush said, had to prepare for a "lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen." That this will be a real war was made explicit. "I've called the armed forces to alert," said Bush, "and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud."
Other Presidents have issued a call to arms. But few have cast their challenge in terms as wide as Bush's. The war to find, stop and defeat "every terrorist group of global reach," he said, was "civilization's fight." That fight, indeed, has already started, as law enforcement officials attempt to discover who was behind the atrocities and how they might be brought to justice. And it is a fight in which the forensic processes of the criminal-justice system promise to be augmented by the thud and thump of military action.
In his speech, Bush spoke directly to the Taliban, the radical Islamic regime that rules Afghanistan and harbors Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda network, which is the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 atrocities. Bush demanded that the Taliban hand over all terrorist leaders to U.S. authorities. The Taliban has not done so, demanding, in turn, proof that bin Laden is guilty. If the Taliban does not shift from that position, a shooting war seems inevitable. Sources tell TIME that the first, secret deployment orders issued to the Air Force and Navy set a goal of having warplanes ready for action by Sept. 24. For most of last week, Pentagon officials worked to polish a war plan that is likely to supplement the bombing with missions by special-forces units against terrorist training camps in Afghanistan; the plan also contemplates the introduction of ground forces, if needed, which could tilt the balance of power in the country to the elements that oppose the Taliban although finding a stable government for Kabul would be difficult.