U.S. citizens eager for retaliation; experts theorize on possible suspects

By Zeb Eckert
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Posted 7:00 p.m. Sept. 12

A sweeping percentage of Americans would support military action against terrorist groups suspected in Tuesday’s deadly attacks, a Washington Post-ABC News Poll reported Wednesday.

Close to 95 percent of adults interviewed in a random telephone survey were adamant that the United States should swiftly retaliate.

Whether the numbers represented the heightened emotions of the day or the solid beliefs of Americans, the government said it would not delay in finding the suspects.

“The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy,” President Bush said Wednesday morning. “We will rally the world.”

The President called the attacks “acts of war.”

It is still unclear how the government plans to respond, but the heightened U.S. military presence here and around the world may be an indication, experts said.

“There would be something to be said for Congress declaring war or by statute offering war,” said Peter Raven-Hansen, a George Washington University law professor.

Raven-Hansen said if Congress would authorize war against a particular nation, it might compel them to yield to U.S. demands.

“It might even induce some of them to collaborate surreptitiously in handing over terrorists,” he said. “It would clearly be sending the message that from now on supporting terrorists passively or even giving them sanctuary in their country would be the same as if you committed a terrorist act.”

Working on intelligence reports, the U.S. government is looking to the possibility that Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden is connected to the attacks. He was implicated previously in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said on television Tuesday that he received word of U.S. electronically intercepted reports from bin Laden representatives who said they had hit two targets.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that a Palestinian journalist close to bin Laden said the fugitive “thanked Almighty Allah and bowed before him when he heard the news.”

An aide to bin Laden reportedly said he considers the terror in the United States “punishment from Allah.”

The Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks could only have come from an international group, Raven-Hansen added. The government is looking at other groups including Hezbollah, a Lebanese guerrilla force.

“The only thing we can say about who did this is that no known domestic militia groups have the means to accomplish this,” he said. “The scope of the operation and sophistication is only a match with him and a few other groups we know of.”

Strategists said a possible retaliation might be an attack on Afghanistan, home of the Taliban regime.

“When you’re dealing with a primitive theocracy like Afghanistan, they don’t have much infrastructure,” he said. “If we kill the Taliban political
leadership, we’re sending a chilling message.”

The Taliban’s foreign minister spoke out against Tuesday’s attacks.

“We have tried our best in the past and we are willing in the future to assure the United States, in any kind of way we can, that Osama is not involved in these kinds of activities,” Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil said.

Because of the scope of Tuesday’s attacks and the team efforts used to execute them, Ravens-Hansen said bin Laden “would have received assistance from one of the state intelligence operatives, possibly Iraq or Iran.”

President Bush made clear in his speech Tuesday night the United States would make “no distinction” between terrorists and nations that harbor them.

In its continuing search to find clues, the government and FBI said they received close to 700 tips by Wednesday afternoon and were issuing search warrants for e-mail addresses possibly used in connection.

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