WASHINGTON, DC—After nearly two weeks of heavy, sustained air strikes, President Bush made final preparations Monday for a full-scale U.S. ground assault against Osama bin Laden, the privileged, formerly hard-partying heir to a family fortune.
"Osama bin Laden is a true emblem of evil, a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans," Bush said. "He cannot, and will not, escape justice."
Bin Laden, son of a Saudi construction tycoon worth an estimated $5 billion at the time of his 1968 death, was not cowed by Bush's resolve.
"We will not bow to George W. Bush, the emblem of all that is evil and corrupt about America," said bin Laden, who frequented Beirut nightclubs as a young man, drinking heavily and fighting over women. "This is a man who spent much of his early life defiling God with his immoral ways. He will fall."
"The vile influence of the West must be driven out of the Arab world once and for all," continued bin Laden, who studied English at Oxford University in the '70s and went on to earn a degree in management and economics at King Abdul Aziz University. "And it will, for God is on our side in this righteous and holy war."
Responding to the increasingly incendiary rhetoric of bin Laden, Bush said he plans to escalate air strikes in the next five to six days. The president is also asking Congress for an additional $250 million, roughly the amount bin Laden inherited from his father, for operations in Afghanistan.
"Our military is strong, but it needs our full backing," said Bush, speaking from his 1,600-acre ranch in Crawford, TX. "These air strikes are merely the first step in what will be a long and hard-fought war against terrorism. Each and every one of us must steel ourselves for the difficult road ahead."
According to experts, bin Laden's hatred of America and sense of mission has only come into full focus in recent years. He spent his early adulthood wandering without direction, leaving Saudi Arabia at age 34 for the Sudan, where he ran several family-financed businesses. He then lived briefly in Afghanistan before moving back to Saudi Arabia to join his father's construction company.
His spiritual awakening occurred while working on behalf of his father's construction business to rebuild several mosques in the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina. In 1991, outraged by U.S. troops' presence in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War, he turned to an even more extreme strain of Islam.
Bush, who spent his 30s drifting around in what he called his "nomadic" period, gained direction in 1988, when he bought the Texas Rangers with family money and built the team a new stadium in Arlington.
Speaking to the nation Monday night, Bush said the U.S. will not be defeated.
"Our fighting men are strong. They are ready for the task ahead," said Bush, displaying the same resolve he showed when he quit drinking and discovered religion at age 40, turning to his wife's Methodist faith. "We cannot lose, for our cause is just."
America's fighting forces expressed their full support for the president.
"We're gonna go in there and take out bin Laden," said Joseph Barton, a 19-year-old Army reservist from the impoverished rural village of Sissonville, WV. "This one's for W."
Barton then loaded his rifle and prepared to advance on a battalion of 18- and 19-year-old Taliban soldiers in the impoverished rural village of Qalat, Afghanistan.
According to Dr. James Cleary, a professor of political theory at Georgetown University, Bush and bin Laden exemplify how power is attained differently in the West and East.
"In America, power is the domain of the rich and well-connected," Cleary said. "In the Arab world, things are different. Over there, power is the domain of the super-rich and super-well-connected."