WASHINGTON, DC—In a televised address to the American people Tuesday, a determined President Bush vowed that the U.S. would defeat "whoever exactly it is we're at war with here."
"America's enemy, be it Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, a multinational coalition of terrorist organizations, any of a rogue's gallery of violent Islamic fringe groups, or an entirely different, non-Islamic aggressor we've never even heard of... be warned," Bush said during an 11-minute speech from the Oval Office. "The United States is preparing to strike, directly and decisively, against you, whoever you are, just as soon as we have a rough idea of your identity and a reasonably decent estimate as to where your base is located."
Added Bush: "That is, assuming you have a base."
Bush is acting with the full support of Congress, which on Sept. 14 authorized him to use any necessary force against the undetermined attackers. According to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the congressional move enables the president to declare war, "to the extent that war can realistically be declared on, like, maybe three or four Egyptian guys, an Algerian, and this other guy who kind of looks Lebanese but could be Syrian. Or whoever else it might have been. Because it might not have been them."
In addition to those responsible for the Sept. 11 attack, the U.S. is determined to exact revenge upon any nation found to have harbored the perpetrators.
"Should we determine that a nation has been giving refuge to this fiend—or fiends, as the case may be—we will effectively be at war with that nation," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said. "Then again, what if we declared war on Afghanistan and they didn't send anyone to fight us? It's plausible that we could declare war on them, but they wouldn't go to war with us, since they weren't the ones who actually attacked us. Who would our soldiers even shoot?"
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of Congress' decorated war veterans, tried to steel the nation for the possibility of a long and confusing conflict.
"America faces a long road ahead," McCain said. "We do not yet know the nature of 21st-century warfare. We do not yet know how to fight this sort of fight. And I'll be damned if one of us has an inkling who we will be fighting against. With any luck, they've got uniforms of some sort."
"Christ," McCain continued, "what if the terrorists' base of operation turns out to be Detroit? Would we declare war on the state of Michigan? I suppose we'd have to."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism will be different from any previous model of modern warfare.
"We were lucky enough at Pearl Harbor to be the victim of a craven sneak attack from an aggressor with the decency to attack military targets, use their own damn planes, and clearly mark those planes with their national insignia so that we knew who they were," Rumsfeld said. "Since the 21st-century breed of coward is not affording us any such luxury, we are forced to fritter away time searching hither and yon for him in the manner of a global easter-egg hunt."
"America is up to that challenge," Rumsfeld added.
On Monday, the House of Representatives voted 428-2 to form an intelligence-gathering task force dedicated to "rooting out every scrap of information that can possibly be gleaned" concerning the attackers.
"When this task force's investigation is complete, America will know this guy's mother's favorite flavor of ice cream," U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) said. "We will also know who he is."
Gramm said that the U.S. has already learned a great deal about the details of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and that a rough psychological profile of its mastermind has been constructed.
"For example, we know that the mastermind has the approximate personality of a terrorist," Gramm said. "Also, he is senseless. New data is emerging all the time."
Standing in opposition to Bush and Congress is a small but growing anti-war movement. During the president's speech Tuesday, two dozen demonstrators gathered outside the White House, chanting and waving placards bearing such slogans as "U.S. Out Of Somewhere" and "No Blood For Whatever These Murderous Animals Hope To Acquire."
Attorney General John Ashcroft urged Americans to "come together at such a difficult and unprecedented time in our nation's history."
"Make no mistake, we are facing a grave evil," Ashcroft said. "This was a horrific crime, the likes of which our nation has never seen. But this crime will not go unpunished, mark my words. To whoever did this, wherever you are, I say to you: Justice will be served, swiftly and hopefully."