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Bush Vows to Take War on Terror to Hostile Nations, Calls for Unity

Address: President singles out Iraq, Iran and N. Korea for possible military intervention. He also calls for expanded national volunteer service.

January 30, 2002|DOYLE McMANUS and JAMES GERSTENZANG | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — President Bush, calling on the nation to embrace a wartime spirit of resolve and responsibility, vowed Tuesday to extend the campaign against terrorism to Iraq, Iran and North Korea and proposed to enlist hundreds of thousands of Americans in programs of voluntary national service.

"Our war against terror is only beginning," Bush told both houses of Congress in his State of the Union address, the first of his year-old presidency and his first speech in the Capitol since he addressed the nation after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "We will win this war, we will protect our homeland and we will revive our economy."

Seeking to use his success in war to bolster his policy agenda at home, Bush called on Congress and the nation to remain "steadfast and patient and persistent" in the struggle against terrorism--and also to support Republican proposals on taxes, health insurance, education and energy.

Leaders of the Democratic opposition responded by declaring full support for the president in the war effort while criticizing his domestic plans as ill-designed and insufficient.

But the prevailing theme was wartime unity, and members of both parties gave long standing ovations to Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and Shannon Spann, the widow of a CIA officer killed in combat in northern Afghanistan.

In his 48-minute speech, Bush laid out an ambitious agenda, from the battle against global terrorism to plans for more volunteer teachers and medical workers at home.

He said U.S. intelligence agents searching terrorist bases in Afghanistan found maps of U.S. cities, diagrams of nuclear power plants and water facilities, and instructions for making chemical weapons--as well as new evidence that "thousands of dangerous killers" are still at large.

He warned that hostile countries--specifying Iraq, Iran and North Korea--"pose a grave and growing danger" by building chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and made an implicit threat of military intervention if they do not dismantle their arsenals. "I will not wait on events while dangers gather. . . . The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

The statement clarified Bush's position on an issue that has been hotly debated both inside and outside his administration. While Iraq, Iran and North Korea may not harbor terrorists like those who carried out the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush said, he nevertheless considers them equally dangerous--and equally deserving of military pressure--as long as they build weapons of mass destruction.

But the president did not explicitly threaten war against the three countries. Instead, he said he will "do what is necessary" to prevent them from threatening the United States or its allies.

Bush reaffirmed his plans to nearly double federal funding for homeland security measures, from $20 billion to $38 billion, and to increase military spending by 14%, or $48 billion, the largest boost in the defense budget since the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Extended Jobless Benefits Proposed

In domestic affairs, Bush proposed several measures that already enjoy broad bipartisan support: extended unemployment benefits for workers who have lost their jobs in the recession, expanded programs in early childhood education and a continuation of welfare reform.

But he confirmed his intention to fight hard for Republican proposals on issues that have divided Congress on party lines, like additional tax cuts for corporations and upper-income families, plans for Medicare reform and increased domestic production of oil and nuclear energy.

In response to issues raised by the financial collapse of Enron Corp., the giant energy company whose executives were among his largest campaign contributors, Bush called for new measures to protect employees from losing retirement funds when a company fails. "Corporate America must be made more accountable to employees and shareholders and held to the highest standards of conduct," he said. He did not mention Enron by name.

He also proposed a significant expansion of federal programs for voluntary service, including the existing Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps in a new umbrella organization called the "USA Freedom Corps."

"My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years--4,000 hours--over the rest of your lifetime to the service of your neighbors and your nation," Bush said.

He said the Freedom Corps would include a focus on homeland security, organizing citizens to serve as auxiliary police and fire units and mobilizing retired physicians and nurses for help in biological weapon attacks or other medical emergencies.

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