The vice president said the U.S. would do everything possible to find the exiled Saudi millionaire, and that a mission to take down his terrorist network could take years.
“What we are going to do is aggressively go after Mr. bin Laden, obviously, and all his associates,” Cheney told NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “And even if it takes a long time, I’m convinced eventually we’ll prevail.”
Cheney said Americans should understand the coming operation would be a long-term proposition.
“This is going to be a struggle the United States is going to be involved in for the foreseeable future,” he added. “It is going to require constant vigilance.”
Bin Laden has denied responsibility for the attacks, and Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban has threatened revenge against any of its neighbors who assist the U.S. with a strike against them.
Nonetheless, Cheney said he expects neighboring Pakistan to be “very helpful” in the U.S. campaign.
Meanwhile today religious scholars in Jordan’s main Islamist party issued an edict banning Muslim countries from participating in a U.S. anti-terrorist coalition.
“It is impermissible for any Muslim government or Muslim people to give the aggressors any political or financial support or provide them a cover of legitimacy in their aggression,” the scholars said.
Cheney said a U.S. military action would not be “a war against Islam and not a war against all Arab people.”
“This [violence the U.S. is battling] is a perversion, if you will, of some of these religious beliefs by an extremist group. We have extremists associated with every imaginable religion in the world.”
Preparations for an anti-terrorism campaign
As the government readies for its anti-terrorist operation, it will re-examine how its agencies do their work — including a long-standing order against assassination.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN’s “Late Edition” that rule — an executive order in effect since 1976 — was among those under re-evaluation.
“It’s still on the books and as part of our campaign plan we are examining everything — how the CIA does its work, how the FBI and Justice Department does its work. Are there laws that need to be changed and new laws brought into effect to give us more ability to deal with this kind of threat? So everything is under review,” Powell said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who also named bin Laden as a prime suspect, said the overall U.S. effort against the “terrorist network” behind the attacks could take years and would be “very broadly based. It will be political, economic, diplomatic, military.”
“It is much bigger than one person and the problem is much broader,” Rumsfeld told ABC’s “This Week”. “It is not just [bin Laden’s] al-Qaeda organization.”
Rumsfeld said the U.S. would go after countries that harbor “terrorists”, backed by a coalition involving as many as 60 countries.
“What this war is about is our way of life,” Rumsfeld said, “and our way of life is worth losing lives for.”