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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
America mourns: The BBC's Jonny Dymond
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America woke up this morning to the full horror and anger of yesterday's terrorist attacks which rocked the very heart of the world's greatest democracy.

Even for those not personally touched by the tragedy, there are few Americans that can be left unmoved by the sheer scale of the tragedy.

The final death toll from the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon may not be known for weeks, but initial indications are that thousands could have died.

In his address to the nation, President Bush warned the US would make "no distinction between the terrorists who committed the attacks and those who harbour them".

What is the mood of the American people now that the full scale of the tragedy sinks in? How should the Bush administration respond?

The BBC's Jonny Dymond is in Washington and answered your questions.



Newshost:

Juan Perez in Spain asks: Do you think Americans will ever think the same again after this tragedy in terms of their position in world affairs?


Jonny Dymond:

No, I think it has changed everything. It is one of the more bizarre aspects here that as American life is slowly getting back to normal - and there is a long way to go before that happens, for instance, there is still no general commercial aviation in this country. But as life gets back to normal and the cities - at least outside of Washington and New York - start going back to work, you have a semblance of America which is much the same, going about its business.

But I think this will fundamentally change the American psyche in several different ways. The first is that America has always been able to claim some form of protection against attack on its own territory because of the two vast oceans on either side - that has always given it some kind of imperviousness. Secondly, its technological advantages in so many ways has also given it a kind of invulnerability. Thirdly, Americans have never spent an enormous amount of time thinking about foreign policy actions.

For the rest of the world that might seem very strange - America is an enormous foreign policy actor. But for many Americans - a lot of them don't possess a passport, who don't travel abroad - the world outside America is a place generally to be ignored except when it directly threatens American interests.

I think those three things: technological advancement, the protection of the seas and also the ignorance about foreign affairs will change now. I don't think there is any way in which America can ignore the rest of the world or the American people can ignore the rest of the world as they have tended to do beforehand.


Newshost:

Peter Olsen in Norway asks: How are the people of the United States managing to come to terms with this crisis?


Jonny Dymond:

It depends where you are. For instance in New York there is incredible distress. You can see it in the clips that News Online is running all the time. You can hear it over the radio. There is obvious and open shock, pain and hurt. Here in Washington DC, it's a different kind of reaction - there is something like stunned disbelief. The plane came down on the Pentagon yesterday, that's over the river from Washington DC - it is not nearly as immediate as it was in New York for the World Trade Center - but even so there was a very palpable sense of shock that this nation's capital could be directly and successively attacked.

Then around America you have different reactions. Over on the West Coast - an enormous distance away from New York - there are concerns over the fact that many of the people on the planes were headed for the West Coast itself - heading to Los Angeles - relatives have been lost. So you have, as always in America, a very wide variety in reaction. But a general reaction of shock, of astonishment and of real disappointment, I think, that this kind of action could be so successfully carried out on American soil.


Newshost:

Chad Milner in Washington asks: Do you think that Bush is purely giving a knee-jerk reaction to the terrorists? Do you think the government will really respond to the attacks in the forceful way we appear to be hearing from the media?


Jonny Dymond:

I think it will. I think if they can identify either the terrorists involved or even the states which are, as they put it, harbouring the terrorists, there will be a really quite strong reaction. I think it is always to be expected that the President comes out with the kind of the words which he did come out with both on Tuesday, in his three different statements and today when he was very grim and resolute - there was nothing particularly surprising in those.

Perhaps one thing which should be picked up on is the way in which President Bush made quite a multi-lateral call to arms as it were - he was talking about democracy being attacked, about freedom being attacked and about relying on allies and friends around the world. That was a very different tack from a man who had, up to this point, repudiated treaties and acted - some people would call it in a unilateral, other people call it in an isolationist way. But yes I do think there will be action from the United States as soon as they are able to identify who the aggressor was and what the best way to attack that aggressor will be.


Newshost:

Michael Francis in New York asks: Do you think that the Bush administration will take any real responsibility for the seemingly incredible lack of intelligence and security that appears to have occurred in the US over the past 24 hours? It seems to me that they are prepared to blame anyone but themselves.


Jonny Dymond:

I think it is extremely unlikely that the current administration will take responsibility for security lapses if they are identified. I think they will point to several things: the first is something which governments all around the world do - they tend to point out that they have only been in power for a certain amount of time and the ship of state takes a long time to turn. Problems which show up now in the security infrastructure are often ones which have been sown many years beforehand.

I would not be surprised if we started hearing over the next few days and weeks, as partisan divisions reappear between the Republicans and the Democrats, if we don't start to hear from the Republicans a cry that the Clinton administration had run down the security infrastructure of the United States. Already President Bush has indicated he will be asking for more money from Congress to beef up national security. At the same time, I think that the Bush administration will be fairly loath to admit to any serious security failings. They will point out for instance that if you are to maintain various American freedoms and flying is certainly one of those, it is almost impossible to restrict commercial air flights from the airspace around New York City and Washington DC. We shall have to wait and see.


Newshost:

David Banks-Milner, Hong Kong asks: The United States have been running around the world recently trying to persuade both allies and non-allies to agree to the US having its own Star Wars defence shield. It would appear that in this instance it would have been a total waste of money if it had been implemented. So what happens now?


Jonny Dymond:

I don't think there will be any backing down on missile defence whatsoever. What was interesting about the debate about missile defence, certainly in its early stages here, was how many Americans already thought they had a missile defence scheme in place. Now naturally no missile defence scheme would have stopped aeroplanes being hijacked and then driven wilfully into buildings full of civilians in one case and full of military staff in the other. But I don't think that the administration will see the failures in national security which these attacks have so horribly shown up as a reason to back down on a separate missile defence scheme. I think you will see George Bush pressing ahead with a missile defence scheme in very much the same way that over the last six months he has indicated that he will do.

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