American vice-president Dick Cheney today warned that the country’s war on terrorism might not be over ‘‘in our lifetime’’.
Mr Bush’s deputy made the strongest warning yet that the campaign to stamp out terrorism could be a marathon one in an interview with the Washington Post in which he said: ‘‘You can’t predict a straight line to victory.’’
And the vice-president, regarded as Mr Bush’s most trusted confidant, told Americans their way of life would have to adapt to the threat of more attacks.
‘‘It is different than the Gulf War was, in the sense that it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime,’’ Mr Cheney told the newspaper.
‘‘I think it’s fair to say you can’t predict a straight line to victory. You know, there’ll be good days and bad days along the way.’’
Mr Cheney, who has returned to the White House after he was spirited away to a ‘‘secure location’’ as the FBI issued a warning on October 10 of a ‘‘credible threat’’ of a new attack, said terrorism was now ‘‘normal’’.
‘‘The way I think of it is, it’s a new normalcy,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re going to have to take steps, and are taking steps, that’ll become a permanent part of the way we live.
‘‘In terms of security, in terms of the way we deal with travel and airlines, all of those measures that we end up having to adopt in order to sort of harden the target, make it tougher for the terrorists to get at us.
‘‘And I think those will become permanent features in our kind of way of life.’’
But he warned the country could not cope with a series of warnings if there were no attacks following the alerts.
‘‘You have to avoid falling into the trap of letting it be a cover-your-ass exercise,’’ Mr Cheney said.
‘‘If you scare the hell out of people too often, and nothing happens, that can also create problems. Then when you do finally get a valid threat and warn people and they don’t pay attention, that’s equally damaging.’’
And he added: ‘‘If you create panic, the terrorist wins without ever doing anything. So these are tough calls.’’
Mr Cheney, a former defence secretary, said the war against terrorism was made more difficult by the lack of obvious ways in which to deter al Qaida, the organisation suspected of carrying out the September 11 atrocities, and its leader Osama bin Laden from taking more action.
‘‘They have nothing to defend,’’ he said.
‘‘You know, for 50 years we deterred the Soviets by threatening the utter destruction of the Soviet Union. What does bin Laden value?
‘‘There’s no piece of real estate. It’s not like a state or a country. The notion of deterrence doesn’t really apply here.
‘‘There’s no treaty to be negotiated, there’s no arms control agreement that’s going to guarantee our safety and security. The only way you can deal with them is to destroy them.
‘‘There’s a lot of tough decisions that are involved here, and some of them very close calls.’’