President praises donors; strikes set Red Cross warehouses ablaze

Bush steps to 'front line'

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush personally collected $1 donations for Afghan children Tuesday, visiting the American Red Cross headquarters on a day when U.S. airstrikes set Red Cross warehouses afire near Afghanistan's capital.

Bush made no mention of the raids, in which at least one bomb exploded in the compound of the International Committee of the Red Cross at Kabul, injuring one security guard and setting two of the seven buildings on fire.

The Pentagon acknowledged later that U.S. bombs accidentally hit the Red Cross warehouses. A Navy F/A-18 Hornet dropped 1,000-pound bombs on the warehouses, the statement said.

The warehouse complex contained wheat, blankets, tents and plastic tarps -- the kinds of supplies the fund initiated by Bush will provide.

Bush last week called on American children to donate $1 to Afghan children, and he used the appearance Tuesday to highlight humanitarian efforts under way alongside the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Bush said that since his call for donations, the White House has received 90,000 letters. He said the American Red Cross and the U.S. Agency for International Development are channeling the money to needy Afghan youths. The administration said it was impossible to say how much money had been sent.

''Winter arrives early in Afghanistan. It's cold, really cold, and the children need warm clothing and they need medicines,'' Bush said. ''And thanks to the American children, fewer children in Afghanistan will suffer this winter.''

Nearly 100 children stood behind Bush as he spoke, as did a placard advertising the fund. It depicted two smiling Afghan children. Bush singled out for special praise Kristen Strickland of Philomont, Va., who raised $45 by feeding chickens.

''One way to fight evil is to fight it with kindness and love and compassion,'' Bush said. ''And the message stands in stark contrast to the message of hate that our boys and girls have seen on TV.''

As Bush waded into the crowd of children for a group photo, many of them held up one-dollar bills. Children pressed bills into the president's hand, and he promptly passed them to Bernadine Healy, president of the American Red Cross.

Also Tuesday, Bush spoke with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and Fleischer announced Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel will visit the White House on Nov. 1.

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