- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

America must confront murderous terrorists with quick and violent retaliation, military officers said yesterday as President Bush began weighing responses for the kamikaze-style attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
"This is our generation's Pearl Harbor," said a senior retired Navy officer. "It is time to kick ass. And If we have to kill a few innocent civilians in the process, so be it."
Military officers said they hoped Mr. Bush would break with past practices of handling terrorists attacks as drawn-out criminal homicide investigations rather than what they really are acts of war that demand swift reprisals.
"The American people and the military will now be ready to put in ground troops with all the risks that that would entail," said an Army special operations soldier. "Missiles will not do the trick. We'll spend millions on missiles to destroy $20 worth of tents."
At the Pentagon, the mood was angry.
In a not-so-veiled threat, Gen. Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I will tell you upfront, I have no intention of discussing today what comes next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready."
Said a general officer whose Pentagon office barely missed the havoc brought by a terrorist-aimed 757 commercial airliner, "While the FBI will certainly lead the investigation, we should be careful to see this for what it really is: an act of war. … We should be wary of considering these acts as crimes, which involve the normal and understandable mechanisms of justice. If the actors are extraterritorial, then I believe international law allows for other responses."
The United States has not seriously retaliated for deadly attacks on U.S. service members in the Middle East despite lengthy criminal investigations by the FBI that linked the murders to associates of Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Said a congressional defense aide, "If I were Bush, I would launch B-52s toward Afghanistan and carpet-bomb where bin Laden is. I'd have Special Forces go in afterward and kill any survivors. We know where he typically hides and where he trains in Afghanistan. I know we do."
Pentagon sources said planners were quickly updating contingency plans for striking terrorists sites, including the known hideouts of the prime suspect, bin Laden, and his deadly operatives. The sources said the Pentagon's National Military Command Center remained up and running throughout the explosion and fire caused by the aircraft smashing into the building's southwest section.
"Once we have the evidence, the response is going to be hard, swift and violent," predicted a Senate defense aide.
Defense sources also argued that the U.S. government has enough evidence right now to attempt to target bin Laden even before linking him to yesterday's catastrophe. He is on the FBI's 10 most wanted list and stands indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998 in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 persons, including 12 Americans.
The U.S. also believes that bin Laden, who has vowed to kill Americans wherever and whenever he can, masterminded last year's suicide bombing of the destroyer USS Cole while it refueled in Yemen.
"This is total war. I think this is a wake-up call for America," said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican. "This is a war, a real war."
President Clinton launched the first overt attack on bin Laden in 1998 shortly after bombings at the U.S. embassies in Africa. He ordered a barrage of Navy-fired Tomahawk cruise missiles aimed at bin Laden's training camps in Afghanistan near its border with Pakistan. Those attacks, coming when the president was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, were seen as largely ineffective, however.
Officials say that if Mr. Bush chooses to strike bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization, the response must be more extensive. Options include the forcible entry of thousands of troops or sustained bombing over days, not hours.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld briefed the press last night but declined to speculate on any military action.
Asked if he was confident that the perpetrators of the attacks would be found, he said, "All one can offer by way of assurance is a seriousness of purpose. We're still taking bodies out of this building, so I would say that that's a little premature."


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