To take on terrorists, U.S. needs a real war

August 29, 1998|By GREGORY KANE

HOW MANY AMERICANS figure that alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden is quaking in his boots by now? A show of hands please. Anyone? Anyone?

Of course he isn't. The bombs we dropped in Afghanistan missed him and his gathering of terrorists. The bombs we dropped in Sudan either destroyed a deadly chemical weapons plant -- if you believe President Clinton and that ever-reliable, never-prevaricating American intelligence community -- or a pharmaceutical plant. A CNN news report says one of our bombs also hit a candy factory near Khartoum. So we may have destroyed something truly dangerous, or we may only have wiped out a few hundred kilos of penicillin and a mess of Goobers.

So how do we effectively deal with terrorists? To cut straight to the nasty business at hand, the question should be, how do we strike terror into the hearts of terrorists?

Dropping bombs on places like Khartoum only helps strengthen the regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and alienate those Sudanese critical of their government. It allows the spiritual head of that government, Hassan al-Turabi, to go before television cameras and suggest that Clinton resorted to bombing "niggers" to divert attention away from his Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Oh, yes, Turabi went there. He cynically used America's racial problems, no doubt to draw sympathy from African-Americans for his government. But Sudan has some internal racial problems of its own. If they insist on using ours against us, perhaps we should use theirs against them.

We might use diplomatic channels to ask Messrs Bashir and Turabi what they would think of the United States' providing the rebel movement of blacks in southern Sudan with our latest weapons and supporting them with air cover for their next offensive. The suggestion might make even Bashir and Turabi think twice about flirting with terrorists.

Such arm-twisting diplomacy could backfire, of course. America's Third World diplomacy over the years has basically consisted of one tactic: shoot ourselves in the foot. We supported France's efforts to recolonize Indochina in 1946 when we should probably have backed Ho Chi Minh. America's intelligence community helped South Africa's apartheid regime track down Nelson Mandela in the early 1960s, was implicated in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba -- the first prime minister of the Congo -- and helped oust neutralist Prince Norodom Sihanouk in Cambodia, which led to the Khmer Rouge taking over the country and committing mass murder.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, we backed bin Laden when he fought with Afghanistan's mujahedeen in their war against Soviet occupation. In that one, we should have stayed neutral. The mujahedeen eventually drove the Soviets from Afghanistan. The government they set up was far from the Western model of democracy. Only two months ago, the Taliban, which took power in 1996, closed 100 private schools that had been educating girls. How bad is the Taliban? The government of Iran has accused them of giving Islam a bad name.

How do we keep from shooting ourselves in the feet again in the war against terrorism? A couple of tactics come to mind. In the case of Mr. bin Laden, let's get creative. Let's put a bounty on him. A reward of $10 million sounds about right. Smaller rewards could be placed on the heads of bin Laden's lieutenants and the leaders and sub-leaders of other terrorist groups.

Such a tactic has the benefit of getting everybody in the hunt. Hit men, drug dealers, gangsters across the world and even other terrorists would think seriously about taking out bin Laden. His days of sleeping with both eyes closed would come to an abrupt end.

Here's another suggestion: Send our agents after bin Laden with only one objective: killing him. That tactic lacks a commitment to due process, but we're supposed to be at war with terrorists. In war, there is only one goal: Kill as many of the enemy as possible. If bin Laden is responsible for the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, if indeed he is on record as bragging that the war between his followers and America has just begun, then Americans should oblige him. He's got it coming.

He won't be the first -- and, regrettably, not the last -- bellicose braggart to get a beat-down from Americans.

Pub Date: 8/29/98

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