OUT-TERROR THE TERRORIST

BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
6 February 2001

A court in the Netherlands recently found a Libyan intelligence officer guilty of murder in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

At long last, justice prevailed. Or has it?

Major Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the terrorist, got 20 years at most for killing 270 human beings. Less than a month in a modern Dutch prison for every person assassinated.

A shoplifter in New York City might pull more and harder time.

And what about Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi carrying on like Adolf Hitler on a bad mustache day about the crooked deal the court laid on his hired gun?

Like dictators everywhere, Gadhafi is a control freak. Nothing in his police state gets a green light without his personal OK. So you can bet the family car that he gave the order. No way did Megrahi wake up one morning and decide to blow up a U.S. passenger jet all by his lonesome. Lockerbie was all about an eye for an eye. Payback for Ronald Reagan thumping Gadhafi in 1986 after Libyan fingerprints were found all over the grenade fragments that killed two American soldiers in a Berlin disco.

But while George W. Bush promises that U.S. business bans will stay in place, Gadhafi's cash registers continue ringing from oil sales. Like Iraq's Saddam Hussein, the crazy colonel knows how to beat the sanctions. Dubya needs to put a stop to more than a decade of presidential soft talk and act. It's time we went after the real perp behind the Pan Am bombing and delivered the message to all foreign terrorists: Don't mess with the USA.

International terrorism coupled with Weapons of Mass Destruction - chemical, biological and nuclear - are America's major threat. One WMD released in New York City, Dallas or Los Angeles could cause more deaths than all our past wars combined.

Face it: We're vulnerable.

Remember the World Trade Center, which almost became a sarin-enhanced WMD main event, and the near disasters planned for New Year's 2000 in Seattle and New York City, prevented only by deft FBI roll-ups? Or take a look at the recent terrorist hits on our embassies in Africa, our bases in Saudi Arabia and the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.

States like Libya operate by hiring rats to do their dirty work, hoping they won't leave evidence leading back to the home office. After a mass killing, these leaders gleefully critique the horror on the tube, then say, "It wasn't me" with a straight face and blame the evil deed on supposedly stateless fanatics like Osama bin Laden.

To stop the crazies from importing WMD or any other type of terrorism to our shores, we need to return to the rules that kept the United States and the Soviets from nuking themselves to radiated smithereens - Mutually Assured Destruction.

Our attackers must know that what they bring to us will be returned to them by a factor of 10. And we need to start by making an example of Gadhafi - beginning right now.

Our planners should draw up a list of targets in Libya: every port, airfield, depot, gun factory, headquarters, training area, tank park and military barrack. This list would then be provided to Gadhafi's top brass along with the message that until their glorious leader turns himself over to an international court for trial, Libya will be pulverized. Then the day before our B-2 bombers launch their first night stealth attack, all sites would get leaflet drops telling the citizens to get out of the beating zones.

Every week or so, the USAF would turn a chosen target into rubble. There would be no collateral damage, and our bomber crews would get in some practice. Instead of dropping bombs on desert training ranges - which upset the horny-toad lovers - we'd smash Libya's defense machine one cog at a time at little or no risk.

Believe it - the Libyan generals would soon deliver up their Head Looney Tune. And other rogue nations such as Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan - that are plotting, sponsoring and aiding international criminals planning to zap the USA as I write - would quickly get the word.

Right now, the only way to fight the fires of this new face of war - international terrorism - might be with the business end of a B-2.