FORUM 
Stay focused on war on terrorism
Bill O'Reilly      June 08, 2002

With summer upon us, the war on terrorism may become somewhat blinded by the light.  I mean, who wants to think about Osama bin Laden and his sociopathic pals while on the beach?  Possible nuke strikes don't exactly go well with box seats at a Red Sox game.  

But America is fighting an enemy every bit as dangerous as the Nazis, Japanese and Soviets were, and we should be reminded of that time and time again.  In fact, the Muslim fanatics who are killing civilians worldwide are capable of doing anything and everything.  Do you doubt that they would use nuclear weapons or smallpox if they could?  You'd be foolish if you did.

So how do we neutralize this enemy?  The Israelis tried to bulldoze their hideouts and incarcerate their leaders.  But Hamas and Islamic Jihad are still sending suicide bombers to kill Jewish women and children in cafes.

The United States destroyed the Taliban, but bin Laden's assassins are still operating in Afghanistan and around the world.  Is there no solution to this enemy?

As a matter of fact, there is, but the solution goes against the traditions of America. The way to fight Islamic terrorists is to terrorize them. Bring the war to their villages and homes. Strike them unexpectedly with lethal force.

This cannot be done with conventional forces or with rules of engagement sanctioned by the Geneva Convention.  Fighting terror with terror opens the grisly door of human rights violations and crimes against humanity.  Yet it must be done.

Former Secretary of State George Schultz told an audience of diplomats in Virginia that "we the United States reserve, within the framework of our right to self-defense, the right to preempt terrorist threats within a state's borders ..."

That's a polite way of saying America is going to attack some nations that aide and harbor terrorists.  Hello, Iraq.

But this kind of militaristic saber-rattling always has a downside.  Whenever a military operation is launched, it becomes a page-one story and inflames worldwide public opinion.  We usually have to buy off our so-called allies with cash to go along, and we always take massive propaganda hits.  So I believe there is a better way to "preempt terrorist threats."

The United States and Britain should form elite commando units that would supervise the assassinations of known terrorist leaders and operatives.  These killings could be contracted out to local people, or they could be done by the U.S. Delta Force or the British SAS.  But they must be done quietly and methodically.

If that strategy became public, the media would howl, and the human rights groups would condemn, but what is the real alternative here?  Shall we wait until one of these terrorist groups gets a small nuclear device operational and in the name of Allah blows up Baltimore?

That's what happens in the movie "The Sum of All Fears," which is basically a cartoon that adds nothing to the national discourse.  Nevertheless, the moviemakers understand that the technology exists for a terrorist nuclear strike.

So it seems to me that responsible world leaders have a mandate to neutralize Muslim fanatics and send a message that people who sign up for terrorist duty may die in their beds wherever those beds may be.  Eliminating terrorist leaders and the people who encourage them including Muslim clerics would be both effective and permissible, considering the global threat they present.  It is not easy replacing leaders in any situation.

After Sept. 11, President Bush very quietly issued an order that deadly force would be used because our national security was in danger.  The rationale for that order comes from the U.N. charter, of all places, which sanctions killing in self-defense.  Article 51 says that "measures" may be taken by any member of the U.N. that experiences an armed attack.

Certainly, America qualifies.  The word "measures" is not defined in the article, so I will define it now: The United States has a right to kill known terrorists.  There, that settles it.

Fanatics bent on destroying civilians with weapons of mass destruction, including jetliners, deserve to be placed on a self-defense assassination list.  How can any reasonable person argue against this?  It is time for sane world leaders to recognize the al-Qaida threat for what it is a doomsday scenario.

Perhaps President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have already secretly decided that targeted assassination is a reasonable and effective option.  Let's hope so.

Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show "The O'Reilly Factor." His column is distributed by Creators Syndicate, 5777 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90045.

©New Haven Register 2002