WASHINGTON — The United States should strike back militarily, perhaps with B-52s, if Libya launches new terrorist attacks, and Libya should understand that the next attack might be much more extensive, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe said today.
"I happen to be one who believes . . . that if those conditions obtain again--an attack against our people, an attack against our facilities, and (Libyan strongman Col. Moammar) Kadafi is found responsible for it--that we need to strike again," said Gen. Bernard A. Rogers, NATO's supreme allied commander and commander in chief of U.S. forces in Europe.
"Otherwise, why did we strike the first time (in mid-April)? If he continues to do it and we find his fingerprints, then we have to go back again and tell him: 'Look, we meant it. This was just not a slap on the wrist. We meant it. We're serious. And if you continue to do this, you can continue to find us taking action against you,' " the general said.
In a breakfast meeting with Pentagon reporters, Rogers repeatedly stressed that he was speaking "for Bernie Rogers" and not for the Reagan Administration.
Rogers said that from a military standpoint, he would not limit the range of weapons used against Libya in any subsequent strike.
Missiles From Maine
He suggested that Libya could be hit with B-52 bombers flying directly from the United States if Kadafi persists in terrorist acts against Americans. The bombers carry cruise missiles.
"If you want to show Kadafi that he is not immune to any of the resources of the United States, let's put the B-52s over some (Libyan) targets out of North Dakota or Maine," he said.
The big eight-engine jet bombers of the Strategic Air Command, which can carry both conventional and nuclear bombs, have an almost unlimited range with air tanker refueling.
"Sure, that's not a unanimous opinion," Rogers said of the B-52 suggestion. "I'm talking for Bernie Rogers, and there have been occasions, I might say, when what I say and what the Administration wants to do have not coincided. But from where I sit, that's how I come on."
Air Force F-111s also "could do it again" in a repeat raid on Libya, Rogers said, "but I don't think we would ask (British Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher again."
Thatcher came under heavy international criticism, and some in her own country, for permitting F-111s to take off from British bases for the Libyan raids. The American planes had to fly a 14-hour circuitous route over the Atlantic around the Spanish coast because France and Spain refused overflights of their territory.
'We're Out There Watching'
Rogers denied that the deployment this week of F-111 bombers to England had anything to do with developments in Libya. But he said he "wouldn't object at all" if Kadafi thought the bombers were being prepared for use against him.
"If he thinks it's related, so much the better," Rogers said. "If he makes the linkage of all of that, that's what I'm talking about. Keeping the bastard on the \o7 qui vive \f7 (on his toes); let him know that we're out there watching him and he better be damn careful."
Rogers said he thinks Kadafi learned some lessons from the April raid.
"He learned that he could be struck. He was surprised. He went through his usual regime: one, withdrawal; secondly, starting to come out of it, and now starting to plan for other activities, and third, trying to reach the position where he can be so boastful of having struck American targets with impunity."
The Libyan leader should beware of his own possible fate, Rogers said.