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Declare War on Sponsors of Terrorism

If a group claims responsibility for a bombing, that's reason enough to attack its home base.

August 04, 1996|BRUCE HERSCHENSOHN | Bruce Herschensohn is a distinguished fellow with the Claremont Institute

When there is an incident of international terrorism, our lawmakers' immediate reaction is to enact new regulations that further erode the liberties of our own citizens rather than erode the liberties of terrorists. Simultaneously, interviews with American travelers are exhibited throughout the world as those travelers say they will gladly accommodate new inconveniences and costs brought about under conditions of terror.

Just think: All terrorists have to do to cause more inconvenience and higher cost for Americans is to commit more terrorist attacks. It's that simple.

In addition to that sure reaction is the knowledge that our president will claim that we will find the perpetrators of the terrorist act and bring those perpetrators to justice.

One day after the tragedy of TWA Flight 800, an organization called the Islamic Change Movement claimed responsibility for the bombing of that airliner. The statement was clear: "We carried out our promise with the plane attack of yesterday."

That should be enough. We should take that organization's headquarters and training centers off the map. We know where they are.

But what if they lied? What if they had nothing to do with the crash of TWA Flight 800 other than to take responsibility for something of which they weren't guilty? Too bad. They publicly announced they were responsible and in retaliation for such a claim, if not for a crime itself, they should be severely punished. Nothing will be lost except a base of terrorism.

What should we do if no organization takes responsibility for an act that we know is a perpetration of international terrorism? Bomb any terrorist headquarters, training centers or safe houses that are scattered throughout seven terrorist states whose governments allow and encourage such facilities to be harbored within their borders.

Just before the June 25 terrorist attack near Dhahran that killed 19 American servicemen, there was a conference in Tehran of what is called the International Hizballah. The conference reviewed proposals from various participating terrorist organizations against United States interests and targets. They selected what they considered to be appropriate targets and those proposals were submitted to Iran's chief of external intelligence, Mehdi Chamran.

The committee members included Usami bin Ladin, who is the main financier of terrorism in Saudi Arabia, and Ahmad Salah, who represents those who invoke terrorist attacks in Egypt. That conference decided that the International Hizballah should escalate and expand terrorist attacks against U.S. interests worldwide.

On July 20, after the bombing at Dhahran and the TWA crash, there was a follow-up conference of International Hizballah in which the Islamic Change Movement was singled out for its recent "achievements." Further terrorist attacks against United States interests were discussed.

What have we done?

All kinds of ideas have been advanced to inconvenience and burden Americans. While we praise ourselves for acts of nonpartisanship, those within the terrorist network praise themselves for causing nonpartisan hardships on American citizens. How much more proof is needed to recognize that punishing Americans while we search for individual terrorists and, perhaps, even find and punish them, will not deter international terrorism? Only swift, sure and severe retaliation on terrorism itself can act as a deterrent.

To avoid a constitutional argument and avoid debate regarding the War Powers Resolution, the president should ask the Congress for a declaration of war against terrorism. Such a declaration would mean that it is the right of this nation to attack terrorist targets as retaliation for attacks against U.S. citizens. This would not be a declaration of war against the seven nations that harbor terrorist bases--Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Cuba and North Korea--but rather a declaration of war against the bases of terrorism within those and other countries. If such a declaration puts a terrorist organization at risk of our retaliation even though that organization may not have committed the particular act for which we are retaliating, its only recourse is to get out of the terrorism business. If a government says it had nothing to do with a particular act, that government's only recourse to avoid risk is to disallow such terrorist bases within its borders.

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