Military Officers Seek Swift, Deadly Response

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Byline: Rowan Scarborough

America must confront murderous terrorists with quick and violent retaliation, military officers said yesterday as President Bush began weighing responses for the kamikaze-style attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

"This is our generation's Pearl Harbor," said a senior retired Navy officer. "It is time to kick ass. And If we have to kill a few innocent civilians in the process, so be it."

Military officers said they hoped Mr. Bush would break with past practices of handling terrorists attacks as drawn-out criminal homicide investigations rather than what they really are - acts of war that demand swift reprisals.

"The American people and the military will now be ready to put in ground troops with all the risks that that would entail," said an Army special operations soldier. "Missiles will not do the trick. We'll spend millions on missiles to destroy $20 worth of tents."

At the Pentagon, the mood was angry.

In a not-so-veiled threat, Gen. Henry H. Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "I will tell you upfront, I have no intention of discussing today what comes next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready."

Said a general officer whose Pentagon office barely missed the havoc brought by a terrorist-aimed 757 commercial airliner, "While the FBI will certainly lead the investigation, we should be careful to see this for what it really is: an act of war. . . . We should be wary of considering these acts as crimes, which involve the normal and understandable mechanisms of justice. If the actors are extraterritorial, then I believe international law allows for other responses."

The United States has not seriously retaliated for deadly attacks on U.S. service members in the Middle East despite lengthy criminal investigations by the FBI that linked the murders to associates of Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Said a congressional defense aide, "If I were Bush, I would launch B-52s toward Afghanistan and carpet-bomb where bin Laden is. I'd have Special Forces go in afterward and kill any survivors. We know where he typically hides and where he trains in Afghanistan. I know we do."

Pentagon sources said planners were quickly updating contingency plans for striking terrorist sites, including the known hideouts of the prime suspect, bin Laden, and his deadly operatives. …