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January 16, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

To the rescue
Retired Lt. Gen. Claude M. Kicklighter has left his post at the Department of Veterans Affairs to come to the Pentagon.

Gen. Kicklighter, a former Army ground commander, is now a top official in what is called "CPA Rear" — the staff in Washington to support the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

"He's come in, rolled up his sleeves and gone to work," said a defense official.

CPA Rear is aiding in the award of reconstruction contracts and in moving Iraq to self-rule by July 1. It periodically sends teams to Iraq for a firsthand assessment, then returns to report to senior Pentagon officials.

The Pentagon, White House and State Department are engaged in a massive interagency process to develop policies for the Iraq transition. The options on the table include naming a four-star officer to run military operations.

Gen. Kicklighter is Veterans Affairs' assistant secretary for policy, planning and preparedness. In 1991, he became director of the nation's effort to honor veterans on the 50th anniversary of World War II.

Al Qaeda disconnect
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in September 2002: "We do have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad."

CIA Director George J. Tenet in October 2002: "We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade. ... We have credible reporting that al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at a press conference last week, when asked about a Baghdad-al Qaeda link: "I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I think the possibility of such connections did exist and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did."

Baghdad scene
A U.S. worker in Iraq's capital city sends this update on life for the average citizen:

"The Iraqis are enjoying life to an extent they haven't had for decades. Every commodity is available, the shops are full, a few nightclubs are reviving, satellite dishes are like mushrooms sprouting everywhere.

"Families are out at night (although there is still a crime problem in some areas). Dozens of Internet cafes have appeared. The Iraqis are watching 'Friends' and 'Ally McBeal' (one of the favorites). Arab music (which I love) is booming out everywhere. Food is plentiful, booze is available; the girls are out in western dress, beautifully attired and made up. And I might add, many are exceedingly attractive.

"No, Iraq isn't up to U.S. standards. Decent dental or medical care is only available to the very wealthy, and the infrastructure is falling apart. Saddam invested an unbelievable amount of money in palaces and hunting clubs, and his cronies emulated his example."

Myers backs Taiwan
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this week finished the first visit to China by a high-level U.S. defense official since 2000 with a defense of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

"The U.S. is committed to helping Taiwan maintain its ability to resist the use of force or coercion to solve this problem," Gen. Myers told a group of Chinese and U.S. reporters in Beijing.

The four-star general was asked by a Chinese reporter about U.S. support for the island, which Beijing views as a breakaway province.

"In fact, if you look at the buildup on the Chinese mainland side of the Strait in terms of surface-to-surface missiles, you would see a very large buildup," he said. "And China continues to build up its capability opposite Taiwan."

China has some 450 missiles targeted on the island. Pentagon officials say Taiwan is considering the purchase of U.S. Patriot PAC-3 missiles, a move likely to further upset Beijing.

Gen. Myers said the United States has a responsibility to help Taiwan defend itself "so there will be a peaceful resolution of this problem and there will not be temptation to use force to solve it."

Tensions have been raised across the Taiwan Strait over Taiwan's plan for a referendum on the missile threat to the island. Beijing is opposing the referendum as a step toward independence by Taiwan, which China has said would be tantamount to a declaration of war.

Gen. Myers' comments appeared to bolster U.S. support for Taiwan, a democratic nation, following recent statements by President Bush.

Mr. Bush appeared to side with China last month when he told reporters, "We oppose any unilateral decision to change, by either China or Taiwan, to change the status quo."

The comment was viewed widely as a rebuke of democratic Taipei and support for communist China.

Full disclosure
One of the chief complaints of conservatives about the Washington-New York media is that reporters always label conservative sources, but don't always label liberal ones. It can leave the impression, conservatives complain, that they have an ax to grind, while liberal "experts" or talking heads are merely objective observers.

Take last week's release of a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, which accused President Bush of misleading Americans on invading Iraq. Stories listed the three authors, but did not note their past political affiliations. So, we will:

•Joseph Cirincione. A former Democratic staffer for the House Armed Services Committee.

•George Perkovich. A former foreign policy adviser and speechwriter for Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and a frequent Bush critic.

•Jessica T. Mathews, Carnegie Endowment president. She worked at the National Security Council under President Carter. She wrote opinion pieces for The Washington Post before returning to government with the election of Bill Clinton as deputy undersecretary of state for global affairs.

Drug probe
The recent seizure of drugs in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea has prompted members of Congress to ask the administration for information on the al Qaeda-narcotics connection.

Administration sources say privately that Osama bin Laden's terror network is skimming money from drug runners to fund operations. But in public, officials are more guarded.

Now, the House Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and panel chairman, is taking tentative steps toward putting the administration on record.

Committee staffers are talking to military officials for possible public hearings later this year. The hearings would be conducted by the subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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