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February 6, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

War Shortages
As the Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Georgia carries out Pentagon orders to reorganize itself into lighter, quick brigades, it is also noting lessons learned from the last war.

We've obtained a one-page internal document that lists some of the division's shortfalls during its fast march north from Kuwait to Baghdad. •About 6,500 of the division's 18,000 soldiers lacked night-vision goggles.

•Eight in 10 wheeled vehicles lack weapons mounts.

•The division needs hand-held global positioning system (GPS) sets for each soldier, as well as Q-37 radars to locate the source of enemy fire.

Gay lunch
Gregory D. Foster, a professor at the Pentagon's National Defense University (NDU), is hosting a brown-bag lunch discussion on Tuesday with two members of the British Royal Navy.

That in itself is not raising eyebrows. What has some NDU staff concerned is that the two British sailors are homosexual. Britain has lifted its military ban on open homosexuals; the U.S. military has not. The Pentagon still considers the practice detrimental to good order and discipline.

Also invited to the lunch is Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The center's mission statement reads: "The Center promotes the interdisciplinary analysis of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and other marginalized sexual identities in the armed forces."

Mr. Foster's invitation reads in part: "Given the provocative and sensitive nature of the issue, I consider this an especially valuable opportunity to better understand what gays in the military feel and experience. Accordingly, I encourage you to bring your lunch and prepare to engage in some revealing and potentially enlightening discussion."

The discussion is tied to an elective course at NDU, "Critical Social Issues and National Security."

Mr. Foster, a West Point graduate and former Army officer, is professor of political science at the NDU's Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Inside Kim Jong-il
A new book on North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il presents surprising information about one of the world's most reclusive communist dictators and his regime.

Seoul-based North Korea watcher Michael Breen reveals that the ruling Korean Worker's Party has set up a special "Longevity Institute" dedicated to maintaining the health and nutrition of what Pyongyang calls the "Dear Leader." All rice consumed by the "DL" comes from the same county in North Korea and each grain is inspected individually before cooking.

The rice must be cooked over a flame using wood from Mount Paektu. Beyond rice, Mr. Kim also is the largest individual consumer of Hennessy Paradis cognac, spending around $700,000 annually on the booze.

Mr. Kim, a smoker, also had his minions find the best-tasting cigarettes. They came up with two brands: Rothmans and Dunhill. Opting for Rothmans, Mr. Kim, in a quest for revolutionary self-sufficiency, ordered indigenous production of a similar-tasting cigarette named Paektusan.

Mr. Breen, who has traveled several times to North Korea, describes the communist state as "Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia in the middle of Mao's Cultural Revolutionary madness."

Details about Mr. Kim are contained in the book "Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader. Who He Is, What He Wants, What To Do About Him."

SOG stories
California journalist John Stryker Meyer is out with a new book on SOG, the "studies and observation" group that ran covert operations from Vietnam into Laos in the 1960s and 1970s.

In "Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam," Mr. Meyer gives an eyewitness account of some of the war's most dangerous reconnaissance and intelligence missions.

Mr. Meyer, a SOG operator from 1968 to 1970, recalls signing a document in 1968 pledging to not write about SOG for 20 years.

He writes in the acknowledgements that Robert K. Brown, the former Green Beret who founded Soldier of Fortune magazine, was the first person to pay him for writing about SOG.

His first book is available through He has begun work on a second.

Iraq bound
The U.S. war on terror is putting extra pressure on National Guard and Reserve units that are now deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

A good example of how the outfits prepare is North Carolina's 30th Heavy Separate Brigade, an Army National Guard unit of some 4,800 soldiers.

The brigade is tagged to go to Iraq next month as part of a massive rotation of fresh troops to relieve battle-weary ones who get to go home. The 30th first had to shed weight, turning in tanks for wheeled vehicles to better get around Iraq. Next, it went to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., and trained for the "Contemporary Operating Environment" — i.e., Iraq.

First Lt. Scarlet Wootton, a North Carolina National Guard spokeswoman, told us soldiers practiced such tactics as how to disarm an improvised explosive device (IED), the deadly roadside bombs that have killed scores of Americans and Iraqis. Soldiers also learned how to respond to an Iraqi who approaches a camp perimeter and demands money for destroyed crops.

Said Lt. Wootton, "Establishing a strong working relationship with the local population is the key to successful security operation. The population will more than likely identify insurgents and weapons caches in the area if their basic needs have been met."

In Iraq, the 30th will join up with the 1st Infantry Division, which is relieving the 4th Infantry Division, now headquartered in Tikrit.

Iraqi destruction plan
Former Romanian intelligence chief Ian Pacepa says that Iraq, like its Russian and Soviet patrons, likely had a predetermined plan to destroy and hide all weapons of mass destruction, should the arms be discovered.

We asked weapons inspector David Kay about Mr. Pacepa's information.

His response: The Iraqis "certainly destroyed things and it looks systematic, and it looks thought out in advance and continues. But I can't tie it directly to that report."

  • 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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