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July 12, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Pentagon resignation
Robert Andrews, a Vietnam War Green Beret, Cold War CIA officer and popular mystery writer, is resigning as the Pentagon's top civilian on special-operations warfare.

Mr. Andrews' last day is July 31, giving him one year on the job as principal deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict (SOLIC).

Mr. Andrews was said to believe he accomplished a lot on policy matters, as special-operations forces became the prime tool in combating terrorists in Afghanistan, the Philippines and other countries.

He wants time to honor a contract with Putnam to write two more mystery novels. His "whodunits" center on D.C. detectives Frank and Jose, who solve the case as they move among the city's bars, diners, restaurants and landmarks.

Mr. Andrews, 64, also is said to be happy about the future of SOLIC, which Congress created in the 1980s to correct shortcomings in the special-operations community.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has proposed folding SOLIC into a new office for homeland security. The top SOLIC official would be downgraded from assistant secretary to deputy assistant secretary, and report to the homeland security boss. Congress has not yet approved the consolidation.

Opponents fear the reorganization will dilute SOLIC's influence in the Pentagon just when it's needed most to aid covert warriors out in the field. The White House has not moved to nominate an assistant secretary for SOLIC since its first nominee was withdrawn from the Senate. Mr. Andrews has basically run the shop since then.

China encirclement
The Chinese government is continuing its global effort to secure a commercial-strategic foothold on some of the world's most vital naval choke points. U.S. intelligence officials tell us the latest move involves Hong Kong magnate Li Kashing.

Mr. Li and his Hutchison Whampoa company want to build a large port facility in Iran, north of the major Iranian naval base of Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf, according to officials familiar with intelligence reports. The port would sit a few miles from the Strait of Hormuz, where a good portion of the world's oil passes.

Other intelligence reports indicate China also wants to set up port facilities in Malta, located strategically in the Mediterranean Sea.

The U.S. Southern Command wrote a classified intelligence estimate several years ago stating that China is seeking to set up a commercial presence around the world at strategic choke points.

Officials believe the commercial outposts could be used by China in the event of a world crisis or conflict as a base for military operations to disrupt international shipping.

Mr. Li has been identified by U.S. intelligence agencies as having close ties to senior Chinese Communist Party leaders. He was behind China's successful bid to win long-term leases for two ports located at either end of the Panama Canal for companies linked to Mr. Li's Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate. Panama is a key strategic waterway for the U.S. military, which would use the canal as part of a supply line in the event of a conflict in Asia.

Hutchison has secured port facilities in the Bahamas, and as we reported in March, also is vying to purchase a major port facility in Tampa, Fla., home to the U.S. Central Command, which is a key command in the war against terrorism.

Unfortunately, pro-China officials in the U.S. government have sought to dismiss the strategic encirclement. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told a congressional hearing last year that he sees no danger to China's presence near the canal.

A declassified Army intelligence report from 1998 stated that Mr. Li was "planning to take control of Panama Canal operations when the U.S. transfers it to Panama in Dec. 99," and noted that Mr. Li "is directly connected to Beijing and is willing to use his business influence to further the aims of the Chinese government."

Bird's-eye view
The investigation into the July 1 killing of Afghan civilians in Uruzgan province should be aided by clear video from the AC-130 gun camera. Any anti-aircraft fire directed at the lumbering four-engine gunship should show up on the tape and vindicate the air crew.

"AC-130s have a battle-damage assessment videotape recorder tied to the firing circuit of the guns so that any time the guns fire, you record the video from the selected firing sensor," an Air Force source told us. "That should show what the target was that was being fired on for the investigation."

During the air war against the Taliban last year, The Washington Times obtained a tape of an AC-130 aircraft attacking a Taliban vehicle. After cannon fire landed all around the vehicle, Taliban fighters stopped, got out and started running for cover.

At this point, the gunners switched to machine gun fire that appeared to kill all those running away. The taping system's quality appears sufficient to record any anti-aircraft fire, such as the Pentagon says occurred July 1.

Army movements
The Army is moving its U.S. southern headquarters from Puerto Rico to the continental United States.

Not everyone in Congress is happy about the move. They don't blame the Army for wanting to vacate Puerto Rico. Soldiers have complained about low living standards.

What some staffers question is the choice of a new home: Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The aides say the Army already has plenty of political support inside the Texas delegation.

They say the Army should have picked another Southern state, where it can pick up a few new votes, especially at a time when the Army's future weapons and very size is being challenged by civilian policy-makers inside the Pentagon.

The Mississippi and Georgia delegations are particularly upset.

Dirty nukes
A retired Navy submariner we know has sent a letter to Tom Ridge, director of homeland security, urging him to issue the simplest of guidelines in the event the United States is hit by a radiological bomb, or "dirty nuke."

"Don't panic," writes the nuclear-trained official, suggesting what the warning should say. "Tie a bandanna or large handkerchief over your nose and mouth. Seek shelter, preferably in an environment where the ventilation system is on recirc. Those of us who are nuclear-trained know the above by instinct. The public deserves to learn about them through mass media bombardment."

Britons watch backs
British marines in Afghanistan came under a different kind of fire during operations in a remote region of the country two months ago.

The correspondent for the Scotsman newspaper reported from Bagram that the Britons were alarmed by propositions from groups of homosexual Afghan farmers after one operation deep in the Afghan mountains.

"They were more terrifying than the al Qaeda," said one marine, James Fletcher. "One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours. They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village."

The marines were propositioned by dozens of men in villages that were being searched in the hunt for al Qaeda terrorists.

"We were pretty shocked," said Mr. Fletcher, whose rank was not given. "We discovered from the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: 'A woman for babies, a man for pleasure.'"

In some villages near Khost, Afghan homosexuals sought to stroke the marines' hair. "Every village we went into we got a group of men wearing makeup coming up, stroking our hair and cheeks, and making kissing noises," said Cpl. Paul Richard, 20.

At one village, homosexual Afghans invited the troops into a house. "They put some music on and ask us to dance. I told them where to go," said Cpl. Richard. "Some of the guys turned tail and fled. It was hideous."

Another marine, Vaz Pickles, told the newspaper that the hill tribes in Afghanistan appeared to be very isolated. "I think a lot of the problem is that they don't have the women around a lot," he said. "We only saw about two women in the whole six days. It was all very disconcerting."

Thanks to the WorldNetDaily magazine Whistleblower for alerting us to the story.

  • 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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