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August 1, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq weapons strategy
The Pentagon adopted a new strategy in its search for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It is called the "big impact" plan.

The plan calls for gathering and holding on to all the information now being collected about the weapons. Rather than releasing its findings piecemeal, defense officials will release a comprehensive report on the arms, perhaps six months from now.

The goal of the strategy will be to quiet critics of the Bush administration who said claims of Iraq's hidden weapons stockpiles were exaggerated in order to go to war.

President Bush on Wednesday said "miles of documents" have been gathered and are being analyzed. He described the material as containing "mounds of evidence" on Iraq's weapons.

In addition to analyzing documents on Iraq's arms, evidence of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorists is being studied, Mr. Bush said. "And I'm confident the truth will come out," he said.

David Kay, the special adviser to CIA Director George J. Tenet on Iraq's weapons said recently that the evidence is there. "I think in six months from now, we'll have a considerable amount of evidence, and we'll be starting to reveal that evidence," Mr. Kay said on NBC July 15. Yesterday, Mr. Kay rebutted a news report that claimed no Iraqi scientists were cooperating with the coalition team hunting for weapons in Iraq. In fact, Mr. Kay said, scientists are talking and are taking his personnel to specific sites.

A Pentagon spokesman had no comment on the Iraq weapons plan.

Abizaid's adviser
You may know him as H.R. McMaster, author of "Dereliction of Duty," the book that exposed deceit and double-crosses between President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War.

The author's full title was Army Maj. H.R. McMaster, who wrote the book while acquiring a postgraduate degree in history.

Now a full colonel, Col. McMaster is being used in a new role by Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command and the overseer of two critically important military missions: Iraq and Afghanistan.

Col. McMaster is in Baghdad as Gen. Abizaid's director of what is called the "commander's action group." A Pentagon official said part of Col. McMaster's job is to assess war progress and propose long-range solutions for the post-Saddam Hussein era.

The full title of his 1997 book is: "A Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff & the Lies That Led to Vietnam."

Until recently, Col. McMaster, a West Point graduate who has a Ph.D. in American history, was a military fellow at the Hoover Institution. Among his writings was this paragraph:

"President George W. Bush's approach to the current Iraqi problem stands in stark contrast to LBJ's approach to Vietnam. The Bush administration made its case for military action, and, after considerable debate, the American people, through their representatives in Congress, gave approval. The administration also made its case to the United Nations, highlighting the damage that inaction would inflict on prospects for peace in the long term."

Iraq's jammers
The U.S. military likes to think it has a monopoly on information warfare. But defense officials tell us the United States is losing the information war.

One of the biggest problems is the large amount of Arabic language broadcasts emanating from Iran. Radical Islamists directed by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are involved in at least three broadcast streams being pumped into Iraq.

The goal of the broadcasts is to incite Iraqi Shi'ites to oppose the U.S. military and civil operations in liberated Iraq and to set up an Islamic state like that of Iran.

The broadcasts are not new. In the past, Saddam Hussein's government operated powerful transmitters that jammed the Iranian broadcasts. The problem, defense officials tell us, is that during the recent Iraq conflict, U.S. bombers blew up all the jammers. The replacement of the jammers is not a high priority, as the military currently has its hands full dealing with daily guerrilla attacks and the hunt for Saddam.

Dov leaving
Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim, a longtime fixture in Republican national security circles, will likely leave his post sometime this fall. A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment yesterday.

Mr. Zakheim, who has shaped President Bush's burgeoning wartime defense budgets, was a candidate to become a service secretary, but the jobs went to other contenders.

Mr. Zakheim rose to prominence during the Reagan administration, when, as a lower-level Pentagon official, he convinced Israel to cancel its homegrown jet fighter, the Levi. His argument was that the expensive weapon was eating up too great a share of U.S. aid payments meant to increase the Jewish state's overall defense posture.

Mr. Zakheim left the Pentagon to become a defense consultant. He entrenched himself in conservative defense circles, writing op-ed articles and books, including one on the U.S.-Israeli face-off. Mr. Zakheim was among a select group of Republicans who advised George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential campaign and was rewarded with the post of undersecretary of defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer.

Navy vacancy
With last week's suicide of New Mexico Republican Colin McMillan, who was President Bush's choice for Navy secretary, new names are surfacing as the next nominee.

One is John Welch, a retired defense industry executive who ran General Dynamics marine group. Insiders say former Rep. Tillie Fowler, Florida Republican and a staunch Navy supporter, would also like the job.

Iraqi bombers
Ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's ragtag fighters are coming up with all sorts of ways to make bombs and place them near U.S. military convoys. The bombs are so varied the military had to name the genre and came up with improvised explosive device (IED).

In one model, Iraqis take a land mine, camouflage it in a sandbag, attach blasting caps and run a wire from it to a remote-control switch. The bomb is placed on the roadside and detonated when the convoy is forced to slow down by cinder blocks placed in its way.

Another bomb is made by putting a grenade inside a tub of gasoline with a delayed timer.

U.S. Central Command said yesterday the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment found an IED that consisted of a propane cylinder linked to electric wires that ran to a nearby alley. In a sign that locals are playing a larger role in law enforcement, Iraqi police dismantled and removed it.

Iraq improvement
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's aides keep telling Congress that things are going better in Iraq than the press is reporting.

One reason for some defense officials' optimism is a report from a senior 101st Airborne Division officer now circulating in the Pentagon. The 101st is principally responsible for enforcing peace and aiding the rebuilding effort in northern Iraq.

From Mosul, the officer writes, "The contrast I got here has been dramatic. The evidence of our success has finally started to break through to the people in the street. In fact, that may be a key reason behind some of the attacks in the past couple of weeks. We are making progress in providing for the people and our enemies know it and the people are starting to see the benefits of our presence more clearly. When I first got here, one of the main themes at the twice weekly city council was that we weren't doing enough to help solve basic problems and that what we were doing was not well publicized.

"We have continued to pursue projects and pump money into the local economy. We have also done more to publicize the division's contributions. The same leaders who complained when I first arrived now acknowledge that the word is getting out and the projects are getting noticed. In the end, these deeds speak louder than words and the enemies who are trying to portray us negatively are facing a more daunting challenge everyday."

  • 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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