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January 2, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Chinese influence unit
U.S. officials tell us the Chinese government has expanded a special section within the embassy in Washington that is in charge of running influence operations, primarily targeted at Congress.

The office is headed by Su Ge, a Chinese government scholar who wrote a book on U.S. relations that was required reading for Chinese officials involved in American affairs during the presidency of Jiang Zemin.

Mr. Su's operation now has some 26 political officers working to influence Congress and the Bush administration. Mr. Su has a doctorate from Brigham Young University and another degree from Harvard.

Mr. Su, formerly of the government-run China Institute of International Studies, told a reporter in 1999, "We have ambitions to become a midsized, regional superpower, nothing else," reflecting the Chinese government's effort to play down China's growing military power.

His appointment, made by former Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and Li Zhaoxing, the current foreign minister, is unusual because China's leaders generally view U.S.-educated officials with suspicion, fearing they could be spies or sympathizers who lack sufficient communist zeal.

One recent Chinese influence effort was an e-mail sent Dec. 26 to selected staff members of Congress. The e-mail contained a National Review article by Ross Munro, a China scholar who in the past was critical of China. The article in the conservative journal was critical of Chen Shui-bian, the president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), for provoking China — a view that coincides with Beijing's criticism of the island leader.

The e-mail was sent from Chinese Embassy official Niu Qingbao, who works in the section under Mr. Su.

CIA fooled?
Military officials tell us the CIA was snookered by an agent who fed false information on the location of Saddam Hussein on the opening night of the Iraq war.

The bogus intelligence was passed on to the U.S. Central Command, which then launched Tomahawk cruise missile and Stealth fighter strikes on a small palace facility near Baghdad known as Dora Farms.

The March 19 raid was the opening salvo in the war, which sought to kill the Iraqi dictator before the start of military operations in the hope that all opposition to the advancing U.S. and allied forces would collapse.

One official tells us the bad intelligence came from "a bogus Humint source," intelligence-speak for a human agent.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said two days after the bombing that "there's no question but that the strike on that leadership headquarters was successful. The question is: What was in there?"

The intelligence stated that the facility had bunkers underneath but a later search failed to uncover bunkers or tunnels. CIA officials claim the intelligence that Saddam was in the palace was accurate, but the bombing raid missed hitting the Iraqi leader.

The Dora Farms site in southern Baghdad now houses a major U.S. military base and is sealed off from the public.

Sanchez's future
Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq, may be headed for Miami for his next assignment.

Gen. Sanchez now commands Combined Joint Task Force 7, the coalition of 130,000 American troops, aided by Poland, Italy and other allies. He is perhaps best known for his regular press conference in which he delivers crisp, clipped answers. He used the military slang "spider hole" to describe Saddam Hussein's last hiding place, which sent wordsmiths on a hunt to find the phrase's origins.

Army sources say Gen. Sanchez may be in line as the next commander of U.S. Southern Command, based in Miami. The four-star billet oversees all American military operations in Latin America, including war-torn Colombia.

Gen. Sanchez would be the second Hispanic-American to reach four-star rank in the Army.

Army Gen. James T. Hill is in his second year as SouthCom chief. Combatant commanders typically serve two- to three-year terms.

Iraqi police
In the coming days, Jordan is expected to graduate its first class of Iraqi police officers.

A Pentagon briefing paper shows the United States financed an eight-week training program for new recruits, with two classes totaling 3,000 students who should be hitting the mean streets of Iraq in January.

Former Iraq police officers, once they are screened for loyalties to Saddam Hussein, go through a much shorter, three-week program in Iraq and are taught the "basic principles of law enforcement in a democratic society."

Iraq progress
A second Pentagon briefing paper lists the start of a number of programs that could lead to a functioning society next year. They include: •Iraqi air-traffic controllers are being trained to run Baghdad International Airport.

•Italy is providing 35 automated stations to provide instant weather conditions.

•More than 30 countries providing forces in Iraq, with the total count approaching 30,000. Some of the lesser-known contributors include Moldova, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania.

Meanwhile, a Marine commander has sent a memo to his troops reminding them of all the progress they have made since President Bush declared an end to major hostilities May 1.

The accomplishments: All Iraq's 400 courts, 22 universities and 43 technical schools are open; teachers and doctors earn eight to 25 times their salaries under Saddam; 22 million children have been vaccinated; telephone and drinking-water capacity is greatly improved; Iraqi banks are making loans to start new businesses; there are 170 operating newspapers and no Ministry of Information.

Republican army
A new Army Times poll shows something that candidate George W. Bush found out during the Florida presidential recount: The all-volunteer military is growing more Republican.

Mr. Bush won the original Florida tally by garnering a majority of absentee votes from service members counted after Election Day.

The Army Times, an independent newspaper, said this week that its 2003 poll "reveals a military more conservative, more Republican and one that considers itself to be morally superior to the nation it serves."

Only 7 percent of those polled considered themselves liberal, while 50 percent said they are conservative or very conservative, and 40 percent said they are moderates.

More than 50 percent identify themselves as Republican and just 13 percent as Democrats.

  • 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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