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February 24, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Chinese influence op
China's ambassador to the United States recently sent letters to members of Congress warning that comments last month by Taiwan's leader were a threat to peace.

Zhou Wenzhong, the ambassador, stated in the Feb. 8 letter that he regarded statements by Chen Shui-bian, president of the Republic of China (Taiwan), as provocative.

Mr. Chen, in a speech Jan. 29, called for updating Taiwan's constitution and taking other steps Beijing views as leading to formal independence.

China has vowed to retake the island by force if formal independence is declared by Taiwan. President Bush in 2001 vowed to help defend the island from a mainland attack.

"Chen is every inch a troublemaker and a real threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," Mr. Zhou stated.

He added that "in the interest of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard the shared interests of China and U.S. in this region, I sincerely hope you and the U.S. Congress will oppose Chen's remarks and moves in clear-cut terms ... and oppose Taiwan independence."

A "non-paper" included with the letter was more blunt. It stated that China will "never put up with Taiwan independence or allow anyone to separate Taiwan from China by whatever means."

Some members of Congress who support Taiwan were upset by the Chinese letter campaign.

The letter and paper are part of the Chinese government's ongoing influence operations aimed at winning U.S. government support for Beijing policies. They are run out of a section of the embassy with more than 10 Chinese officials. The operations are aimed at supporting Chinese policy toward Taiwan.

The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in a recent report that the U.S. government should consider abandoning the so-called "one China policy" that does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state.

Taiwan is an independent island nation founded by Chinese nationalists who fled the mainland during the 1940s civil war.

Two old political warriors from the same era matched wits in New York. There was Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld explaining his views on war to a group of skeptical businessmen and politicians, including Ted Sorensen, speechwriter for President Kennedy.

"Is the answer to winning the ideological war against al Qaeda better public relations or a better foreign policy?" Mr. Sorensen pointedly asked Mr. Rumsfeld at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr. Rumsfeld has taken to quoting Mr. Kennedy's "long twilight struggle" to describe the war on terror. He did again in his answer, then stopped to ask, "Did you write those words?"

"Ask not," Mr. Sorensen replied, to laughter and applause.

"I like that. Very good," said Mr. Rumsfeld, always one to appreciate a clever double-entendre.

Night school
University of Maryland University College (UMUC), the night school for working adults, is expanding its tradition of supplying education to U.S. service members overseas.

"When the military asked for us to deliver education to troops in Europe, we were there," Provost Nicholas Allen is quoted as saying in the UMUC newsletter. "When asked to serve in Asia, we were there."

Now, the military wants UMUC to enter the war on terror. UMUC-Europe has deployed faculty to Afghanistan to teach classes. Service members in Iraq and Afghanistan already are taking UMUC online.

Last year, about 59,000 military members and their families were enrolled in UMUC classes.

Iran option
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs chairman, dampened speculation during a National Press Club appearance that military action against Iran is near.

"I believe that the international community has many, many, many diplomatic, economic, other opportunities to influence Iran not only the United States, but all the international community to affect the way that Iran is acting in the world," he said. "So from where I stand, from where I sit, we are a long way away from needing the military option."

PC Annapolis
Lt. Bryan Black, the Naval Academy instructor who faces a court-martial for using salty language in the presence of a female midshipman, faces a politically correct atmosphere at the Annapolis campus that jeopardizes his right to fair adjudication.

That assessment does not come from his friends or attorney, but from the Marine Corps officer who investigated him and testified at a pretrial hearing.

Maj. Chris J. Thielemann talked of a "political correctness atmosphere that the academy is known for," adding, "I don't believe he could get a fair hearing given the environment."

The atmosphere, he said, is fueled in part by a 2005 Defense Department task force report critical of how the campus handles sexual harassment complaints. The academy then ordered a "no tolerance" policy.

Maj. Thielemann's sworn testimony came on a motion from defense attorney Charles Gittins to disqualify the school's superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, as the officer overseeing the court-martial. A Navy appeals court is now considering the motion, putting the trial on hold.

Maj. Thielemann, according to a transcript of the pretrial hearing at the Washington Navy Yard, testified that Lt. Black made an inappropriate remark in front of the midshipman about how a battleship sexually arouses him. Maj. Thielemann said the student accepted Lt. Black's immediate apology. But another officer, Lt. Cmdr. Michelle Whisenhant, heard about the incident, did her own investigation and reported Lt. Black to headquarters, prompting an investigation.

"Lieutenant Commander Whisenhant does not like Lieutenant Black," Maj. Thielemann testified.

Maj. Thielemann recommended that Lt. Black receive counseling and a non-punitive letter of caution.

But Adm. Rempt overruled him and moved to punish Lt. Black at an admiral's mast. Lt. Black refused after learning that Adm. Rempt planned to conduct a public mast. Such proceedings are rarely ever done in public. Adm. Rempt then ordered a special court-martial.

Mr. Gittins has cited the desire for a public mast as a reason to disqualify Adm. Rempt because he clearly intended to convict Lt. Black at the hearing. "Why would he call for a public mast to find him not guilty?" Mr. Gittins said.

  • 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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