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March 19, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq-al Qaeda link
We have obtained a document discovered in Iraq from the files of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). The report provides new evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The 1993 document, in Arabic, bears the logo of the Iraqi intelligence agency and is labeled "top secret" on each of its 20 pages. The report is a list of IIS agents who are described as "collaborators."

On page 14, the report states that among the collaborators is "the Saudi Osama bin Laden."

The document states that bin Laden is a "Saudi businessman and is in charge of the Saudi opposition in Afghanistan."

"And he is in good relationship with our section in Syria," the document states, under the signature "Jabar."

The document was obtained by the Iraqi National Congress and first disclosed on the CBS program "60 Minutes" by INC leader Ahmed Chalabi. A U.S. official said the document appears authentic.

Public support
The Gallup Tuesday Briefing released this week shows that a large majority of Americans are satisfied with the military's strength and preparedness.

Gallup took the poll in light of the fact that many news reports say the 1.4 million active force, and activated Guard and Reserve, are stretched thin in the war on terrorism.

The poll found that 40 percent of Americans are "very satisfied" and 37 percent are "somewhat satisfied." About 17 percent are dissatisfied.

"Not surprisingly, Republicans are the most likely to report being very satisfied with the nation's military strength and preparedness, at 55 percent," Gallup said. "The percentages of very satisfied adults are much smaller among independents, at 39 percent, and Democrats, at 38 percent."

Friendly fire
Supporters of Maj. Harry Schmidt, whom the Air Force is court-martialing for dropping a bomb on friendly Canadian troops in Afghanistan, ask this question: Why hasn't the military filed such serious charges against other pilots in a series of "friendly fire" deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Maj. Schmidt, an F-16 pilot in the Illinois Air National Guard, dropped a bomb on the Canadians after seeing flashes of gunfire he thought were antiaircraft guns. It turns out the fire came from the Canadians' live-fire exercise.

A spot check of after-action reports in other "friendly fire" cases show similar mistakes.

ĽAn F-15E pilot flying over southern Iraq saw gunfire flashes near the town of Karbala on April 2, 2003. Minutes before, a Patriot battery had mistakenly shot down an F-18, killing the pilot. The F-15 pilot thought this meant enemy air defenses were in the area and mistook the fire of a U.S. Army rocket launcher as an Iraqi air defense gun. Three U.S. soldiers were killed.

"The F-15E, and his wingman, believing that they had just witnessed an enemy SAM launch and unaware of the presence of any friendly forces, began a bombing run, dropping one GBU-12 bomb," a U.S. Central Command report says.

ĽOver the Godoria Range of Djibouti in Africa, a B-52 crew mistakenly targeted a group of Marines on the range instead of the target they were pointing out for the bomber. One Marine officer was killed.

A investigation discovered that one of the navigators moved the bull's-eye from the target to the Marines to judge the distance between the two, but then never moved it back to the target before nine, 750-pound bombs were dropped.

Paper drop
The U.S. military has dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Iraq beginning in November 2002 and ending with the last aerial drop on April 4, 2003. Those leaflets told Iraqis that they could tune to several radio stations to hear coalition broadcasts.

After ousting Saddam Hussein's regime a few days later, U.S. military officials were surprised to find how the Iraqis were using the leaflets. Many of the thin papers were being used as toilet paper by the Iraqis, U.S. officials tell us.

Paal trouble
U.S. officials tell us Douglas Paal, the official who represents U.S. interests in Taiwan, is in trouble over his perceived bias in the Taiwanese elections, set for tomorrow.

Mr. Paal has been a key detractor of Chen Shui-bian, the leader of the Republic of China (Taiwan), filing numerous cables to the State Department trashing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party for what he has said are destabilizing comments that have angered Beijing.

Mr. Paal is considered a very pro-Beijing official and has spoke and written against arms sales to Taiwan. He even criticized President Bush in May 2001 claiming the president "misspoke" when he said the United States would do whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend itself from a mainland attack. According to our informants, Mr. Paal was hoping to be named U.S. ambassador to South Korea but did not get the job.

The Taiwanese government also is upset with Mr. Paal and may plan to protest his comments during a recent visit to southern Taiwan when he warned that the opposition Kuomintang party may resort to violence if Mr. Chen goes ahead with a referendum on China's missiles.

"Taiwanese officials are asking Americans about the pros and cons of asking for Paal's recall versus continuing to freeze him out of meetings," one official said.

Mr. Paal could not be reached for comment.

Banned story
Keith J. Costa, a reporter for Inside the Pentagon, thought he had a pretty good scoop yesterday.

He reported on a lessons-learned report done by U.S. Joint Forces Command on the war in Iraq. The report said the picture of the Iraqi enemy became "outdated and somewhat confused" as Iraqis dispersed and hid. The allies' intelligence capabilities could not "keep track of a disintegrating enemy force."

But when Mr. Costa checked the daily Early Bird, a compendium of defense stories read by the defense establishment's movers and shakers, the story did not appear.

Mr. Costa told us yesterday that his sources say that someone in the Pentagon ordered the Early Bird staff not to run the story. He said he knows more than he can say right now. Stay tuned.

  • 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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