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March 31, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Unrestricted warfare
Two of China's most notorious military strategists are coming to the United States, not as guests of the Pentagon, but under a State Department program. Col. Qiao Liang and Col. Wang Xiangsui are authors of the 1999 book "Unrestricted Warfare," which advocates China's use all forms of warfare, including state-supported terrorism, to win future conflicts.

"From a military standpoint, then, the traditional terror war is characterized by the use of limited resources to fight an unlimited war," they wrote.

The colonels' visit, expected in the next few weeks, comes amid questions about the Pentagon's military exchange program with China led by Adm. William J. Fallon, head of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Pentagon officials tell us China's military for nearly a decade has failed to cooperate with the United States in its selection of military officers for exchanges.

Policy-oriented military leaders have been blocked from the exchange program and their identity within an officer corps, estimated to be as many as 300,000 officers, remains a secret.

Instead, the Chinese military only sends officers who either seek information on U.S. warfighting weaknesses, or older generals who soon retire and thus cannot influence the future of China's military.

In one case several years ago, a Chinese officer asked a U.S. Navy officer during a visit to identify the key weakness of a U.S. aircraft carrier, a major Chinese target in any U.S.-Chinese conflict over Taiwan.

The officer was naively told that the weakest point is under the hull, and that it also happens to be closest to where its ammunition is stored. Within two years of the disclosure, U.S. intelligence agencies detected Chinese military purchases of Russian wake-homing torpedoes that target ships from the rear and explode underneath the hull.

"The whole exchange program has been a nightmare," said one official.

Chinese President Hu Jintao nonetheless persuaded President Bush during a recent meeting to expand military exchanges and the Pentagon is reluctantly following through.

The challenge for Adm. Fallon is to prevent China from spying on U.S. military secrets and to persuade Beijing to send influential younger officers to learn the full extent of U.S. military power with the goal of avoiding any future miscalculation.

The new Chinese general in charge of the exchanges is Maj. Gen. Zhang Qinsheng, who recently replaced Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai, the Chinese military intelligence chief who in the past chose all the Chinese military exchange visitors.

If Gen. Zhang is also named to replace Gen. Xiong as military intelligence chief, Pentagon officials tell us they expect more of the same from the exchanges.

Lion tale
It was one of those accusations against American soldiers that was readily believed by the press. Two Iraqis said in November they were thrown to the lions when being detained in 2003.

But there did not appear to be any corroboration for such a bizarre tale. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld singled out the press' acceptance of the story as an example of the American media wanting to believe the worst in the U.S. military.

"We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact," Mr. Rumsfeld said in a speech last December.

"Recently there were claims by two Iraqis on a speaking tour that U.S. soldiers attacked them with lions. It was widely reported around the United States. It is still without substantiation. And yet that story was spread across the globe."

The Army pledged to investigate. Col. Joe Curtin, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, tells us the probe came up empty.

"Army [criminal investigative division] reviewed the allegations concerning the lions and determined there was insufficient information upon which to initiate an investigation," Col. Curtin said.

The late Uday Hussein, one of Saddam's sadistic sons, owned lions as pets. They were moved to a reopened Baghdad zoo in 2003.

Poppy season
Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, the new top U.S. officer in Afghanistan, offered this picture of the heroin trade there:

"You have a confluence in Helmand of criminals and Taliban and poor farmers, and the poor farmers raise poppy because the Helmand River gives them a water source, the soil is good, and the climate is very good for growing poppy. And so they can produce a rather large amount of poppy with a very small investment of time and labor in their fields.

"That poppy then is produced by primarily narco-trafficking organizations that move it out of Helmand and into other parts of the country and then out of the country. And with the funding that they get, they then can provide money to primarily Taliban, not so much al Qaeda, in Helmand. They can provide funds to the Taliban to recruit fighters, to train fighters, to buy weapons and arms. And in many cases, some of the farmers are threatened by the Taliban to either continue to grow the poppy to generate the funds or face death."

Terror training
The more documents that emerge from Saddam Hussein's reign of terror, the more evidence stacks up that his regime was in lockstep with international terrorists.

Newly released papers seized after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion reveal contacts made between Saddam's top aides and Osama bin Laden, particularly during the al Qaeda leader's stay in Sudan.

The huge collection also gave a history of the regime put out last week by U.S. Forces Command.

The command told of meticulously kept files by the Gestapolike Fedayeen Saddam, which the dictator put in place to prevent military coups and to enforce his rule through threats and killings.

The documents show the fanatical Fedayeen operated bustling terror training camps for recruits from all over the Middle East.

The book, titled, "The Iraqi Perspective Project," states:

"Beginning in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam opened its own paramilitary training camps for volunteers, graduating more than 7,200 'good men racing full with courage and enthusiasm' in the first year. Beginning in 1998, these camps began hosting 'Arab volunteers from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, the Gulf and Syria.' It is not clear from available evidence where all of these non-Iraqi volunteers who were 'sacrificing for the cause' went to ply their newfound skills. "Before the summer of 2002, most volunteers went home upon the completion of training. But these training camps were humming with frenzied activity in the months immediately prior to the war. As late as January 2003, the volunteers participated in a special event called the 'Heroes Attack.'

"This training event was designed in part to prepare regional Fedayeen Saddam commands to 'obstruct the enemy from achieving his goal and to support keeping peace and stability in the province.' "

Overseen by Saddam's son, Uday, the Fedayeen trained foreign "heroes" and Iraqis in commando tactics, surveillance and explosives. The Iraqi Intelligence Service supplied the Fedayeen with silencers, training in explosives and booby-trapping cars, and timers.

"The only apparent use for all of this ... equipment was to conduct commando or terrorist operations," the Joint Forces history 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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