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April 30, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Brassy Baghdad
It's largely gone unnoticed, but the U.S. military command in Baghdad has grown. There are now two three-star generals running the show whereas only one used to do the job, as well as a two-star brought in specifically to supervise Iraqi training.

The proliferation of stars is a result of three developments: the upswing in violent attacks by insurgents; the poor showing by coalition-trained Iraqi security forces; and the coming handover of sovereignty to a new Iraqi government.

The plan had been for Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, III Corps commander at Fort Hood, Texas, to relieve Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commands Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Iraq.

But Gen. Sanchez is sticking around and is in line for a fourth star.

"He will stay for the foreseeable future," said a senior defense official.

Gen. Sanchez is now in charge of overall operations, paying close attention to big-picture items, such as working out relations between the new civilian government and its security forces, and the American military. Gen. Metz is the No. 2 officer, running day-to-day operations.

And the two-star is Maj. Gen. David Petraeus. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld brought the 101st Airborne Division commander back to Iraq to overhaul the flawed training of Iraqi police, army and civil defense corps units.

All three generals report to Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual appearance yesterday before the congressionally mandated National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

The White House initially resisted the appearance on the grounds that presidential power needed protection from congressional encroachment.

But there was another reason the White House at first refused to have the president and vice president appear: Top officials feared the testimony by the president and vice president will have a chilling effect on U.S. intelligence analysts, now and in the future.

High-level second-guessing by the nation's top elected officials would cause analysts in the future to be reluctant to speak candidly and frankly within the closed world of interagency intelligence, we are told.

In the end, public pressure led Mr. Bush to appear before the so-called 9/11 commission.

Intel help
The high-powered Potomac Institute for Policy Studies is offering its help to the September 11 commission on the pivotal question of how to improve intelligence collection on terrorists.

In a letter this week to Chairman Thomas H. Kean, Potomac President Dennis K. McBride offered a briefing on Project Guardian. The white paper was the institute's grand plan for assessing threat warnings from human sources.

"The Project Guardian proposal offers a high-integrity way to improve the acquisition of information critical to stopping terrorists, then to integrate all information relevant to the threat for analysis, and finally to distribute that analysis to those on the front lines against terrorists," Mr. McBride wrote.

The study's director is Daniel J. Gallington, a longtime U.S. intelligence official who most recently was an aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States will file its report this summer. It will recommend fixes to an intelligence community that failed to foresee the September 11 attacks.

Kerry on pre-emption
Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry has criticized the Bush administration for taking pre-emptive military action to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq, without United Nations or NATO backing.

"The failure of the administration to internationalize the conflict has lost us time, momentum, and credibility and made America less safe," the Massachusetts senator said in a radio address April 17.

However, Mr. Kerry was playing a different tune in 1989 when he urged the United States to take unilateral action against Libya to take out Tripoli's chemical arms program.

We have obtained a portion of a transcript of a hearing with the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Kerry urged a policy of unilateral pre-emption, similar to Israel's daring 1981 aerial bombing raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.

Mr. Kerry asked retired Army Maj. Gen. William F. Burns, the ACDA director, why the United States didn't conduct "some kind of pre-emptive action that could eliminate the capacity of Libya to further develop [chemical arms], similar to what happened with Iraq and the nuclear power plant with Israel?" The hearing took place Jan. 24, 1989.

Brownlee in waiting
The question that some in the Pentagon are asking is: Why won't Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld nominate Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee to the Senate as the next Army civilian chief? The job is wide open now that Air Force Secretary James Roche has withdrawn his nomination.

After all, Mr. Brownlee is a retired Army colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran who has served well in the acting role. He was also a close congressional aide to Senate Armed Services Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican.

Therein may lie Mr. Brownlee's problem. The Rumsfeld crowd has a history of eschewing congressional staffers for top Pentagon jobs. The defense secretary's first three service secretaries all had extensive corporate leadership experience.

"Hill staffers bring baggage," said a defense source. "Hill staffers look at things through Capitol Hill eyes."

  • 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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