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May 12, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Taiwan arms
Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, was pressed by China's defense minister during a meeting in Beijing this week to halt U.S. arms sales and end military-to-military contacts with Taiwan.

Navy Capt. Jeff Alderson, a Pacific Command spokesman who is traveling with the four-star admiral, told us in an e-mail that Adm. Fallon told Gen. Cao Gangchuan that "he has certain obligations" to support Taiwan under the 1972 Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the United States will provide for Taiwan's defense needs.

Adm. Fallon "reiterated that" in his meeting with the Chinese leader, Capt. Alderson said, noting that official Chinese media failed to mention Adm. Fallon's response and only repeated Gen. Cao's remarks.

Capt. Alderson described the meeting Tuesday as "standard give and take" with the Chinese military. "The Chinese state their side, we state our side, then we move on to other discussions," he said.

The visit to Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou and Shenyang is part of the Pentagon's military-to-military exchange program and seeks, so far unsuccessfully, to influence the Chinese military into becoming more open and less anti-American.

U.S. efforts to set up a military hot line with China were raised again during the visit, but China's military did not respond, we are told. China fears the communication link will assist U.S. electronic spying or military targeting.

Professor Feith
Douglas J. Feith has found a new perch from which to explain Bush administration policies in the war on al Qaeda.

Georgetown University has hired the former undersecretary of defense for policy as a visiting professor and distinguished practitioner in national security policy. This fall, he will teach a course on the administration's war strategy at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

"I am delighted to welcome Doug Feith to our community of scholars and scholar-practitioners," said Robert L. Gallucci, dean of the school. "He brings a combination of legal, foreign and defense policy-making experience that I am confident will enrich campus discussions on a wide range of critical international issues of the day."

Mr. Feith, a graduate of Georgetown's law school, also will conduct seminars for students in the School of Foreign Service.

As policy chief, Mr. Feith sat in the catbird seat as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved strategies to fight terrorists globally, and in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Feith took harsh criticism for the Iraq war plan, which failed to predict the deadly insurgency that bedevils U.S. troops.

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, has accused Mr. Feith's policy shop of twisting intelligence on Iraq. A Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation failed to substantiate the charge. Mr. Levin then pushed for the Pentagon inspector general to investigate.

A bipartisan blue-ribbon commission concluded there was no political pressure from the Bush administration to influence intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

Pen pals
Larry Di Rita, a top aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, exchanged a series of bitter e-mails last month with syndicated columnist Joe Galloway. When the smoke in cyberspace cleared, we would call it a draw.

Mr. Di Rita, a fierce defender of his boss, initiated the first shot after Mr. Galloway penned another critical column blaming the defense chief for failures in Iraq.

Mr. Di Rita called the column, "just silly. Joe. To tag the secretary of defense with being responsible for every sparrow that falls out of every tree is just ludicrous. ... You're just becoming a johnny one-note and it's only a couple of steps from that to curmudgeon!!"

Mr. Galloway, a veteran war correspondent and columnist for Knight Ridder, replied to Mr. Di Rita that the aide's remarks were too personal.

"I am delighted that folks over in [office of secretary of defense] continue to read my columns with great attention," he wrote. "Who knows, it might make a difference one day."

Mr. Di Rita replied: "I regret you took offense at our exchanges. Apparently people can tell a journalist the most damnable things about Rumsfeld or [former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers] or [retired Gen. Tommy Franks, the Iraq war commander] or the president and it's OK, but a little feisty email exchange in response you find offensive!! Best wishes."

There were a few more exchanges, then the shooting stopped.

Ironically, both men are leaving Washington in the coming weeks. Mr. Di Rita has taken a senior communications post with the Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C. Mr. Galloway told us he is moving to his home in South Texas, and will continue writing books and columns.

"I will be leaving this town in three weeks, Larry, and there's a lot of people and places I will miss," Mr. Galloway wrote. "You aren't exactly at the top of that list."

Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, the Georgia Democrat who hit a Capitol Police officer who did not recognize her and asked her to stop, has raised some eyebrows in defense circles. She added autopsy pictures to the 2007 budget report from the House Armed Services Committee.

In the report's section for dissenting views, Mrs. McKinney attached 24 grisly photographs of the remains of Jaime Gomez, the chief of staff to a Colombian senator who is running in the May 28 presidential elections. His supporters say he was killed, but the government says his death may have been an accident.

"War never truly creates peace, but always leads to more war," Mrs. McKinney writes. "The threat of unconsolidated and ill-equipped terrorist groups has been used to expand the funding of huge corporate contracts for weapons and war while denying the human suffering and needs that face us."

Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, told The Washington Times congressional bureau chief Charles Hurt, "Our focus should be on winning the war on terror rather than printing up 30 pages of skeletal remains."

Mrs. McKinney's office said she could not be reached for comment last night.

  • 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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