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June 2, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Marines humiliated
The Marine Corps is livid over the mistreatment of three Marines at the hands of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Philadelphia last month.

According to a Marine Corps memo we obtained, three Marines were "humiliated" by TSA security guards while escorting the body of Marine Sgt. Lea R. Mills, 21, who was killed April 28 along with two others in Al Anbar province, Iraq, by an improvised explosive device.

Sgt. Mills' body was being moved from Dover Air Force Base through Philadelphia International Airport en route to her final resting place in Gulfport, Miss., on May 3. The three Marines who were accompanying the casket, Sgt. John C. Stock, Cpl. Aaron J. Bigalk and Cpl. Jason A. Schadeburg, were forced to remove their dress blue uniforms, belts and shoes, which were then scanned. They were then "patted down" by TSA inspectors.

One of the Marines had his shoes taken away for scanning, but they were never returned and he was forced to retrieve them.

"All the Marines said they felt humiliated by this treatment," the report said. "The Marines had orders in hand that tasked them to serve as official casualty escorts. Sgt. Stock was carrying Sgt. Mills' personal effects and Cpl. Schadeburg was carrying the flag from Sgt. Mills' casket. These items were in hand in plain view."

One Marine called the TSA "morons" for mistreating the casualty escorts, and said, "This is enough to make one's blood boil."

A TSA spokesman said the three Marines did not know the right procedures for escorting a fallen soldier, and could have avoided the search by passing through an official screening area. The TSA officers did not know the Marines were escorting a fallen comrade, and the agency "regrets" the miscommunication, the spokesman said.

Armitage on Iraq
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is adding his voice to critics of Pentagon civilian and military war planners who said there were not enough troops to produce a successful outcome in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I think there were some clear misjudgments, including the number of troops that would be required to secure the peace after combat," Mr. Armitage told the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

Asked what was most surprising about the Iraq war, Mr. Armitage stated: "The most surprising thing is that we failed yet again to realize a basic historical lesson: Only a soldier with a bayonet can take and hold ground. Only a soldier with a bayonet can bend an enemy to our will."

The failure to understand that was the United States' "biggest mistake," and the biggest lesson to be learned, he said.

"Clearly we had enough troops to win a great victory, a speedy victory and a very humane victory," Mr. Armitage said. "We didn't have enough troops to secure the peace. That is self-evident."

Beijing lobbying
The Chinese Embassy continues to lobby Congress with impunity on the issue of Taiwan. The latest effort was a recent letter to members of the House Armed Services Committee aimed at China-related provisions of the fiscal 2007 defense authorization bill.

Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong warned that provisions increasing military ties between the Pentagon and Taiwan and improving Taiwan's defenses against a Chinese attack "will do serious harm to China-U.S. relations" if enacted into law. Mr. Zhou said the new provisions would create a military alliance between the United States and Taiwan and violate diplomatic communiques governing U.S.-China ties.

He also warned that the bill's provisions on selling submarines to Taiwan are boosting Taiwan's forces for independence and are going in a "dangerous direction."

The letter asked the congressmen to "use your important influence" to block the pro-Taiwan provisions.

The letter has angered several lawmakers who view it as foreign government interference in the congressional legislative process.

The main lobbying firm representing the embassy is Jones Day, which is registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for China.

The Chinese government has stepped up its lobbying of Congress in the past several years, yet similar activities by Taiwan have been viewed in the past as illegal influence activities and have prompted FBI investigations.

Militia madness
Iraq's hodgepodge of Shi'ite militias is becoming just as troublesome as the Sunni insurgents who regularly attack American forces and assassinate Iraqi government leaders.

A Pentagon report sent to Congress this week blames Shi'ite militias, especially the one controlled by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, for kidnappings, death squads and kangaroo courts. In the south, they also are infiltrating local police forces to exercise control.

More troubling, Iran is supporting the private armies by, among other favors, providing weapons, says the Pentagon's "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" report, "reinforcing Sunni fears of Iranian domination and further elevating ethno-sectarian violence."

The Shi'ite militias not only attack rival Sunni Muslims, they also attack coalition troops. "Because of Iranian-sponsored training and technological support, these operations are among the most lethal and effective conducted against coalition forces."

Meanwhile, violence is going up, not down, as American troops enter their fourth year in Iraq. The number of weekly attacks averaged more than 600 between February and May, compared with 450 during roughly the same period last year.

"Reasons for the high level of attacks may include terrorist and insurgent attempts to exploit a perceived inability of the Iraqi government to constitute itself effectively, the rise of ethno-sectarian attacks follow the Golden Mosque bombing and enemy efforts to derail the political process leading to a new government," the Pentagon report said.

Pacific defense
The Air Force sent a message to troops this week explaining the redeployment of forces in the Pacific. The message left no gray area on what the mission is of U.S. Forces, Japan, as 8,000 Marines move from Okinawa to Guam. The shift puts more emphasis on air power to deter aggression.

"Should deterrence fail," the message states, "USFJ conducts and supports combat operations in the region to defend Japan."

  • 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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