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June 3, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Test case
The nomination of Gen. T. Michael Moseley to be Air Force chief of staff is being viewed inside the Pentagon as a test case to judge the game plan of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

Mr. McCain, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, held up a number of Pentagon nominations last year over the Boeing tanker lease scandal.

A Defense Department inspector general report delivered to Congress this week contains nothing to implicate Gen. Moseley, we are told. Gen. Moseley, who successfully directed the air war to bring down Saddam Hussein, is highly regarded by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and was rewarded with promotion to four stars and appointed Air Force vice chief.

But Mr. McCain has shown a willingness to block any nominee in his effort to get more Boeing-related information from the Pentagon. Officials will watch closely at Gen. Moseley's confirmation hearing to see how Mr. McCain treats the nominee to succeed Gen. John Jumper.

Next in line will be nominees as secretaries of the Navy and Air Force.

Note home
This is an e-mail from a U.S. government official who leaves Baghdad soon, after a six-month tour. He tells us the Iraqi-U.S. alliance is winning partly because Abu Musab Zarqawi offers only one alternative: bloodshed.

"They can blow themselves up and take innocent people with them, but they can never win the popular support. They are loathed by the Iraqi on the street. To see what kind of government they are capable of producing, one need only look at the Taliban. They're great at forcing men to grow beards or stoning women, but they can't provide basic social services, build roads, educate their children or create employment. Like the Nazis, Soviets and Apartheid before them, they will ultimately fail simply because they are incapable of succeeding. In my lifetime, I have witnessed three great triumphs of the human spirit: the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela walking out of prison and Iraqis defiantly going to the voting booth on January 30th despite the constant threat of death."

Influence opportunity
The Chinese government is continuing its efforts to interfere with Congress' legislative power.

A Chinese official who identified himself to staff and members of Congress as "Dr. Liu" threatened legislators with "serious" consequences if provisions of the fiscal 2006 defense-authorization bill were passed into law.

"It is obviously part and parcel of their efforts to lobby the U.S. Congress," one U.S. official told us.

The Chinese are upset with three sections of the bill. One provision requires the Pentagon to include both China and Taiwan in overseas travel by military officers training under the Capstone program.

A second provision of the bill would lift the ban on military exchanges with Taiwan for senior defense officials and military officers.

The last section is a provision that would bar the Pentagon from purchasing goods or services from any person or company that sells items on the U.S. Munitions List to China.

The arms measure was introduced by Rep. John Hostettler, Indiana Republican, who offered an identical provision last year only to see it removed by pro-China senators during conference.

In addition to telephone calls to House staff members, Chinese agents also visited Capitol Hill offices and left a one-page statement that claimed the military exchange provisions "are designed to push for a military alliance between [the United States and Taiwan] ... and gravely undermine the foundation of China-U.S. relations."

Ignoring facts
At his press conference Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld criticized two of America's "largest newspapers" -- without naming them -- for excessive and often "erroneous" coverage of U.S. military detainee abuses.

We learned the secretary was talking about the New York Times and The Washington Post. Together, they published 90 editorials since March 2004 on detainee operations, including Abu Ghraib, according to a Pentagon assessment of recent coverage.

By contrast, the same newspapers wrote only eight editorials since March 2001 on the beheading of hostages by terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, including Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and American contractor Nicholas Berg.

As for mass graves in Iraq, the newspapers during the same time have written only three editorials about the estimated 290,000 to 400,000 Iraqis killed under Saddam Hussein's regime. As for the accusations of rape of women and girls by U.N. workers in Congo, the New York Times and Post editorial pages were silent, writing no editorials on the subject.

A Pentagon official said Post and New York Times editorial writers have ignored appeals for more balance and demonstrated "they've drawn their conclusions a long time ago."

The official said the newspapers are fueling anti-war groups that are "blue-chip members of the Blame America First crowd."

Laura's coup
There is no bigger booster for America's armed forces than popular conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who was able to snare an exclusive interview this week with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Besides questions on the war on terror, Amnesty International and recruiting, Miss Ingraham got in a question about the ambitions of communist China.

"We all know that China's economy's growing rapidly," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We know it's been investing in double digits in its military capabilities, that it's been buying a great deal of weaponry from Russia. And it's a country that is going to reach a fork in the road. It wants to grow its economy, and to do that it has to have a relatively free economic system, and it wants to maintain its strong control over the political side of its government, which is inconsistent with having a free economic system. So they're going to feel that tension, that stress in the years ahead."

Michael Petrelis is not the first person who comes to mind when listing critics of Amnesty International.

The San Francisco-based Mr. Petrelis is an acknowledged left-wing activist who supports Ralph Nader.

But Mr. Petrelis did a lot of detective work this week, scouring the public files of the Federal Election Commission and finding that a number of high-ranking Amnesty officials donated to the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

Mr. Petrelis then fired off a letter to the group accusing officials of violating their own bylaws about abstaining from partisan political activity. His main complaint is that Amnesty should pay more attention to hate crimes against homosexuals.

  • 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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