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June 2, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Harvard hero
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has sent a letter to outgoing Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers praising the educator's support for the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC).

Harvard is not always a friendly place for the U.S. military. Some faculty want recruiters banned, and the school has not officially recognized ROTC on campus since the Vietnam War. The cadets train at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the program is privately funded.

But Mr. Summers openly embraced Harvard's 50 or so ROTC students, a move that did little to ingratiate himself to the university's overwhelming liberal faculty, which worked to force his resignation, effective June 30.

"As you depart your duties as president of Harvard University, I ask that you accept my thanks for your support of another great institution the U.S. Armed Forces, and in particular its Reserve Officers' Training Corps," Mr. Rumsfeld wrote in a May 31 letter. "Your support has been enormously constructive to the objectives of both of our institutions.

"You are the first Harvard president in recent memory to attend the annual commissioning ceremony of Harvard ROTC graduates, and you provided a keynote address each year with a content that was heartfelt and inspiring to your students. You recognized the special career challenges those students chose to pursue; and in doing so, you honored all of your students and faculty. You offered these newly commissioned officers and their undergraduate classmates something they appreciate, but more important, something they deserve recognition of their personal commitment to serve this great nation.

"Through your actions, you provided every ROTC student with an important sense of belonging, and for that I am most grateful."

Mr. Summers told Harvard ROTC cadets at their 2004 commissioning: "We are free because we are strong, and that freedom depends on our strength. All of us who cherish and pray for that freedom must also support those who contribute to the strength that maintains freedom. .. To the newly graduated officers, always know that the Harvard community will stand by your side."

Iraq documentary
Conservative filmmaker Patrick Dollard, a former Hollywood agent and manager, is working on a major documentary highlighting the heroism and bravery of U.S. Marines and soldiers in Iraq. The series is expected to counter much of the liberal press' view of the war and the troops fighting it.

Mr. Dollard tells us he spent a total of seven months in some of the hottest zones in Iraq and was nearly killed in an improvised explosive device attack on a Humvee.

"I was going because it was obvious how left-leaning and biased the coverage of the war was, and because I wanted to get to know what was going on over there, and what these American kids, who I felt were making the world a much better place, were all about and what they thought about what they were doing," Mr. Dollard said.

He covered military operations in Fallujah, Ramadi and the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad and, unlike most journalists, stayed only about a half-day in the secure Green Zone in the Iraqi capital.

Mr. Dollard, who once represented cutting-edge Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh, said he was shocked at the anger most U.S. troops feel toward the press for misreporting the Iraq war.

"Not only were the media not reporting the good news from Iraq, but they wouldn't even lift an intellectual pinky to analyze for America how important to the world's security a victory in Iraq is," he said.

"Most journalists I met were anti-Bush, and could barely contain their hope for an American loss in Iraq that would sway the next elections to the Democratic Party. And when I taped several Marines and Iraqis telling me stories about outright lies and false quotes by some very big American media players, I got really, really mad."

Hollywood has not warmed to Mr. Dollard's project, and he was the subject of a critical New York Times report. His 600 hours of tape are being developed into a major series of reports for cable television.

Pantano's own story
Readers of this column are familiar with the inspiring story of Ilario Pantano. The New Yorker rejoined the Marine Corps to defend his nation after the September 11 attacks. He eventually found himself in dangerous Anbar province, Iraq, in winter 2004, leading his platoon in do-or-die counterinsurgency missions.

One April evening, he fatally shot two insurgents. Rather than a pat on the back, Mr. Pantano found himself charged with murder by the Corps. Last year, he sat in a Camp Lejeune, N.C., courtroom fighting for his good name and his freedom.

On Monday, Mr. Pantano will tell his own story in "Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy," a book that tells his life story and how he beat the Marine Corps case.

"I think it is an honest and unapologetic description of the warrior spirit and is really a tome to the Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment," he told us.

Mr. Pantano said he is not vindictive, neither against the Corps nor against the enlisted man who falsely accused him.

Noted military defense attorney Charles Gittins eviscerated the prosecution's key witness. Using extensive hearing transcripts, "Warlord" shows how he did it.

Mr. Pantano, who received Islamic deaths threats via a Pakistani Web site, kicks off the book tour with an appearance Monday on the "Today" show. That night, he'll appear on Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes."

Warlord was the nickname of Mr. Pantano's battalion; "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" was the slogan of the 1st Marine Division commander as his unit marched to Baghdad.

A book excerpt: "I found it weird how Europeans always sought to criticize us. I had [British Broadcasting Corp. reporter] Paul and his cameraman out on a patrol with us and he was constantly fishing for comments from me. Finally he made a claim that was bound to [tick us] off: 'You Marines are good, but a British patrol would have done things much differently.'

"Really?" I said. "Paul, how long have the Brits been fighting in Northern Ireland?"

"Thirty years," he said.

"I pounced. 'Seems like a long time. How do you define success?'"

Standing tall
Gallup was out this week with its yearly poll on which 15 U.S. institutions garner the most confidence of the American people.

Gallup conducted the poll at the height of coverage of Haditha, the Iraqi town where residents accuse Marines of killing 24 civilians.

Yet, the U.S. military again was the American public's top choice, with 73 percent saying they had a "great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it."

The only other institutions to record a majority of public confidence were the police and organized religion, getting 58 percent and 52 percent, respectively. The lowest-ranking institutions were HMOs, big business and Congress.

  • 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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