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June 29, 2001
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq's errant missile
The Iraqi government charged earlier this month that U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the skies over Iraq killed 23 persons in the northern part of the country as part of a deliberate attack on civilians.

But U.S. intelligence officials tell us the deaths and injuries, which were shown on Iraqi television June 19, were caused by an Iraqi SA-6 surface-to-air missile that had been fired at the patrolling jets.

A Pentagon spokesman at the time denied any attack that day. "While coalition aircraft did patrol the northern no-fly zone ..., they did not engage any targets," said spokesman Dave Lapan.

The Iraqis claimed that the jets attacked a sports field several hundred miles northwest of Baghdad and that Iraqi forces fired on the jets. Neither the Pentagon nor Baghdad revealed that the surface-to-air missile caused the casualties.

There he goes again
The buzz among defense staffers on Capitol Hill yesterday was that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had done it again.

Mr. Rumsfeld failed, the aides said, to give lawmakers the heads-up that he planned to cut the fleet of 93 B-1Bs bombers, a bulwark of President Reagan's military buildup, to 60 aircraft. The cut, which must be approved by Congress, means the Pentagon will be closing installations in Georgia, Kansas and Idaho.

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and a Senate Armed Services Committee member, was one of those kept in the dark. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, is getting calls from fellow Republicans asking him, "What's up?" Worse yet, some Air Force generals are telling Congress they did not know the B-1B cut was coming.

Republican leaders thought they had settled the issue of Congress-Pentagon communication after Mr. Rumsfeld met last month with Mr. Lott and other senators. But then on June 14, President Bush changed his mind on the Vieques training range and decided to close it. Someone in the White House leaked the decision, according to Hill and Pentagon sources, before lawmakers were briefed. And now, the B-1B surprise.

"This is another incident where Rumsfeld is not making points," said a senior Republican defense staffer. "The Republican members are really getting upset."

China slates ALCM test
China is moving ahead with testing of its new air-launched cruise missile -- Beijing's answer to the sea-launched Tomahawk land attack cruise missile.

U.S. intelligence officials said a second test of the new ALCM is set to take place soon. "They are moving ahead with the cruise-missile program," said one defense official. "It is a significant step forward for them."

The new cruise missile will be test-fired from a B-6 bomber over northern China. The first Chinese ALCM was tested in May and was assessed to be capable of carrying a 1,100-pound warhead. Its exact range could not be learned, but defense officials said it would be able to travel much farther distances than current China cruise missiles, which primarily are anti-ship weapons.

Out of step
Douglas Paal, who is said to be the leading candidate to become the top U.S. diplomat in Taiwan, is in trouble with congressional Republicans.

House and Senate staffers told us they were astounded by a recent speech by Mr. Paal broadcast in China. The former National Security Council aide in the first Bush administration said President Bush "misspoke" about doing "whatever it took" to defend Taiwan against a mainland attack.

Mr. Paal, who has a reputation for being pro-Beijing in the dispute over Taiwan, said "we also believe that when the president misspoke or stated his policy about defending Taiwan in a new fashion, that they [administration spokesmen] had also shown moderation in reverting to the one-China policy in subsequent formal statements."

According to Mr. Paal, the reason U.S.-China relations are strained is not the result of China's holding 24 American service personnel hostage for 11 days after the aerial collision, or other belligerent Chinese actions and statements. "A lot of the problem in the relationship comes from the fact that the new administration feels they have to make a difference with the previous administration," he said.

Mr. Paal also took an indirect potshot at current senior Bush administration officials such as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

He said the current "tension" with China is because "quite a few of the newest office holders in the new administration are people who had their formative experiences in dealing with China in 1982, 1983, 1984" after Secretary of State Al Haig was removed for being "overly solicitous of China."

Mr. Paal also said he believes China has a "more pluralistic" political system -- despite mounting evidence that the regime in Beijing is growing less democratic.

He then said the United States is "replacing the Soviet Union as the largest source of concern on the planet."

The speech angered Republican aides in the House and Senate who questioned why Mr. Paal is even being considered for the sensitive Taiwan post when his views appear to be so out of step with those of the president. For the record, Vice President Richard B. Cheney made clear in a television interview several days after the president's tough statement that there would be no backtracking on what has become the administration's new defense commitment to the island.


  • Some soldiers are complaining that the Army's new black berets can't be stuffed into one's briefcase like the old garrison cap. And many soldiers still don't know how to wear them.

    Then there's the beret humor overheard in the Pentagon. When a soldier wears the beret atop his head, he's the "French painter." Tilted to one side, you are the "Monica." And when it's worn with a slight inflation, you are the "Q-tip."

  • For those reading tea leaves, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will meet with Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, head of U.S. Space Command, during an upcoming trip out West, a defense official tells us. Gen. Eberhart is considered one of several front-runners to become the next Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman on Oct. 1.

  • Gen. James Jones, the Marine Corps commandant, was conspicuous by his absence Wednesday during a high-powered hearing on the Vieques training range before the House Armed Services Committee. The assistant commandant filled in.

    Congressional sources say Gen. Jones, a candidate for the job of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is not happy with President Bush's decision to vacate Vieques, which is prime Marine training ground. A Jones spokesman said the commandant was in the Pacific region this week, attending a conference of Pacific Rim Marine leaders and then visiting 17,000 Marines stationed on Okinawa, home of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

  • Peter Brookes is all but assured of getting the key China policy post at the Pentagon, as deputy assistant defense secretary for east Asia. His detractors in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill point out that he opposed passage of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act and favored continued engagement with North Korea -- positions conservative Republicans hoped would be rejected by the new administration.

  • 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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