Return to

July 1, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Drug routes
As if Iraq doesn't have enough problems with a murderous insurgency, now there are drug runners to worry about.

A senior intelligence source tells us that traders looking for markets for Afghan opium and heroin have set up routes in Iraq, starting in the Persian Gulf port city of Basra.

Once in Iraq's second-largest city, the drugs change hands and are ferried north to Turkey and Syria and west to Saudi Arabia. The ultimate destination is Europe, where there are sufficient addicts to support a multimillion-dollar drug-trafficking network.

Congressional sources say Osama bin Laden, his traditional financial well drying up, has turned to drug money from the Afghanistan poppy crop to fund his life on the run and to bankroll operations.

Al-Jaafari the critic
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is not the only top coalition official who does not like the content of Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

The new prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, feels the same way. He went one stepper further, telling an Al Jazeera reporter face to face what he thought.

"Previously, representatives of the Jazeera have come, and I say to them that the problem that Jazeera has is not with the government. It is with the Iraqi people," Mr. al-Jaafari told the reporter during his U.S. visit last week. "The Iraqi people see Jazeera as it really is, which is an instrument and a tool to be used against Iraqi people. We on the inside in Iraq, we see Jazeera as an instrument of distortion of the news, and the Iraqi people hugely oppose this news channel.

"It saddens me to say that some of the Arabic channels encourage terrorism and aid the view that says that terrorism should be increased."

Nelson's source
Former Democratic House staffer and current political consultant and newsletter editor Chris Nelson mistakenly distributed an e-mail copy of a special report he prepared for the South Korean Embassy on the "players" in the United States on North Korea policy issues.

Mr. Nelson is viewed by conservatives in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill as the voice of the liberal foreign-policy establishment, and his special report shows why. He harshly criticizes "hardliners" in the Bush administration, including the president, vice president, secretary of state and defense secretary, for what he calls a failed North Korea policy.

Mr. Nelson stated that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld makes all the decisions on North Korea issues at what is called "the big table" of senior aides. It was here that the Pentagon recently decided to send 15 F-117 stealth fighters to South Korea, he said.

A second "little table" of Rumsfeld advisers works on the specifics of policy issues that are then presented to the big-table advisers.

The big-table team includes the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and key undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.

Mr. Nelson said Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita sits at both the big table and the little table.

The report noted that all the Pentagon key players "indulge, from time to time, with attempts to influence the press, particularly working through David Sanger of the New York Times, and Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post."

Mr. Nelson revealed that his Pentagon source for the Nelson Report, his weekly newsletter, is Bob Scher, a policy staffer who was "assigned to answer our questions."

Mr. Nelson also criticized several reporters, including co-author of this column, Bill Gertz, who is described as "exceptionally dangerous" because he is anti-communist.

After the report was sent out, Mr. Nelson sent a second e-mail calling the mistake "the worst of my professional life."

"In a single moment of technical stupidity I have hurt and betrayed many who have tried so generously to help, and who share my deepest fears about Korea policy."

The apology e-mail helps explain why liberals tend to "blame America first," as former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick once put it. Mr. Nelson did not fault North Koreans for failing to resolve the nuclear issues. Instead, he said "a major contributor has been the inability of the [South Korean] and U.S. governments to communicate in full frankness and sympathy."

Democrat takeover
The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which at one time focused heavily on the growing military buildup by China, has changed course.

Once balanced between reviewing economic and military and security issues, the panel now is focusing almost exclusively on economic issues, at a time when the Pentagon is reassessing the nature of China's military buildup.

The commission's new executive director is Scott Bunton, a former aide to Sen. John Kerry.

According to one commission insider, the panel has adopted the laborite agenda of the AFL-CIO toward China, which means playing up economic issues and playing down military ones.

All the staff of the commission are Democrats, the work of key Commission member C. Richard D'Amato, a Maryland lawyer, former delegate of the Maryland House of Delegates and former aide to Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Republican.

The lone Republican staffer, former Defense Department official Tina Silverman, was dismissed and has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the commission.

The Pentagon in the past turned down offers from the commission to send a Defense Department representative to the panel. Instead, the Pentagon has agreed to work with the newly-formed Congressional China Caucus, headed by Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican.

DIA candidates
With the announced retirement of Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Bush administration is searching for replacements. Adm. Jacoby, whose request for a one-year extension was rejected, will be leaving in January.

Defense sources tell us that among the candidates for the DIA post is Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Wallace C. Gregson, the commander of 80,000 U.S. Marine Forces in the Pacific region.

State appointment
John Hillen, a Desert Storm Army veteran who worked in think tankdom and in the stock market, is joining the Bush administration. A conservative strategist on defense policy, Mr. Hillen has been nominated by the White House to be assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

An Army cavalry officer in the liberation of Kuwait, Mr. Hillen went on to conduct research at the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, the Heritage Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Mr. Hillen ran a stock exchange in New York and then returned to the Washington area, where is currently president of CGI-AMS Secure Inc.

  • 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

  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    2004 Columns
    2005 Columns
    Return to