Return to

Aug. 4, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Military exchange
Pentagon officials said the recent visit to the United States by China's most senior uniformed military officer, Gen. Guo Boxiong, was "uneventful" and included no agreements.

Gen. Guo, vice president of China's Central Military Commission, which controls the military, was given the red carpet treatment, including a meeting with President Bush, during his visit July 16.

One issue Gen. Guo would not budge on was China's continued refusal to act on a Pentagon plan for a U.S.-Chinese hot line between the Pentagon and the Chinese military headquarters in Beijing.

"We did not reach agreement on the defense telephone link," one senior official tells us.

The Pentagon wants China to agree to the telephone link to avoid crises like the April 2001 incident involving China's imprisonment of 23 U.S. troops who made an emergency landing on Hainan island after their EP-3 aircraft was rammed by a Chinese MiG.

China pushed hard for Gen. Guo's visit, and he was given both substantive and symbolic rewards, including talks with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the prestigious drop-by meeting with the president.

Pentagon officials now expect China's ultrasecretive military to open up more to U.S. visitors and to provide more access to Chinese military activities and war games.

China and Russia excluded U.S. observers from a large amphibious assault exercise last summer that U.S. officials said simulated an attack on Taiwan.

Hezbollah terrorist
U.S. intelligence officials tell us that one of the most notorious Hezbollah terrorists was not killed during a July 14 Israeli air strike on the group's Beirut headquarters.

The officials commented on the status of Imad Mugniyah after one press report said he was killed during the attack that included at least five bombs on the Hezbollah headquarters. Mugniyah was behind numerous terror attacks against Americans, including the 1983 suicide truck bombing that killed 241 servicemen in Beirut, including 220 Marines.

Mugniyah is thought to be in hiding in Iran and was not inside the headquarters at the time of the Israeli raid, officials said. "He moves around a lot," one official said.

Some counterterrorism officials suspect Mugniyah was behind the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers on July 12, citing his expertise in such terrorist operations. The abduction triggered the latest conflict in Lebanon.

Mugniyah remains one of the United States' most wanted terrorists, sought for his role in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Americans, including CIA Beirut station chief William Buckley in 1984.

Nuclear terrorism
Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, warned yesterday that the threat posed by Hezbollah and other non-state groups includes the danger that they will gain access to nuclear weapons.

The four-star commander said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that globalization combined with the existence of weak states such as Lebanon is boosting "non-state actors" such as Hezbollah.

"If this century is to be dominated by non-state actors with no responsibility to the international community, we are in for even greater dangers," Gen. Abizaid said.

"It should not be lost on us, for example, that Hezbollah fields greater and longer-range weapons than most regional armed forces. If left unchecked, it is possible to imagine chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons being transferred to militias or terrorist organizations by a state actor."

Storm warning
The Air Force is warning airmen to prepare for this season's hurricanes by getting the proper insurance for homes and cars.

"As a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Air Force members living in government housing filed over 1,550 personal property claims costing $3.3 million to date, with an additional $6 million paid by private insurers," an Air Force memo says.

Hyde's assessment
We dropped in on Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and House International Relations Committee chairman, to get his take on the drug wars in Afghanistan. At the end of the chat, we asked him to assess the tenure of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who, like the chairman, was born in Chicago, served in the Navy and got elected to the House.

"He was a great business executive, he really was," Mr. Hyde said. "I don't think the Pentagon has been a roaring success. Again, it isn't Rummy's decision on these things. Everyone knows they are collective. You sit around the table ... trying to come around to decisions."

Mr. Hyde is not seeking re-election after 32 years in Congress. Democrats have eyes on his Chicago suburbs district. "My health just wouldn't permit it," he said. "There comes a time when you start wearing out, item by item. So Mother Nature, Father Time, unholy couple. ... If I could walk, I would have considered running. But I'm 82. It's time to recognize your shelf life has expired."

The congressman said it will be a "tough mountain to climb" for Republican state Sen. Peter J. Roskam to hold Mr. Hyde's 6th District seat in the Republican column against Democrat Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth. Mrs. Duckworth is an Iraq war hero who opposes the war. An Army National Guard major, she lost her legs in November 2004, when the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was hit near Baghdad by an insurgent's rocket-propelled grenade.

"If Mr. Roskam can conduct an effective campaign and portray her as another vote for Hillary Clinton and the usual Democratic agenda as opposed to a Republican agenda the essential Republican nature of the district could prevail," Mr. Hyde said.

He said the press is pulling for Mrs. Duckworth, making the race "very tough."

Colombian police officers have completed their tour of Afghanistan, where they went last week to share knowledge on how to beat the illicit drug trade.

The Colombians have been battling cocaine traffickers for years. In Afghanistan, the problem is the huge poppy crop, from which opium and heroin are made.

A congressional staffer tells us the main message from the Colombians was: If you want to beat the drug trade, you have to take out the kingpins.

  • 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
    2006 Columns
    Return to