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August 8 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

North Korea split
Below the public facade of near unanimity on policy toward North Korea, the Bush administration's top national security officials are divided on the best way to deal with the North-created nuclear crisis.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz favor a policy of "regime change" as the ultimate solution. This view, we are told, is based on the almost unanimous intelligence assessment that Pyongyang's communist regime is not going to give up its nuclear arms, regardless of multiparty talks and diplomacy.

The State Department and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell favor the diplomatic approach even at the expense of concessions to Pyongyang, such as holding bilateral talks.

One solution being considered is to try fomenting a military coup against North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. An idea floating in high-level circles within the administration is to get the Chinese military to lead the way by telling North Korean military leaders that their future is dark as long as Mr. Kim rules.

The coup plan calls for convincing Chinese military leaders to back the North Korean military in ousting Mr. Kim. In exchange, the new military regime in Pyongyang would be guaranteed its survival for 10 years or so if it gives up the nuclear weapons program.

Saddam hunt
Military officials say Saddam Hussein is moving three or four times a day, under disguise, to elude an increasingly intense search.

Military and intelligence search teams have seen a spike in the number of Iraqi informants after the shootout in Mosul last month that killed Saddam's notorious sons, Uday and Qusai. Still, there are only two certainties in the search for Saddam: As of yesterday, he was alive, and inside Iraq.

Troops have orders to get Saddam dead or alive. Capturing him alive is preferred, for information as well as propaganda value. The military is drawing up plans for what to do with him if he is captured alive. He is likely to be moved out of the country.

The Iraqi dictator is being much more careful than his sons in avoiding capture. Uday and Qusai stayed in a large residence in Mosul for 30 days before an Iraqi informant tipped off a U.S. Army sergeant about their whereabouts.

As for whether Saddam might flee Iraq, few countries appear willing to take him. One may be the neo-communist state of Belarus. Syria, we are told, would be unlikely to harbor him.

Schoomaker shakeup
The new Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, stated in his "arrival message" to the Army that the service is at war. "Today, our nation is at war and we are a critical part of the joint team an Army at war," he said. "This is not a new war. Our enemies have been waging it for some time, and it will continue for the foreseeable future."

He reminded the soldiers that the Army "has much to be proud of" as it transforms for the 21st century.

"It is the preeminent land force in the world and continues to be respected by our friends and feared by our enemies," he said. "We set the standard. We were part of the joint team that defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan and took down a brutal regime in Iraq."

Behind the scenes, Gen. Schoomaker already has begun to shake things up. Pentagon sources confirmed that in the past two weeks Army Gen. John Keane, who had been acting chief of staff, called 10 to 12 four-star, three-star and two-star generals to inform them that they are being retired.

Pentagon officials suggest that Gen. Keane cleaned house on orders from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to prepare the transformation playing field for Gen. Schoomaker. Gen. Keane maintains that the number of three-star retirements is not unusual.

The trade newsletter Inside the Pentagon reported that the ousted generals include Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, military deputy to the Army's civilian acquisition director; Lt. Gen. Joseph Cosumano, commanding general of the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command; and Lt. Gen. Dennis Cavin, commanding general of the Army Accessions Command.

Others tapped for replacement include Gen. Paul Kern, head of the Army Materiel Command; and Lt. Gen. Johnny Riggs, director of the Army Objective Force Task Force.

The generals are viewed as close to former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who had a tense relationship with Mr. Rumsfeld.

New counterspy chief
A senior adviser to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is moving to a new position as a chief U.S. counterspy.

Michelle Van Cleave, special assistant to Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, was appointed by President Bush to be the new national counterintelligence executive.

The national counterintelligence executive is in charge of a new interagency office created to strengthen U.S. counterintelligence and counterespionage capabilities. The office is a central authority for counterintelligence assessments, damage assessments from spy cases and producing warnings of intelligence threats.

Iran mischief
L. Paul Bremer is privately worrying a lot more about Iranian agents in Iraq than he lets on in public, a military source tells us.

During private briefings last week in Washington, the U.S. administrator in Iraq said Iranian interlopers are causing significant problems.

Our source said the Iranians are spying on coalition activities and reporting back to Tehran, headquarters of one of the remaining members of President Bush's "axis of evil" states. They are also inciting Shi'ites in the south to reject a liberal democracy in favor of an Iran-style hard-line theocracy.

Star quality
Insiders say President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior officials are particularly impressed by the job L. Paul Bremer is doing in Iraq. They are described as smitten not only by his management skills, but also at the way he made the rounds of TV talk shows while in town and effectively delivered the message that things are slowly getting better in Iraq.

Like the president, Mr. Bremer is a man of deep religious faith. As an associate of Henry Kissinger, the former ambassador is well-plugged into Republican national-security circles.

One Republican told us that Mr. Bremer would be on a shortlist of candidates to replace Secretary of State Colin L. Powell if Mr. Bush wins a second term.

Mr. Bremer was executive assistant to Mr. Kissinger in the 1970s when the United States was negotiating the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II treaty with the Soviets.

In his memoir, "Years of Renewal," Mr. Kissinger tells a story about packing to leave Moscow in 1974:

"My wife's, Nancy's, shoes had been packed by mistake and sent ahead with the luggage to the airplane. My executive assistant, L. Paul 'Jerry' Bremer, gallantly stepped into the breach and let her use his shoes until we caught up with our luggage on the airplane. I can only imagine what our Soviet hosts at the airport made of the fact that my usually so elegant wife was wearing men's shoes and that one of my aides was in stocking feet. Our critics had fretted that we might lose our shirts in Moscow but our shoes?"

Navy secretary
A spokesman tells us former Republican Rep. Tillie Fowler of Florida is not interested in the Navy secretary post, which is vacant. A lawyer, Mrs. Fowler works for the firm of Holland & Knight, and splits her time between Washington and her home state.

  • 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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