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August 25, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Hezbollah arms
One of the most surprising and effective weapons used by Hezbollah guerrillas during recent fighting with Israel in southern Lebanon was the Russian-made Kornet-E anti-tank weapon, a laser-guided missile that was deadly against Israel's Merkava tanks. The question being asked by many security specialists is how the Kornets reached the terrorist group.

Edward Timperlake, a Pentagon arms technology specialist, tells us he investigated Russia's illegal transfer of Kornet-Es to Iraq in 2003 and 2004 in cataloging the tons of foreign arms found in the country.

Mr. Timperlake led the production of the Pentagon's Iraq Technology Transfer List after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Among the many foreign weapons he found had been sold to Saddam Hussein in violation of U.N. sanctions was the Kornet-E, and the report on the list included a photo of a U.S. M-1A1 tank that had been destroyed by one of the missiles in the Iraq conflict.

The Kornet-E transfers were noted in the report as a "sanction buster" by the Russians, and although how they reached Iraq is not clear, "the evidence pointed to a trans-shipment through Syria," Mr. Timperlake said as part of interviews for the book "Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies."

Mr. Timperlake and his former boss, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jack Shaw, deserve credit for producing the report and giving the world an early and open-source warning of just how deadly the Russian weapon is against the military's main battle tank.

Unfortunately, Mr. Shaw had his job reorganized out of existence the same month the report was completed in December 2004 in a dispute with other senior defense officials.

"[International Technology Service] did a very good thing in focusing on sanctions being busted by the shipment of conventional and dual-use items to Iraq," Mr. Timperlake said. "Unfortunately, the [Israel Defense Forces] paid a price for Pentagon political score settling against ITS and Jack Shaw."

Ugly American
We received this e-mail from a Special Forces soldier posted overseas. He commented on coverage of Israel's war against Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored terror group:

"The only TV I have where I am is CNN International and BBC. Jeez, I had no idea how evil the U.S. and Israel are. The propaganda is staggering."

By the way, the Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli government officials are again mad at the British Broadcasting Corp., this time for coverage that favors Hezbollah, which has killed hundreds of Americans. Israel boycotted BBC in 2003 over its perceived favorable coverage of Hamas suicide bombers.

In context
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld put Iraq's casualty count into historical perspective during an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

"Now, you look at the Civil War I don't know how many people were killed, but someone gave me a piece of paper and I looked at it, it was half a million people were killed, and 524,000 people were killed.

"So think of that. We've lost 2,054, killed in action in Iraq. ... World War II was 405,000. The Korean War was 36,000. Vietnam was 58,000. The lives that have been lost American lives to defend this country and the willingness of the American people to defend the country at those costs says a lot about our country.

"But we wouldn't be the country we are today if those people hadn't been willing to serve. ... I think we have to appreciate that wars are terribly difficult things. They're ugly. They're violent. And they're unpredictable, and we are so fortunate to have the people we have serving over there, doing the job they're doing. They're doing an absolutely superb job under terribly difficult circumstances."

An Army commander just back from Afghanistan had some good news and bad news.

The good: The coalition is good at finding and killing Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. The bad: Nearly as fast as the terrorists are killed, they are replaced by new recruits from camps in Pakistan.

The war
The "long war" to which the Pentagon often refers is not so much a "war on terror," but a global war against religious extremists who cite Islam to justify mass murder in a quest for world domination. In that sense, it is akin to wars against Stalinists, fascists or Nazis.

During an interview this week on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, talked about defeating extremism. He said it is the moderate Muslims who in the end must win the day.

Asked about whether battles in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan are linked, Gen. Abizaid said: "From where I sit, it's all connected. And whether it's one war or not can be debated from a political perspective. But from a military perspective, as I look at it all of the lines lead back to one or two sources. They either lead back to Sunni-sponsored extremism, or to Shia-sponsored Iranian extremism. And sometimes, on occasional points in the battlefield, they even cooperate with one another. So it's certainly connected. No doubt in my mind."

He added, "We've got to help the moderates in the region face down the extremists, wherever they show up."

Broken pipeline
Government relations with the press appear to be at an all-time low, with leak investigations and selective prosecutions that are expected to have a chilling effect on reporting.

The Bush administration since the beginning has gone out of its way to alienate the press. Senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, have issued issue statements criticizing reporting that he has correctly identified as inaccurate or biased.

Many national security reporters hope the recent appointment of Fox News reporter and radio host Tony Snow as White House spokesman will lead to improvements in battered government-press relations.

A former Reagan administration intelligence official reminded us recently about how President Reagan, who was roundly criticized by the predominantly liberal press, dealt with the problem.

"I remember a meeting with the president when negative press coverage was discussed," the former official said, who noted that those in attendance wanted to punish the press. "Reagan interrupted and said: 'The press is our pipeline to the American people. It's important that we not break that pipeline, for if we do, we'll lose an important channel of communication.'"

  • 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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