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September 1, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Punishing Taiwan
Pentagon officials tell us President Bush has been advised to deny new sales of F-16 jets to Taiwan.

The advice is said to have originated from White House National Security Council (NSC) staff, who convinced the president not to approve new F-16 sales to Taiwan to avoid upsetting China. It would also signal disapproval with Taipei for its failure to procure submarines, surveillance aircraft and missile defenses offered for sale since 2001.

The official response we received from NSC spokesman Frederick Jones is that: "We have not to date received a request from the Taiwan Government for F-16s. If we do, it will be considered in keeping with our Taiwan Relations Act commitments."

Other officials tell us what really happened is that Taiwan's chief representative to the United States, David Tawei Lee, was told privately that now is not the time to submit a request for F-16s, to avoid the negative publicity of turning it down. Mr. Lee is close to the acting NSC Asia director, Dennis Wilder.

News of the rejection will be greeted with toasts in Beijing as a great propaganda victory, and another example of how China uses its influence over U.S. academics, policy-makers and intelligence officials to skew U.S. policy. Chinese military officials recently pressed the Bush administration and the Pentagon to halt all arms sales to rival Taiwan.

Taiwan's government confirmed earlier this week that it plans to buy up to 66 new F-16C/D models to replace F-5s. The deal was estimated to be worth $3.1 billion.

Press reports from Taiwan also stated that the Bush administration has rejected a request from Taipei to allow Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian to make a transit stop on the U.S. territory of Guam during an upcoming South Pacific visit.

The snub on Guam follows a visit to the island by several Chinese military officials who were given a tour of Guam, a major hub for the U.S. military buildup in Asia, during a recent military exercise.

Asia policy reshuffle
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has approved a plan to reorganize the policy shop now headed by Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman. Parts of the plan will be implemented beginning Oct. 1, but one key change, the creation of a new assistant secretary for Asia and the Pacific Security Affairs, will require congressional action.

The Pentagon's current Asia hand, Richard Lawless, a deputy assistant secretary, is the likely choice for the new post. Mr. Lawless has an impressive record in dealing with difficult Asian issues, including upgrading the alliance with Japan and negotiating U.S. troop relocation in Korea.

Another candidate for the post is Torkel Patterson, a former National Security Council Asia hand during the first Bush administration who is considered pro-China and anti-Taiwan by conservatives. Mr. Patterson, currently president of Raytheon International, also is viewed as a protege of former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and someone who wants the post to capitalize later on expected lucrative U.S. arms sales to India.

In contrast to Mr. Patterson's pro-China slant, Mr. Lawless is considered neutral on China and someone who has no agenda other than Mr. Rumsfeld's and as a result is favored by conservatives in the administration.

The new Asia slot spins off Asia, Central Asia and South Asia from the current office of assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, now headed by Peter Rodman, who will keep his job along with the three other current assistant secretaries.

Asked if concerns about China's large-scale military buildup were behind that element of the reorganization, Mr. Edelman did not answer directly, other than to note to reporters that the latest Pentagon strategy report recognizes both China and India as nations at the "strategic crossroad" that could develop into friendly powers or threats to U.S. security.

"That certainly ...overall had some impact on how we decided to divide the labor, but I wouldn't say it was China-specific. It was a bit broader of a consideration than that," Mr. Edelman said.

The reorganization also downgrades the Defense Technology Security Administration to a section of a new directorate for global security affairs, that includes counternarcotics and counterproliferation, along with detainee affairs and Prisoner of War/Missing In Action affairs.

Iraqi flight
There has been little written in print about the flight of Iraqis from insurgency-torn Iraq. A former military officer forwarded us an e-mail from a contractor who lives outside the protection of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

"A lot of Iraqis have lost family members over the past month five I have spoken to today most have taken the immediate family to Syria and Iran as Jordan has stopped accepting them," the contractor wrote.

He noted that thousands have left Iraq. The contractor thinks that "all indications are [that] civil war is imminent."

The new threat is "tribal killing," and several sections of the capital have been looted and stripped. In some parts of the city, electricity is turned on for one hour a day, and fuel and running water are out in 90 percent of Baghdad. Most local schools have been closed, and violence has broken out in hospitals where killings have taken place between sick and injured from rival tribes.

The main hospital in Baghdad is turning away new patients, as many are being treated on the spot and discharged because of a lack of power, since fuel for generators is in short supply.

A U.S. colonel involved in training Iraqis stated in response to the e-mail that "fuel is a problem for everyone [in Iraq] but us." "Lines are long," the commander said, noting that in some places there are two lines, one for regular customers and one for those who can afford to offer bribes.

The commander did agree that "folks are moving their families out of Baghdad," however, he said, "this is not a civil war yet."

The operation to bring more troops to Baghdad is working to reduce murders, killings and sectarian violence. Murders during a 30-day period ending last week declined sharply but are still high. About 920 people were murdered in the most recent 30-day period compared to 1,270 the preceding month.

"Maybe I can make up some happy news like the media makes up bad news such as trying to get you to believe there is a civil war raging here," the colonel said. "Sorry to report there is not."

False charges
Amid charges in an Associated Press story that some recruiters sexually abused young women candidates, Elaine Donnelly is reminding investigators there is a history of false accusations.

"False rape accusations ... have been filed to extort money from celebrities, to gain sole custody of children divorce cases, and even to escape military deployments to war zones," Mrs. Donnelly writes in the current "CMR Notes," the news letter for her Center for Military Readiness.

"All of these possibilities and more must be objectively considered by investigators, without interference from victim advocates who wrongly insist that women can do no wrong."

The quote is from her cover story, "Sex, Lies and Rape. How to Distinguish Truthful Allegations from False Ones."

  • 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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