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October 1, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Master terrorist
Abu Musab Zarqawi remains the most elusive prey in Iraq. A bounty of $25 million and an intensive electronic and human manhunt has failed to find the Jordanian-born beheader of Americans.

We are told that U.S. Marines receive many tips on the terrorist's whereabouts and have launched at least two unsuccessful operations to find and kill Zarqawi.

One officer said he carries Zarqawi's picture, but doubts he could spot the guy, because the terrorist is known to wear various disguises. The bottom line: Zarqawi is a survivor, a key asset for an international terrorist.

Taiwanese submarines
Pentagon officials were surprised by statements this week by Taiwan's ambassador to the United States, David Lee. Mr. Lee told reporters and editors of The Washington Times that the eight submarines the island's government plans to build will be made at a shipyard in Mississippi.

However, defense officials said the decision on whether to build the submarines, and where, has not yet been made, although Taipei has sent a letter stating that it intends to buy them. The matter is awaiting resolution of Taiwan's legislature, which is debating a special $18 billion budget for new arms, including submarines.

"I hope they're built in Pascagoula [Miss.]," one official said.

Some Navy officials are opposing plans to make the submarines from scratch in the United States since it would upset the submarine community's long-standing position that all U.S. submarines must be nuclear-powered.

The current Navy plan for Taiwan's submarines, which are needed to counter the growing naval threat from China, is for the United States to broker a deal to use a German diesel submarine design and build the subs at a shipyard in Spain, officials tell us.

Mr. Lee told Taiwan's Central News Agency after The Times' report that it is too soon to discuss a construction site for the submarines.

The special defense budget needs to be passed before the location of the construction can be discussed, he said.

Texas Guard beat
President Bush's tenure as a Texas Air National Guard pilot has become a cottage industry in Texas. A group of former guardsmen, led by Bill Burkett, offers up all sorts of sordid Bush stories to any reporter willing to fly into Texas and root around for a while.

Former Bush colleagues in the guard have been interviewed scores of times. They tell some interesting stories about their press contacts.

One retired officer quotes a reporter for a major East Coast daily as telling him she wants off the Bush guard beat, but her editors tell her to keep digging. "I tell them there's nothing there," the retired officer quotes the reporter as saying.

That officer recalls another reporter saying, "My editors don't want any good stuff on Bush."

Abizaid's ire
We've known for some time that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and certain Pentagon policy-makers don't see eye-to-eye on all war issues. Now, Mr. Armitage has raised the ire of the top commander in the Persian Gulf, Army Gen. John Abizaid.

During congressional testimony last week, Mr. Armitage described newly minted Iraqi police officers as "shake-and-bake."

Asked about this term Sunday by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," Gen. Abizaid's blood pressure rose.

" 'Shake and bake' gives some sort of an idea that the Iraqi police and the Iraqi armed forces that are out there standing on the line fighting for their country right now are somehow or another unserious, unqualified and unprofessional people, and that's just not true," the general said. "They are serious enough to be fighting and dying for their own country, and we need to give them a little respect and help."

Iraqi spies
There are other problems in Anbar province besides Abu Musab Zarqawi. Officials say it is likely that the Iraqi national guard, a force of about 40,000, has been infiltrated by spies for Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein loyalists.

Weeks ago, the police chief in Ramadi was fired for collaborating with insurgents. On Sunday, the U.S. command announced that a top national guard officer in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, was also accused of collaborating.

"This leads me to believe they have a tremendous operational security problem, because we're so dependent on local information sources and we have very little to verify the credibility of any of that," said Dan Gallington, a former aide to Mr. Rumsfeld and an analyst at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Legal move
The Air Force has relieved its top military lawyer of his duties, pending a probe by the service inspector general, according to a letter from Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives, deputy judge advocate general.

Gen. Rives said in a letter to Air Force lawyers this week that Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus, the judge advocate general of the Air Force, asked to be temporarily relieved.

"In the days ahead, our primary responsibility will be to maintain effective legal services for the Air Force community," Gen. Rives wrote Monday. "The JAG corps is in excellent shape, and I know you and your people will continue to provide our commanders and clients with the best possible legal support.

"It is not appropriate to provide any information about the nature or status of the investigation. With that in mind, I ask each of you to refrain from speculation and to caution others that rumors and conjecture needlessly damage reputations and careers."

The culturally initiated often say, if you want to get ahead in the Air Force learn to play golf. A lot of Air Force business is ultimately settled before the 19th hole.

So it should come as no surprise that the Air Force golf team has won the 2004 Armed Forces Golf Championship held at Fort Carson, Colo. by 49 strokes. The Air Force carded a 2,793, followed by the Army, 2,842; Navy, 3,000; and Marine Corps, 3,096.

  • 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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