Return to

October 10, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Korea envoy needed
Former Secretary of State George Shultz said the Bush administration should appoint a high-ranking special envoy for North Korea.

In an interview at his office at the Hoover Institution, Mr. Shultz said the nuclear crisis with Pyongyang, which a year ago revealed a covert uranium-enrichment program for arms, needs a specialist to address the problem. He said it would be similar to what former Defense Secretary William Perry did for the Clinton administration after leaving the Pentagon.

The Bush administration's diplomatic effort to deal with the nuclear crisis is foundering as North Korea continues to demand concessions from the United States. This week, Pyongyang said it would not continue six-nation talks with Japan.

U.S. officials said problems with the administration's diplomacy are a result of the weakness of the State Department bureaucracy, which has been put in charge of the talks. The department is good at implementing policy, but generally views diplomatic talks as an end rather than a tool for reaching objectives.

Soft-line officials in the department, led by James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, privately want to reach "Agreed Framework II," to follow the failed 1994 agreement that was supposed to have ended North Korea's nuclear-weapons program.

The Pentagon's view of North Korea was outlined by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in a recent speech. The secretary has a satellite photograph of Korea on the glass-top desk in his Pentagon office, showing the bright lights of South Korea contrasted by the darkness of the communist North, above the 38th parallel.

"What a difference between freedom and oppression. In one, the light of liberty outshines everything; and in the other, the darkness of the dictatorship is so obvious even from so many miles in outer space," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said he is convinced that "one day freedom will come to the people of the North and light up that oppressed land with hope and with promise."

Help the children
Unfortunately, the global war on terrorism has resulted in the deaths of 71 special-operations soldiers, either in combat or accidents. Fortunately, there is the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

The foundation, set up by veterans of Desert One, pays up to $15,000 annually to put the children of slain commandos through college. The war has left 80 children eligible for the grants. The foundation has $5 million in assets, and raised $2 million alone in 2001. There are 65 children now in college receiving SOWF money. The foundation projects it will need $25 million to fund 100 students.

The foundation is currently committed to supplying grants for more than 400 children. Last year, it provided $220,703.

Desert One was the 1980 mission to free hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran that was aborted after eight servicemen died in a staging-area helicopter collision.

Commando ally
It took nearly three years into the administration, but the Pentagon finally has an assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (ASDSOLIC).

The Pentagon held a reception earlier this week to mark the arrival of Thomas W. O'Connell, the new ASDSOLIC. Attendees included Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. The fusion of special ops and intelligence has become all the more important in the war on terrorism as commanders look for the "actionable" intelligence that would allow a commando mission to target al Qaeda cells.

Mr. O'Connell is a former CIA officer and commando who was once deputy director of U.S. Special Operations Command (SoCom) in Tampa, Fla. The new head of SoCom, Gen. Bryan "Doug" Brown, also attended.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has given SoCom and its 46,000 troops new powers to plan and execute operations to kill or capture terrorists. Before September 11, SoCom was essentially a training command, providing expertise and equipment.

One defense official says SoCom has been somewhat slow to make the transition, and has encountered snags in creating its first battle staff. The White House withdrew its first nominee for ASDSOLIC, an office that creates special-ops policies and is a budget advocate. It tried to get the office consolidated with homeland defense, but then gave up and nominated Mr. O'Connell.

Touching moment
A recent congressional delegation visit to Iraq resulted in a particularly somber moment. After touring various facilities and getting briefed by L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator there, the lawmakers boarded a plane back to Kuwait. On board were the bodies of the three most recent soldiers to die at the hands of pro-Saddam Hussein guerrillas.

Said an observer on the aircraft, "The delegation had a somber and sobering experience as we departed Iraq for Kuwait. The bodies of the three U.S. soldiers killed in yesterday's attacks rode the plane with us. Each body was in a body bag draped with the U.S. flag. Due to center-of-gravity requirements, we sat right next to the bodies.

"The members reflected on this and this brought home what this war was all about. As one member stated, 'I felt diminished by the sacrifices these brave soldiers had made.' To a person, the delegation stood at attention, saluted or place their hands over their hearts, as the bodies were unloaded by the casket detail. There were no dry eyes."

Keane's class
Gen. John M. Keane, Army vice chief of staff, said farewell earlier this month at a retirement ceremony that was a study in contrasts.

His former boss, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, the chief of staff, stood at the same Fort Myer parade ground last summer. Gen. Shinseki's retirement speech was studded in not-so-veiled criticisms of Defense Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld, who pointedly did not attend the ceremony. The two did not agree on Army transformation.

Mr. Rumsfeld did, however, show up at Gen. Keane's farewell.

"Secretary Rumsfeld, thank you so much for honoring us today," the four-star combat veteran said. "We have always respected each other and we have always been straight with each other, and that is what a relationship is all about. Sir, thank you for the insightful leadership you are providing the nation and the tough love you have brought to the Pentagon."

Gen. Keane also left no doubt that the Army will successfully complete its demanding mission in Iraq, where every week soldiers die at the hands of pro-Saddam Hussein guerrillas.

"I want to tell you something about this war against terror we are fighting in Iraq and around the world," he said. "The foreign terrorists, the Ba'ath Party sympathizers, the Islamic extremists who wantonly kill Americans and innocent people from many nations, have no idea what they are up against. ...

"When we say we are going to win this global war on terrorism, we mean exactly that. We don't mean a moral victory, or victory in some abstract sense. The reality of more than 3,000 dead in New York, Pennsylvania and in the Pentagon does not allow for such nuances."

  • 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
    Return to