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October 13, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Nuclear volleyball
Intelligence photographs of North Korea's nuclear test site showed technicians playing volleyball this week near the tunnel where a nuclear device was unsuccessfully set off on Sunday.

The facility where the test took place was identified by U.S. officials as a North Korean science and technology research center near the town of Kilchu and the northeastern coast.

Very high-resolution satellite images obtained by the Defense Intelligence Agency showed the volleyball game being played near dormitories at the facility.

The Japanese intelligence agency also had access to the photographs, and according to U.S. defense officials, they reported that a sports activity so close to a nuclear site was inconsistent with post-nuclear testing precautions, since the underground tunnel where the test took place was located several hundred yards away.

Aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld are dismayed over negative comments about him by a four-star general, whose career the secretary nurtured and extended at the cost of delaying the assumption of command by other generals.

A former senior Pentagon official said aides to Mr. Rumsfeld are taking offense at remarks by Marine Gen. James Jones, the current supreme allied commander, Europe, in the latest Bob Woodward book, "State of Denial."

In the book, Gen. Jones is quoted as telling his friend Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs chairman, that "military advice is being influenced on a political level" and that the Joint Chiefs had "surrendered" to Mr. Rumsfeld.

"You should not be the parrot on the secretary's shoulder," the book quoted Gen. Jones as telling Gen. Pace when he was about to become chairman. Gen. Jones subsequently told two visiting senators at NATO, "The Joint Chiefs have been systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld."

On a recent trip to Washington, Gen. Jones did not dispute the book's accuracy.

His words have stung members of Mr. Rumsfeld's inner circle, who suggest the hurt goes all the way up to the defense secretary himself.

"Military and civilian officials close to the secretary are taken aback by Gen. Jones' comments," said the former aide, who asked not to be named. "Rumsfeld certainly takes a very different view of how he has empowered the Joint Chiefs by involving them in every decision. James Jones is highly political a real Washington operator. He of all generals to claim that the chiefs have become political is highly ironic if not laughable."

Gen. Jones formed a fast friendship with William S. Cohen, then a Republican senator from Maine. Mr. Cohen, as secretary of defense under President Clinton, tapped Gen. Jones as his military assistant and then as Marine commandant, who serves on the Joint Chiefs.

Said Larry Di Rita, a former Pentagon spokesman and close adviser to the secretary, "I can tell you Rumsfeld would bristle at any assertion that military advice has been marginalized because he created a new process that military advice is sought and provided on more decisions than ever before in the department's history."

What irks the aides the most is that Mr. Rumsfeld has gone out of his way to help Gen. Jones' career. When his term was ending as Marine commandant three years ago, Mr. Rumsfeld tapped him as the first Marine to become NATO commander in January 2003. The move did not help Mr. Rumsfeld's standing with the Army, which traditionally held the post.

When Gen. Jones asked to remain on post until after the upcoming NATO summit, Mr. Rumsfeld agreed, even though it pushed back the placement of other four-star generals.

Army Gen. John Craddock has been confirmed by the Senate and will replace Gen. Jones after the Nov. 28 to 29 NATO summit in Riga, Latvia.

"It constipated the system," the former official said. "Rumsfeld bent over backwards to accommodate this guy. The thinking was a lot of these changes would be made in September. Once you have a hiccup with an individual four-star, it just disrupts a lot of moves. It's not about a single guy."

Asked about these complaints, Col. Derik Crotts, Gen. Jones' spokesman, said in an e-mail to The Washington Times: "General Jones is on the record with regards to his thoughts concerning a need to review Goldwater-Nichols and to address some of the unintended consequences in the legislation. This is not a new position, and he has discussed his views on this subject on numerous occasions over the years."

Goldwater-Nichols is the landmark legislation that redefined relations among civilian leaders, the Joint Chiefs and combatant commanders around the world.

Rumsfeld spokesman Eric Ruff said "the secretary has not mentioned what Jones is alleged to have said. He hasn't read the book, and he doesn't intend to."

He added, "Any suggestion that is alleged in the book that military advice has been politicized is just flat wrong and outrageous."

Mr. Ruff said the secretary has revolutionized the civilian-military working relationship by bringing officers in early in the decision-making process. He heads regular meetings of what is called the senior leadership review group and holds three Washington sessions annually with combat commanders and the Joint Chiefs. "He actively seeks out and receives military advice," Mr. Ruff said.

Democrats have pilloried Mr. Rumsfeld over the Iraq war. The secretary offered to resign twice, but President Bush told him to stay on the job.

"He's at peace with himself," the former civilian official said. "Let history decide how this is going to be seen." Mr. Rumsfeld will officially appear with his NATO commander at Riga. Should be a frosty affair.

From the front
A lieutenant colonel with the 82nd Airborne Division who recently returned from Iraq privately filled us in on the situation in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

The insurgency is being run by former Iraqi Republican Guards and Iraqi intelligence service personnel who have lots of money and who use a combination of Islamist extremism and thuggery to recruit insurgents.

Captured insurgents who were interrogated often appear to be "brainwashed by Salafists," as one strain of Islamist extremism is called, into conducting bombings or shooting attacks on U.S. and allied troops, the officer said.

"When I would ask them why they are fighting us, they say, 'Because you are here,' " said the officer, who favors getting U.S. troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later. "And I would say, 'Why don't you stop shooting at us, and we'll leave.' "

The insurgents also use blackmail to gain recruits, often paying Iraqis to help in supporting operations, such as driving cars used in attacks. Then, the insurgent recruiters photograph the Iraqi during the attack and threaten to release to the photo to the new Iraqi government or U.S. forces if he does not continue working with insurgents.

The officer said he worked closely with local sheiks in trying to promote stability, with mixed results. Some promised cooperation but failed to work with the new Iraqi government or U.S. forces.

Other leaders have turned against the insurgents and the small number of foreign terrorists.

  • 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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