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November 18, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Buyer vs. Legion
An extraordinary fight has broken out between the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group.

It began Nov. 10, when Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican, dispatched a heated letter to Thomas L. Bock, the Legion's national commander. The spat revolves around a "veterans summit" Mr. Buyer hosted that month at the Army War College and the timetable for veterans service organization testimony.

"I am pleased that the veterans summit at Carlisle Barracks on Nov. 7 was a productive and collaborative event," Mr. Buyer wrote to Mr. Bock. "It is unfortunate that the American Legion chose not to send a representative."

The congressman then criticized the Legion for not submitting in a timely fashion its views on veterans legislation. "The current process does not take full advantage of your input, as your views come after major budget decisions have already been made," he said.

The chairman's letter set off a firestorm inside the Legion's national headquarters in Indianapolis.

"I received your letter dated Nov. 10," Mr. Bock wrote back to Mr. Buyer on Monday. "I have thought about your letter this Veterans Day weekend. I have shared it with the leadership and senior staff of the American Legion. I must tell you, sir, to a person, we find your letter and your implications to be insulting and patronizing."

Mr. Bock said he never received an invitation to the summit. "I might say to you that it is unfortunate that your staff chose not to send an invitation to the national commander of the American Legion," he said. "I might also add that it is unfortunate that your staff did not follow up when you had not heard from the national commander."

Mr. Bock then scolded Mr. Buyer for not attending the American Legion's national convention in Hawaii last August.

"We have worked with chairmen on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers for many, many years," he added. "At times there has been acrimony over certain issues and disagreement over certain proposed courses of action, but at no time until recently have the disagreements been reduced to a personal level."

NSA vulnerability
The vast majority of the best U.S. intelligence gathered from around the world comes from the electronic eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency located at Fort Meade, Md.

U.S. intelligence officials tell us that plans to relocate the NSA headquarters' elements to more secure locations away from public access were prompted by the danger posed by a suicide airline or truck bomb attack.

The shining glass windows of the building are visible from the roadways, including the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

The NSA complex also is a short distance from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Officials tell us that a hijacked airline attack on the building, like those that hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon, would have a devastating impact on U.S. intelligence capabilities, crippling U.S. eavesdropping capabilities for months.

The agency is moving some of its most sensitive operations to less vulnerable positions on the Fort Meade Army base.

The relocation plan, first reported in the Baltimore Sun, calls for putting new facilities on a 400-acre area in the center of Fort Meade that is currently used by the Army for two golf courses.

China RMA
We recently spoke to a Chinese military officer in Beijing about China's concept of "informationalized" warfare.

The term first surfaced in December as part of China's white paper on national defense and the actual meaning has not been clear to specialists at the Pentagon. The white paper states that modern weaponry "is increasingly informationalized" and noted that it involved growing "long-range precision strike capability."

The Chinese military officer, who declined to give his name, stated that he had just finished writing a book on the subject of the U.S. military's capability for high-technology warfare. Informationalized warfare, he said, is China's term for what the Pentagon calls the "revolution in military affairs," or RMA - defined as the development and application of high-technology and advanced weapons to warfare.a "We learned it from you," the officer said with a smile.

The concept of RMA was first borrowed from the Soviet military and has evolved over the years since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It is currently a key element of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's military force transformation efforts.

From the Iraq front
We received e-mail from a Marine Corps major in Iraq giving us a first-hand account of recent operations.

The message talked about two recent operations in western Iraq that U.S. press accounts said took place in areas where American forces "dare not go," the major said.

"Well, they should learn to never dare a Marine Division!" he stated. "Both operations were executed almost flawlessly. Most of the enemy fled upon the arrival of the Marines but a good number of them stayed to fight. Those that did quickly found out the 70 virgins they were promised for martyrdom was bravo sierra!" - the last a military slang term for bovine manure.

On the casualties in the past few months, the major said that a number gave their life in defense of their country.

"Please keep every one of them and their families in your prayers," he said. "I can tell you that at the Division level we are continually amazed and awestruck when we receive the accounts of bravery and heroism being displayed on a daily basis by your Marines and soldiers. I can also tell you that every loss hits hard and everyone in the division HQ feels pain for each and every one."

Gruesome methods
A Marine Corps statement on the fighting to clear towns of insurgents along the Syrian border provided a window into how the enemy seizes the homes of civilians, rather than being welcomed as liberators.

In the town of Husaybah, foreign terrorists forced their way into a home and killed two occupants. The al Qaeda insurgents locked the rest of the family in a room and then used the home to launch attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The coalition called in air strikes, which destroyed the home. The Marines said they did not know the insurgents were holding hostages. Two Iraqi civilians were found alive and were taken for medical treatment.

"Insurgents used home invasion tactics extensively during Operation Spear last June in the nearby city of Krabilah," the Marine statement said. "Insurgents violently entered homes and used women as human shields to prevent Marines from returning fire."

Zarqawi's men
Al Qaeda commander Abu Musab Zarqawi, and his mentor, Osama bin Laden, have recruited hundreds of bloodthirsty terrorists to go to Iraq and kill everyone.

On the Left, we've seen filmmaker Michael Moore describe the terrorists as "Minutemen." Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan likens them to our Revolutionary War soldiers.

Now, Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies offers another name: Zarqawi's henchmen are "foreign volunteers."

  • 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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