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December 9, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Clark's record
A lawyer who has dealt in the past with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, now part of the legal defense team for the Baghdad trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, wrote to remind us of Mr. Clark's past.

In 1987, Mr. Clark sued the U.S. and British governments, including President Reagan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and others involved in planning and carrying out the 1986 military strike on terrorist targets in Libya.

The raids were carried out 10 days after the discovery that the Libyan government helped terrorists blow up a Berlin discotheque frequented by U.S. soldiers, killing two of them. Mr. Clark claimed to be representing unidentified next-of-kin of Libyan military officials killed in the attack.

"The defendants quickly and handily won a summary judgment," Hays Parks writes.

Mr. Parks, a former military officer, was an expert witness in three criminal cases where Mr. Clark was a defense lawyer.

"He lost all three, not because my testimony was that significant but because while many in the media dote on his public statements, courts require something more of substance, relevance, fact and law," Mr. Parks said.

"Ramsey Clark's joining the Saddam defense team will do little more than add more dubious news reports to his legal career."

The Reagan administration considered a British government request to sanction Mr. Clark with a $50,000 fine for bringing the frivolous Libya lawsuit. The State and Justice departments, however, thought it would be inappropriate to punish a former attorney general.

Drawdown time
Pentagon officials say it is premature to report that the two Army brigades slated for Iraq will not go.

They say Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will present that option to President Bush, after the Dec. 15 Iraqi elections, if the security situation merits. If the two brigades stay home, it will be the first drawdown from a base force of 138,000 troops. More pullouts would likely follow.

"There is a strong feeling that is becoming generally accepted by Iraqi leaders that these guys [Iraqi security forces] are ready and it's really time to accelerate the handover," said a defense official. "These guys are ready."

Foreign terrorists
Commanders are seeing fewer foreign fighters in Iraq, a sign that operations along the Syrian border are working. There also is the hope that al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi is encountering difficulty in persuading new jihadists to come to Iraq.

We asked Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Lapan, spokesman for coalition forces in Anbar province, to size up the mix of enemy forces. Ten Marines were killed in the province last week by an improvised explosive device.

He said: "In the Multi-National Force-West area of operations, we are facing a locally based Sunni-led insurgency. These local insurgents largely operate in and around their own communities and when not fighting, they blend into the local scene.

"Terrorists and foreign fighters associated with al Qaeda in Iraq are a factor in our area and al Qaeda gains additional synergy by developing marriages of convenience with local insurgency groups composed of the other elements of the insurgency Saddamists, rejectionists, and criminals. The terrorist and foreign fighter presence in Al Anbar is small, but it's dangerous.

"We believe that recent operations, especially the establishment of persistent, joint Iraqi-coalition presence in the western Euphrates River valley region, have disrupted al Qaeda in Iraq and insurgent activities in that area and have contributed to improved security on the Iraq side of the border. We have succeeded in killing and capturing a number of senior and midlevel AQI and insurgent leaders.

"Finally, we have seen that Iraqis in the region, particularly in the border area, are increasingly rejecting the brutality brought to their cities and towns by AQI's terrorists and foreign fighters."

A few days after Col. Lapan's report, the Marines announced they had ended sweeps through the city of Ramadi and captured eight al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists.

Canned news
A former defense official tells us why private public-relations firms, with U.S. military approval, are paying to get stories planted in the Iraqi press that told what the coalition has achieved.

The ex-official said in some cases, Iraqi journalists demanded the money; in other instances, the newspapers needed revenue to stay in business. The amounts, the ex-official told us, ranged from $400 to $1,000.

The Lincoln Group, a Washington-based PR firm that is countering terrorist propaganda in what the military calls "information operations," released a statement that said: "We counter the lies, intimidation and pure evil of terror with factual stories that highlight the heroism and sacrifice of the Iraqi people and their struggle for freedom and security. We are encouraged by their sacrifice and proud to help them tell their side of the story."

U.S. Special Operations Command is planning a major information-operation campaign against terrorists worldwide.

It has awarded contracts to three private firms, Sy Coleman, Science Applications International Corp., and the Lincoln Group to come up with prototypes for countering militant Islamic propaganda.

"Under the contracts the individual companies will apply their expertise and creative skills in developing recommendations for possible information campaigns," said Col. Samuel Taylor, a Socom spokesman. "These recommendations could include all forms of information modes to include radio, television, print [articles and art], Web media and novelty/specialty items [buttons, water bottles, bumper stickers etc.]. The intent is to give the companies the creative license to explore all avenues and approaches. Psychological operations is an assigned special operations activity by which special operations forces provide approved, truthful information to foreign audiences."

He said Socom wants products that "will have utility for more than one geographic commander. We want products that can be modified to be of use to commanders in different environments. So, the focus is not just Iraq, Afghanistan or any other particular place."

The three companies are guaranteed $250,000 in the first year. Socom does not expect to spend more than $1 million during that time.

  • 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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