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December 19, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq's future
The National Intelligence Council, a group under CIA Director George J. Tenet, has released a paper that is part of an effort by intelligence analysts to predict global events in the next 17 years.

For its Middle East section, one analyst predicts Iraq faces a broad range of outcomes, mostly bad. Baghdad in 2020 could have democraticlike rulers, such as those in current Lebanon, or could become a democratic "Switzerland-on-the-Tigris," the analyst states.

In its section on future "shocks," the paper lays out four negative outcomes, including the emergence in Iraq of a radical Islamic regime similar to Iran's dictatorship.

A secular dictator, like Tunisia's Ben Ali or another Saddam Hussein "without the brutality" is another future, the analyst says, adding "this outcome would have some stabilizing aspects, at least in the short term."

Iraq also could be hit by a civil war between now and 2020. "This would be very likely to draw in outside states, especially Turkey and Iran, with the danger of the conflict turning into an interstate war," the analyst says.

Last, the paper warns Iraq could break apart.

"In some respects, not forcing the different sectarian and ethnic groups in Iraq to share the same country would be more stable than some of the alternatives," the analyst notes. "But this possibility would raise many of the same concerns among and invite intervention by neighboring states, as well as almost certainly leaving dissatisfaction among some of those groups about the division of Iraqi resources.

"Any of these last four possibilities would be seen as a major defeat for the United States, with corresponding negative consequences for U.S. prestige and influence in the region," says the analyst, who was not identified.

The paper was presented Dec. 8 at a conference that is part of the council's 2020 Project, which according to its Internet site is "not meant to be an exercise in prediction or crystal ball gazing" but rather a yearlong examination of "alternative futures."

Speicher update
One of the first questions put to Saddam was whether he had any information on the fate of U.S. Navy pilot Capt. Michael Scott Speicher.

The initial answer from the dictator was that he knew nothing about the missing pilot, whose F-18 was shot down over Iraq on the first night of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Cindy Laquidara, a lawyer representing Capt. Speicher's family, said the Pentagon informed her Monday about Saddam's remark. "It was a preliminary interview, cold, and I would not have expected any other answer than that," she said. "[Saddam] was hardly going to admit to a war crime, without even attempting to get something in return."

Mrs. Laquidara said the special group in Iraq that is searching for the pilot has made some progress in getting information from Iraqis. She said she believes that some of the Iraqis being held by coalition forces have information about Capt. Speicher.

The Navy initially listed Capt. Speicher as killed in action but then changed his status twice, most recently to missing in action, based on numerous intelligence reports that Iraq was holding an American pilot in captivity.

Col. West's defense We've gotten a host of e-mails asking how to contribute to Lt. Col. Allen B. West's defense fund. Col. West, as many of you know, was fined $5,000 last week for firing his weapon twice to scare an Iraqi detainee. Col. West says he resorted to the tactic only to force the Iraqi to fess up about a planned ambush. The colonel already had been the target of one assassination attempt. Here's the address: The Allen West Defense Fund, c/o Angela West, 6823 Coleman Road, Fort Hood, TX 76544. Col. West's defense II
Here are some excerpts from the preliminary hearing officer's report recommending administration punishment, not a court-martial:

"The nature of the threat as an assassination attempt against Lt. Col. West and his men led Lt. Col. West to believe that he had to act expeditiously. In Lt. Col. West's testimony, he determined that grievous bodily harm was about to be done to his unit. They key word here is 'about.' [His commanding officer] directed Lt. Col. West to remain on post until the situation could be developed. Since the threat was assassination or [bomb] attack, he could have avoided the threat simply by not going down the route."

"Lt. Col. West also believed that the force used was necessary to protect his men. Lt. Col. West acted at his own peril to get information to protect his unit. ... The immediacy of the threat remains the question, not whether or not he had the authority to act for his men."

"It appears that remedies to avoid the threat were not considered. However, Lt. Col. West may have believed there were no alternatives. Lt. Col. West stated that he took the plot too lightly at first, an oversight that may have caused him to react more forcibly."

History lesson
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, in a statement in December 1998 supporting President Clinton's four-day bombing of Iraq: "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process. The responsibility of the United States in this conflict is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, to minimize the danger to our troops and to diminish the suffering of the Iraqi people."

Saddam, pro and con
Some in the special operations community who wanted Saddam dead are not rethinking the matter. Of course, Army soldiers had no choice. Under the rules of engagement, if someone surrenders, as Saddam did, then, well, he surrenders.

"I've always believed that capturing him (or UBL) would be counterproductive and that it would be better if the guy that came across him just killed him outright," said a Special Forces soldier. "But, after seeing Saddam on TV looking like a vagrant receiving care from a U.S. doctor, I can see that if we had killed him, Al Jazeera would be saying that it was all a lie a week later.

"This way, the Arab world can see that one of the people exhorting them to go down fighting, didn't have the guts to draw his pistol and shoot the first guy who peered into the hole in the face. He surrendered like the coward he is. This can be milked for quite a while, but he must be executed so that everyone knows that he isn't ever going to regain power."

Corporate plugs
It's Christmas and we're feeling generous, so here are a couple of corporate gifts.

Hostway Corp. is offering free Web housing to up to 2,500 U.S. military personnel and their families so they can better keep in touch and exchange photographs. "We see this as a unique opportunity to serve our soldiers and demonstrate the potential of the Internet," said John Lee, director of marketing for the Chicago-based Hostway Corp. To apply, service members need to go to

Meanwhile, AT&T says it is donating an additional 35,000 prepaid phone cards worth $455,000 to U.S. service members overseas. This brings the company's 2003 contribution to 195,000 cards costing $3.5 million. AT&T donates the cards through the USO.

  • 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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