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Inside the Ring
Conservative national security officials are wondering what is going wrong inside the Bush White House. The choice of a retired Marine Corps general known for his liberal political views as a candidate for a “czar” over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has many scratching their heads and wondering whether the president is aligning his administration with the defeatists now opposing the war.
The retired Marine in question is Gen. Jack Sheehan, who was asked to be the new coordinator, despite a reputation as a liberal military officer, something uncharacteristic of most Marines. He turned it down, not only in private, but then with an added slap at the president in an opinion article this week in The Washington Post.
Officials pointed out one of Gen. Sheehan’s shortcomings during his active-duty career: a past association with Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes, who in 2002 was convicted as one of the most notorious U.S. traitors and a damaging spy for the communist regime in Cuba.
Officials said Gen. Sheehan shared some of Montes’ liberal views both when he was director of operations, or J-3, on the Joint Staff and as U.S. Atlantic Command leader. Gen. Sheehan invited Montes to sit in on many top-secret military meetings, including those involving U.S. war plans against Cuba, the officials said.
Montes not only stole some of the most sensitive U.S. intelligence secrets during her 16-year spying spree, but also acted as an influence agent who had significant sway over U.S. policies.
Another incident that raised questions about Gen. Sheehan’s consideration for war czar took place several years ago, when he angrily walked out of a Defense Policy Board meeting because of a talk by former CIA Director R. James Woolsey on Wahabbist terrorism, angrily noting that he didn’t want to listen to such waste.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to say who was behind the consideration of Gen. Sheehan but stated in an e-mail that there is “no list” of candidates and “no one has been offered this job.”
Gen. Sheehan, in an e-mail, dismissed both claims about his candidacy for the czar post and past ties to Montes as “incorrect.”
Before being asked by the White House, “I am sure they checked my credentials and the record indicated I was an American who had served both Republicans and Democrats,” Gen. Sheehan said. “Deal with the issue at hand on an objective basis, not character defamation.”
On the idea of a czar, one official said: “We don’t need a czar. The president already has such a coordinator. He’s called the national security adviser” — a dig at current National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, whom officials described as “still deputy” to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, his predecessor at the White House post.
F-22s to Japan
Japan wants to purchase up to 100 of the Air Force’s ultramodern F-22 warplanes, and the subject is expected to be on the agenda of the meeting next week between President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Pro-China officials in the Bush administration are working against the sale of the advanced warplane, which has stealth characteristics and is expected to bring harsh criticism from China, which views Japan’s more internationalist military posture as a threat.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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