Pentagon intelligence agencies detected Russia’s use of ballistic
missiles last week against the Chechen capital of Grozny in what is
turning out to be
a bloody terror campaign by Moscow against Chechnya. No administration
spokesman, however, has admitted to knowing about the missile attacks.
U.S. Defense Support Program satellites, which monitor missile
launches around the world, spotted and tracked two Russian short-range
ballistic missile launches from the Russian city of Mozdok, Russia, some
60 miles northeast of Grozny. The missiles are believed by intelligence
analysts to have been SS-21s, which have a range of between 47 and 75
The missiles slammed into a crowded Grozny marketplace and a
maternity ward on Oct. 21, killing at least 143 persons, according to
reports from the region. The Russians claimed the missiles were targeted
against militants, but the attack killed scores of civilians.
The Clinton administration, as it has done for years in seeking to
shore up the government of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, had only
muted criticism of
the attacks. Presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart said the “loss of
life” caused by the Russians was troubling and that the administration
had “expressed its concerns” to Moscow. No mention was made, however,
about the use of short-range missiles against the Chechens.
Four admirals have emerged as early favorites to succeed Adm. Jay
Johnson, the chief of naval operations.
Johnson’s retirement is not until this summer. But jockeying for
coveted seats on the Joint Chiefs of Staff typically begins well before
the deadline for submitting a nominee to the Senate for confirmation.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is said to favor Adm. Vernon
Clark, Atlantic Fleet Commander, for the job of running the 315-ship
Navy. Cohen was impressed with Clark’s performance as JCS staff director
during this year’s air assault over Kosovo.
Navy Secretary Richard Danzig is said to be a supporter of Vice Adm.
Natter, deputy CNO for plans, policy and operations.
Also in the running are Adm. Tom Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, and
Adm. James O. Ellis, an aviator who commands NATO’s southern flank and
was a big player in executing the Kosovo operation.
Johnson, a career carrier pilot, has been a low-key leader of a
service rocked by the Tailhook scandal and then the suicide of Adm.
Jeremy Boorda, a charismatic and, at times, emotional CNO.
White House spin
President Clinton retreated this week and signed a popular $267
billion defense appropriations bill. Left unsaid by the White House was
the way it spun one story to the public and another to the Joint Chiefs
Liberals, led by House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo.,
pressed the president to veto the bill, thus bottling up the GOP-led
appropriations process. But Clinton counted votes and determined a veto
would likely be overturned by Democrats as well as Republicans.
But that did not stop Mr. Clinton from attacking the bill.
“What Congress sent me is far from perfect,” he said. “The
legislation is loaded with things the Pentagon didn’t ask for and
doesn’t need. It applies accounting gimmicks to important areas.”
That is not the message the White House sent the Pentagon.
“The Joint Chiefs have each individually received assurance from the
president that whatever difficulties there are in the appropriations
process do not have anything to do with the military portion of the
bill,” Gen. James L. Jones, Marine Corps Commandant and a Joint Chiefs
member, told Inside the Ring. “The White House has gone out of its way
to signal to us that the problems have nothing to do with the military
contents of the appropriations bill.”
Official confirmation is slowly emerging about the poor planning by
its bombing campaign against Kosovo. Belgian Air Force Lt. Col. Jos
Vanschoenwinkel revealed that NATO only prepared for a two-day bombing
campaign and had to scramble when it failed.
The colonel was the only non-U.S. officer working inside NATO’s Air
Tasking Order Coordination and Execution office, known as ACE, at
Vicenza, Italy. His inside account appeared in the Lockheed Martin
in-house newsletter, “Code One.”
“The reason we attacked only at night was the result of a combination
of factors,” Vanschoenwinkel stated.
“We had an initial plan that covered only two days. Because of that,
we had only 250 aircraft in the theater,” he continued.
“We also identified only a limited set of targets for those initial
attacks. Those targets had to be approved through political cycles. We
were a bit stuck. We had more political limitations early on. For
example, we could attack airfields, but we could not bomb runways. We
wanted to teach the Serbs a lesson. We were asked to drop bombs, but not
to do too much damage. We avoided costly and long-term damage.”
He said the NATO attacks “did not start with clearly defined
destroying Serbia’s war potential. The beginning was more like a
punitive expedition. In the beginning, we were not even flying
Our first sets of targets were out of a database of fixed targets.
Fielded forces in Kosovo were not targets in the first four or five
weeks. So they could dig in.”
The limited strategy failed and NATO was forced to bring in hundreds
aircraft and expand the bombing campaign, he said.
The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers
union and a reliable Democratic Party ally, has entered the fray over
the live-bombing range on Puerto Rico’s Vieques Island.
Republicans suspect President Clinton’s decision to suspend training
at Vieques, coupled with his pardon of Puerto Rican terrorists, is a raw
to woo Hispanic voters.
Now, the NEA is circulating letters on Capitol Hill backing Clinton.
“On behalf of the National Education Association’s 2.4 million
members, we would like to urge your immediate attention to the threat
posed to thousands of innocent civilians by the United States Navy
exercises in Vieques, Puerto Rico,” the letter states. “Many NEA
members in Puerto Rico have dedicated themselves to addressing this
The NEA letter went on to blame the 50-year-old range — which the
Marine Corps say is essential to train troops deploying for possible war
a host of social, economic and health problems.
“A special committee appointed by Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello has
endorsed a petition asking the Navy to suspend training activities in
Vieques,” the NEA said. “We urge you to support this petition. …”
An NEA spokesman said the organization got involved after a Puerto
delegate to its annual convention asked it to, citing the range’s
purported health risks to children.
But Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., chairman of the House Armed Services
subcommittee on military personnel, finds NEA’s Vieques broadside
“It is interesting that the NEA has the time and resources to devote
to defense issues when, since 1983, 10 million Americans have started
their senior year of high school without the ability to read at even a
basic level,” Buyer said.