Outrage is growing inside the Pentagon over the refusal of the
Clinton administration and private peace groups to condemn ongoing
Russian ballistic missile attacks against the Chechen capital of Grozny.
We reported earlier in this space how Pentagon satellites tracked two
short-range missiles that hit a crowded market and a nearby maternity
ward Oct. 21, killing 143 persons.
Now comes word that the Pentagon has tracked 61 Russian short-range
ballistic-missile attacks on Chechnya since Sept. 30 when Russian
military forces began large-scale military attacks on Chechen rebels.
The missiles have carried high-explosive warheads — no chemical
munitions have been detected and all originated from a single base:
Russia’s Mozdok air base some 60 miles northeast of Grozny. They
included SS-21s and longer-range Scud Bs. One particularly deadly
missile strike occurred early Sunday when six SS-21 Scarabs were
launched and landed in and around Grozny.
The missile attacks on civilian targets are viewed by the Pentagon as
terrorist strikes because of their inaccuracy. The target circle of a
Scud B — the area where a launched missile is likely to land — is 10
city blocks and that for the SS-21 is one block.
A senior Pentagon official told us he is disgusted that not only is
the pro-Moscow Clinton administration silent, but leftist peace groups
are as well.
“Where’s Greenpeace on this atrocity? Where’s Doctors Without
Borders? Where’s the Union of Concerned Scientists?” the official said.
“Why is the Clinton administration silent?” he said. “The National
Security Council knows this. Why is the Clinton administration saying
nothing about people launching ballistic missiles on a capital? If the
United States did this, there would be an outrage.”
Strobe Talbott, the deputy secretary of state, has been briefed on
the missile attacks but has done nothing and said nothing to the
Russians to stop it. “Why isn’t he saying anything to the Russians to
stop this atrocious outrage?” the official said.
The Pentagon isn’t letting up on the attacks on the GOP’s proposed 1
percent across-the-board budget cut, even though President Clinton
vetoed the plan.
Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, started
the barrage by calling the reduction “devastating” to the armed forces.
Republicans reacted angrily to what they considered White House
propaganda. They reminded the general in a harshly worded letter that
the Republicans led the charge to add more to the defense budget than
proposed by President Clinton, whose plan Gen. Shelton backed.
But the Republican scolding did not subdue the Pentagon.
When asked about the 1 percent solution this week, P.J. Crowley, a
Pentagon spokesman, called it a “meat cleaver approach.”
House Appropriations Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican,
who wrote to Gen. Shelton to protest the “devastating” remark, called
the latest Pentagon salvo “more than ludicrous.”
“Especially,” he told us, “when you consider they have allowed two
of our 10 Army divisions to get to the lowest readiness level they can
“The president would like to claim credit for strengthening our
would like to be seen in the Crowley statements and the (White House
spokesman Joe) Lockhart statements claming credit for what Congress has
forced upon them in the last five years, that is an increased investment
in our national defense.”
The Army opened the gates to Fort Carson, Colo., last month to let
reporters get the reaction of soldiers to the chief of staff’s new
vision. Gen. Eric Shinseki, in a speech to the Association of the U.S.
Army, disclosed plans for a lighter, quick-response Army that can travel
to trouble spots in days, not months.
Before reporters arrived, the base’s top general sent his troops a
memo, a copy of which was obtained by Inside the Ring.
“Want to make sure we all understand the (Chief of Staff, Army’s
[CSA]) vision and what it means for our Army,” the general said. “You
should all have gotten a copy of the CSA’s speech at (the Association of
U.S. Army). Please make sure you talk to our soldiers about it. Want to
support this effort from Army Public Affairs. They’ve chosen Fort Carson
to get this reaction.”
A U.S. military officer fresh from a one-year Bosnian tour of duty
is providing a sober assessment for the chances for permanent peace in
The officer, who spoke to Inside the Ring confidentially, said the
United States must keep troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina a minimum of two
more years (they first arrived in 1995) to mollify belligerent Croats,
Muslims and Serbs.
The three factions, the officer said, are still well short of
establishing the “rule of law” and a free press. They are, however,
making progress in professionalizing their three distinct militaries.
While Croat, Muslim and Serb soldiers are supposed to be loyal to a
single authority, they in fact trained separately on home-turf bases.
The key to future peace, this officer said, is the removal of Serbian
President Slobodan Milosevic. A more moderate leader would quell the
fires of hate in neighboring Bosnia and allow U.S. peacekeepers to come
home, saving the Pentagon billions of dollars.
The Army has named the rotating units for the mission up to 2003.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon avoided all mention of the death two weeks
ago of a 23-year-old Army soldier at Camp Demi in northern Bosnia –
until we asked. Spc. Henry Toleafoa died of “an apparent self-inflicted
gunshot wound,” the Army said in a statement issued Oct. 28 from Tuzla,
Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, is
struggling with personnel shortages in a major war-fighting command.
“The biggest problem is rated pilot retention,” he said in an interview
To fill in for a shortage of pilots, staff officers have been ordered
back to the cockpits, leaving shortages in pilots who are needed for
planning, he said.
Additionally, all the service components in the 100,000-troop command
are losing high-technology specialists — computer technicians, systems
administrators and electronics technicians.
The personnel losses are making it more difficult for the military to
refocus on the emerging field of information warfare — electronic
attacks on an enemy’s computer and communications networks. “We’re
having a hard time holding on to these people,” Adm. Blair said. “And
those are exactly the people we need to have the advantage in the future
that we’re going to want. So that’s a real concern of ours on the people
Former Bush administration Navy Secretary Sean O’Keefe earlier this
week offered President Clinton an interesting way to wrap up his
legacy-challenged presidency: In the face of growing long-range missile
threats, Mr. Clinton could withdraw the United States from the
constraining 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and forge ahead with
deployment of missile-defense system for the entire United States. Mr.
O’Keefe made the challenge to the president during a dinner speech in
Honolulu on Monday at a conference on missile defense organized by
Alaska Pacific University’s Institute of the North.
Meanwhile, we’re told that Defense Secretary William S. Cohen
privately told a group of Republican senators that he will recommend to
Mr. Clinton that he decide in favor of deploying a national missile
defense. A White House decision is expected in June.