Marines' most wanted
If former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney is elected vice president,
he will have a chance to settle some important unfinished business:
finding the terrorist murderer of Marine Corps Col. William "Rich"
A classified Defense Intelligence Agency report we obtained leaves no
doubt who is responsible for Higgins' murder. He is Imad Mughniyeh, one
of the most notorious Lebanese terrorists.
"Imad Mughniyeh was in charge of the execution,'' the report, labeled
"secret,'' states. The report describes the grisly videotape of Higgins'
hanging that was obtained by Syrian security agents. It shows Mughniyeh
directing Higgins execution in a windowless room believed to be in an
apartment building in West Beirut.
"As Higgins was brought into the room, Mughniyeh appeared to be
a piece of paper which he held in his hand,'' the report said.
Placed on a step ladder, his neck in a rope noose, "Mughniyeh gave an
order in Arabic to remove the step ladder,'' the report said.
The report revealed that Mughniyeh was "responsible for killing of
three hostages, two of whom were Americans.''
Higgins was taken hostage in 1988 as a U.N. peacekeeper, then
by Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists in 1989, his execution recorded on
His body was returned in November 1991. A Navy destroyer was named in
The Bush administration talked tough about conducting retaliatory
military raids and covert commando snatch operations, but did nothing.
"We will hold those who bear responsibility for these murders to
account,'' Mr. Cheney said in January 1992.
The promise was never fulfilled. And so far none of the terrorists
has been captured, much less arrested. The only response has been to
offer rewards and to hand up a secret indictment.
Mughniyeh was almost captured in 1995 en route from Iran to Sudan.
than cooperate with the FBI, the Saudi government tipped off Mughniyeh
snatch operation. Since the early 1990s, his address remains: Tehran,
The Clinton administration wants to ignore Iran's backing for
terrorists like Mughniyeh. In March, Secretary of State Madeleine K.
Albright called for a
"new season'' of U.S.-Iran relations.
One of the issues that continues to be a thorn in U.S.-China ties is
the sanctions imposed on Beijing for the brutal crackdown on democratic
protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The Pentagon's military-to-military exchange program, restarted in a
major way with the visit to China last month by Defense Secretary
William S. Cohen, has gone to great lengths to ignore or play down the
massacre. The killings were carried out by the People's Liberation Army
armored units that attacked unarmed Chinese camped out in the square.
A major question surrounding the pending China trade bill is whether
the current ban on U.S. military technology to Beijing would be lifted.
The sanctions can only be removed by new legislation since they were
codified in law. But technically, passage of the trade legislation would
make it illegal to continue penalizing China for the massacre, we are
President Clinton's top China policy aide, National Security Council
staffer Kenneth Lieberthal, is on record as favoring removal of the
Capitol Hill sources tell us Republican senators may seek to add an
amendment to permanent normal trade legislation that would keep the
Tiananmen sanctions in place.
Asked about the easing of the sanctions during his recent visit to
China, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen hinted that he favors ending
"Of course the sanctions legislation was tied to human rights and to
the extent that we can see progress made in extending human rights in
China, then I believe that there can be an easing and indeed a lifting
of the sanctions in the future,'' Mr. Cohen said during a press
conference in Shanghai.
Race and the Air Force
The nation's oldest predominately black denomination, the African
Methodist Episcopal Church, has weighed in on racial bias charges
against the Air Force's No. 2 chaplain.
At a general conference last month, delegates unanimously approved a
resolution demanding the resignation of Brig. Gen. Lorraine Potter. The
document, signed by Bishop McKinley Young, was sent to Defense Secretary
The dispute centers on whether Gen. Potter, the service's first woman
chaplain to achieve general rank, made a biased remark against black
chaplains during a personnel meeting in September 1999.
An Air Force inspector general report cleared her, saying attendees
gave conflicting accounts of what she said.
Some Air Force African-American chaplains say the probe was flawed
and want a new investigation. Gen. Michael Ryan, Air Force chief of
staff, responded by ordering a deputy to conduct a racial climate survey
of the chaplain corps.
"The alleged statement by chaplain Potter has undermined the church's
confidence in her ability to treat African-American chaplains fairly,''
the church's resolution reads. "We, the 46th Quadrennial Session of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church, go on record demanding her
Gen. Potter and the Air Force chief chaplain, Maj. Gen. William
Dendinger, spoke to black chaplains at a retreat in Hampton, Va. Later,
the attendees sent a letter to Gen. Dendinger, saying, "Although we do
not agree with the explanations that were provided by you and chaplain
Potter, and the findings of the IG report, we want to reassure you that
you have our full support, good will and best efforts toward moving the
chaplain service forward.''
- Pentagon insiders say Army Secretary Louis Caldera's
political stock dropped after he mishandled his proposed shakeup of the
Army Corps of Engineers. Mr. Caldera, a former California legislator,
has been mentioned as a longshot vice presidential candidate or as a
cabinet member in an Al Gore administration.
But he didn't help himself earlier this year when leading Republican
senators beat back his attempt to take key decision making away from the
Corps and put it in the hands of Army political appointees. The Corps
has become a major target of the White House, the Washington Post and
major environmental groups. Mr. Gore is counting on environmentalists'
support to win the White House.
- Some Republican senators are praying for a George W. Bush
victory for more than the obvious reasons. A Bush win means Sen. John
McCain will likely get a cabinet post and quit the Senate. Mr. McCain
has been a major irritant to Majority Leader Trent Lott as he pushes
billion-dollar cigarette taxes and more government control over
political campaigns. "I think the Commerce Department would be a good
place for John,'' said an unadoring GOP aide.
- We hear that former Republican Sen. Dan Coats is on George W.
Bush's list of possible defense secretaries. Mr. Coats, who didn't seek
reelection in 1998, served on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Coats is a solid social conservative. He criticized the military
for sexually integrating boot camp. He would be expected to roll back
the policy, at least for the first few weeks of training. Mr. Coats also
blocked the promotions of some Navy officers who attended the notorious
Insiders say Mr. Bush may announce his defense secretary selection
before the election, using the theme that such pre-appointments let the
American people judge how he would govern.