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January 29, 2008

Iraq addressed too late in State of the Union

This article appeared on MSNBC.com

Iraq addressed too late in State of the Union
Francona: Bush made it evident we botched the war when it first started


COMMENTARY
By Lt. Col. Rick Francona
Military analyst - MSNBC


During the president’s last State of the Union address, he spent considerable time discussing the war in Iraq; it was probably the most prominent part of his speech, with almost a quarter of the time devoted to the subject. While it was the dominant theme this year, the president did not address Iraq until almost 25 minutes into his 53-minute speech.

Mr. President, there are 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and tens of thousands more deployed to nearby countries in support. That should have been the lead topic last night. After all, the longest and loudest ovations from the audience were in support of American forces, as it should be. Regardless of party affiliation or stance on the war, there is universal support for the men and women of the armed forces.

As we all expected, the president cited the success of the 2007 troop buildup in Iraq. From a military point of view, there is no denying that the current strategy has been effective. With the addition of 22,500 American troops, Gen. David Petreaus was able to stop the sectarian violence, convince Sunni leaders to turn on the Iraqi wing of Al-Qaida and stem the flow of Iranian support to Shiite militias.

That said, one could take the change in strategy as a condemnation of the course taken during the period beginning with the fall of Baghdad in 2003 to early 2007. Why did it take so long to get it right? Why did we have to lose so many young men and women, and have these young troops pay the price, before we figured it out?

What changed? There was a transformational shift after the fall of Baghdad when we were forced to transition from an invasion, what some call a “liberation” force, to an occupation force. Having had no recent experience in this type pf operation, we adopted the Vietnam “fire base” mentality. Build secure areas. The Green Zone is the best example, but Camp Victory and dozens of facilities like it underscore the flawed policy, then go forth and engage the enemy, defeat them, then retire to the secure area.

Counterinsurgency 101 says that once you depart an area you have taken by force of arms, you have ceded it to the enemy. Just as we did in Vietnam, we did this in Iraq for over three years. When insurgents engaged American forces, they lost. However, the bad guys soon learned that the Americans preferred to return to base and not stand on the ground they won in battle.

With the additional forces during the surge, Gen. Petreaus changed that dynamic. U.S. forces moved into the areas where they were assigned, living in the cities instead of in what amounted to forts on the frontier. Violence declined, the tribal leaders turned on al-Qaida and the situation improved.

This is good news, but continues to raise the question of why we didn't do this four years ago. In reality, the current successes indicate past failures. The stated goal of the military surge was to provide a window of opportunity for the Iraqis to achieve political reconciliation. Although the president cited some minor Iraqi political gains, they are far from where they need to be.

Sen. Joe Biden said that the American military has accomplished its mission. We need to hold our Iraqi allies accountable and encourage them to step up to the plate and deliver the political angle. Otherwise, our sacrifices, blood and treasure, have been in vain.


© 2008 MSNBC Interactive

January 27, 2008

Israelis ask for release of Jonathan Pollard - again

During President Bush's recent trip to the Middle East, the Israelis again raised the now tiresome request that we release Jonathan Pollard. Pollard was a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy intelligence service, convicted of spying against the United States for Israel and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He was arrested in 1985 and although he pleaded guilty and cooperated, the information he illegally provided to the Israelis was potentially so damaging to our national security and intelligence operations, the judge sentenced him to life in prison and recommended that he never be paroled. The actual damages have never been made public, but were so great that when President Clinton was asked by the Israelis to free Pollard, seven former Secretaries of Defense signed a letter asking him not to do it.

There is a group of Pollard supporters who want the felon released. They have a website -
Justice for Jonathan Pollard - which is full of misleading information and comparisons to others who have been sentenced for the same crime. Although they claim that Pollard has been sentenced more harshly than others, they don't mention that others in the same class as Pollard - CIA officer Adrich Ames and FBI agent Robert Hanssen - were also sentenced to life in prison. My response to those lesser sentences - the judges in those cases got it wrong; the judge in the Pollard case (as well as with Ames and Hanssen) got it right.

During the President's visit to Israel, there was a campaign to highlight the plight of the Israeli spy. A member of the Knesset, Shas Party chairman Eli Yishai, presented the President a two letters asking that he free Pollard. One was from Israel's former chief rabbi, and the other from Pollard's wife Esther. The minister hinted that Bush's response would have an impact on Israel's consideration of American requests for Israeli cooperation with the Palestinians. The above posters (in English and Hebrew) appeared all over the country. Disgraceful, comparing the American president with Hamas leader and Palestinian prime minister Isma'il Haniyah and Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah.

What arrogance. In reality, bringing up Pollard likely only underscored American resolve to punish the traitor that is Jonathan Pollard. Many Americans do not want Pollard to be allowed parole or pardon, only to move to Israel and be treated as a hero. After all, in 1995, Israel granted Jonathan Pollard Israeli citizenship and in 1998 acknowledged that he had been an Israeli intelligence asset.

Pollard is a traitor who sold out his country for money. He worked in the intelligence community (I won't insult my former colleagues by calling him an intelligence officer) and knew the rules. It doesn't matter that he spied for an "ally" - the information he gave far exceeded the scope of our intelligence relationship with Israel.

Pollard's wife claims he is "rotting in an American prison." Actually, he's in a low/medium security federal prison in Butner, North Carolina. While it is incarceration, it's not the hard time an active duty Navy officer would be doing at Fort Leavenworth. If it was up to me, he'd be bolted into a cell at the Supermax in Florence, Colorado.

Esther, I missed the part where I am supposed to care about or feel sympathy for a traitor who betrayed my country.

January 25, 2008

A new D/DNI for Collection - when are we going to learn?

This article appeared on the Intelligence Perspectives blog.

In December of 2007, the Director of National Intelligence announced the appointment of a new Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Collection - Glenn A. Gaffney. According to the DNI website, the D/DNI for Collection is to:

"...coordinate collection throughout the Intelligence Community under the authorities of the DNI and ensure that the National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) priorities are appropriately reflected in future planning and systems acquisition decisions. The Office of the DDNI for Collection looks across the entire collection business enterprise to develop corporate understanding of needs, requirements, and capabilities to ensure that a holistic view is taken on current and future collection systems."

Give me a break. I despise this bureaucrat-speak - what it says is the D/DNI for Collection is primarily concerned with the technical collection of intelligence - signals intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery intelligence (IMINT). The phrase "...future planning and systems acquisition decisions" show that technology is the focus, not intelligence.

Collection is focused on technology at the expense of the area in which we really need to put the lion's share of our efforts - human intelligence (HUMINT), or as we used to say in the field, "lies and spies." All the pictures and intercepted communications that our sophisticated systems collect are terrific, but a spy - yes, a traitor working for us - with access, is priceless.


Americans prefer the technological approach, not getting our hands dirty. We case officers always considered HUMINT the combat arms of the collection disciplines - out there face to face with the targets, not taking their pictures from space or intercepting their communications from afar.

Then we have the phrase "...collection business enterprise to develop corporate understanding of needs, requirements, and capabilities to ensure that a holistic view is taken on current and future collection systems."


A holistic view? Now the bureaucracy has really taken over - we're trying to collect denied information from the bad guys, not have a zen business meeting in Washington. The use of the term "system" reinforces the technical nature of the focus - we should be talking about how to recruit better assets and agents.

Gaffney has a degree in engineering science with an emphasis in astrophysics and spent years in the CIA's Science and Technology directorate. I am sure Mr. Gaffney is a fine manager and a competent engineer, but what we need is a case officer - an officer who has convinced someone to betray his or her country for us - to oversee the recruitment of better spies.

Rick Francona is a retired USAF intelligence officer with over 25 years of operational assignments with the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency in the Middle East. He is an MSNBC military analyst.

January 22, 2008

The Iraqis change their flag - again

The Iraqis have decided to change their flag once again. This actually is a good idea - the current flag is a mixture of the traditional Arabic colors, the Ba'th party, Saddam's attempt to rally the Islamic world to his cause against the West, and an attempt to retain an Islamic flavor without Saddam. It didn't work. Let's take a look at the history of the flag since the Ba'th came to power in 1963.




1963-1991

Above is the flag of the Republic of Iraq adopted in 1963 when the Ba'th party seized power. The red, white and black are the traditional pan-Arab colors - there is disagreement now over the meaning of the three stars. When there was union between Egypt (two stars), Syria (two stars) and Yemen (one star), they used the basic tricolor flag design. Some believed that Iraq (three stars) signified a pan-Arab affiliation with the other countries. Others claim the stars signify the Ba'th party attributes of unity, freedom and socialism.




1991-2003

The above flag represents a change made by Saddam Husayn in after the American-led response to his invasion of Kuwait. After coalition forces attacked Iraq in January 1991, Saddam responded by launching modified Scud missiles against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam also modified the Iraqi flag to include the takbir, the "Allah Akbar" script between the stars in Saddam's handwriting. This was a rather blatant attempt by Saddam to change the Gulf war from one of the liberation of Kuwait to a religious war between the West and the Islamic world.








2003 proposal


This was a proposed flag following the removal Saddam Husayn. The crescent represents the Muslim nature of the country, the two blue lines the two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates), and the yellow the Kurds. It was not well received.








2004-2008


This is the flag in use up until this week. It retains the color scheme and the takbir, but not in Saddam's handwriting. The representation of Saddam's handwriting was replaced with Kufic script. The removal of a link to Saddam was good for the Arabs but did still not sit well with the Kurds. Any reference to the Saddam regime is regarded as complicity with the persecution of the Kurds.









2008 conception

This is my interpretation of what the new Iraqi flag will be. It retains the pan-Arab colors and the Muslim takbir but removes the stars of the Saddam/Ba'th regime.

It fits. Egypt has replaced the two stars with the eagle of Salah al-Din (Saladin); Yemen has removed the stars altogether. Only Syria retains the stars - and they're the bad guys, right?

In the final analysis, I would prefer a flag without an Islamic content but can live with the current evolution. Can the Iraqis?

January 21, 2008

Arab names and homeland security

What’s in a name?
Arab names and homeland security

We all know there is a shortage of Arabic linguists in the military and diplomatic services of the country. It creates problems for our soldiers as well as our foreign policy.

Arabic is spoken by almost 250 million people and is the (or one) official language of Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Not only do our officials not speak the language, there is little understanding of the Arab culture. While not understanding a culture does not seem like a threat to national security, in this instance it just might be.

Arab names

Arabs do not use names as we do in the West, unless of course they have immigrated to the West and have assimilated into the culture and adopted its naming convention. In most countries of the Middle East, Arabs use their given name as their primary name. If they need to use a second name, they append their given name with their father’s name. Likewise, if an additional name is needed, they use their grandfather’s name. Usually only then will they use a family name of tribal affiliation.

Let’s use an example, one we all know – Saddam Husayn. Saddam’s father’s name is Husayn. When the New York Times referred to “Mr. Hussein” (I’ll address the transliteration issue later), they were actually referring to Saddam’s father. When you see the name rendered as Saddam Husayn ‘Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, it breaks down to name (Saddam), father (Husayn), grandfather (‘Abd Al-Majid), and geographic identifier (al-Tikriti). More properly, it is Saddam bin Husayn bin ‘Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, but except in the Gulf states, the bin – meaning “son of” (bint, “daughter of”) is omitted.

Another issue is the incorrect use of the term ‘abd al- (servant of the …, usually one of 99 attributes of God), often transliterated as Abdul. Abdul cannot stand alone, so names like Paula Abdul are not plausible in Arabic. If I was introduced to Paula Abdul, I’d probably ask, “‘Abd al- what?”

To further complicate matters, the Arabs use a construct called a kuniyah – the use of abu (father of) or umm (mother of) someone. For example, the President of the Palestinian Authority is Mahmud ‘Abbas, but he is more commonly known as Abu Mazin, Mazin being his first-born son. We all remember the famous Saddam Husayn use of umm al-mu’arik – “the mother of battles.” This construct is used widely by al-Qa’idah. Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi is a good example – meaning father of Mus’ab, from the city of al-Zarqa (Jordan). None of these are his name, which was Ahmad Fadhil al-Nazal al-Khalaylah.

Transliteration problems

In addition to being a difficult language, the Arabic alphabet creates its own set of problems. The writing system consists of 28 consonants; the three vowels are not normally written. As with Hebrew and the other languages that use the basic Arabic alphabet (Persian, Urdu, Malay, etc.), the script is written from right to left.

A major problem is proper transliteration of the Arabic script. Although there is only one correct spelling of a name or word in Arabic, converting it to something readable in Latin letters can be confusing. For example, is it Saddam Hussein or Saddam Husayn? Most media used Hussein, although Husayn is closer to the Arabic script.

The United States intelligence community is required to use a standardized system* especially in the era of computerized databases that require specific letters. That system is the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) transliteration system developed jointly with the United Kingdom.

An example of the consequences of not adhering to the system is the U.S. Army destruction of an Iraq munitions storage depot in the days immediately following the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Operating under orders to destroy all Iraqi military facilities in the area under coalition control, Army officers checked the databases to determine if the Al-Khamisiyah depot was used to store chemical weapons. Unfortunately, the records indicating that artillery shells filled with the nerve agent Sarin were stored at Al-Khamisiyah were filed under a different – and non-BGN – transliteration. When the facility was blown up, American forces (including me) were exposed to low levels of the nerve agent.

Homeland security implications

The Arab naming convention, the Arabic language itself and transliteration issues present real problems for homeland security. With multiple spellings and multiple naming conventions, personnel who do not know the language and how to render it properly create huge incorrect data bases and make it difficult to identify potential threats. If we identify a potential al-Qai’dah member based on interrogations at Guantanamo, we are on the lookout for Ahmad Yusif Hamid al-Hamdani (his real name). However, he was granted a visa as Abu Hamza al-Maghrebi (father of Hamza, from Morocco) - he would likely slip through the cracks.

It remains a difficult problem.

____
* I know this not only from working in the community – my wife authored the legislation, Public Law 105-107, Title III, Sec. 309: “…the transliteration of foreign names, standards for foreign place names developed by the Board on Geographic Names….”

January 19, 2008

Military experience, the Presidential campaign and the war in Iraq

Although the economy may soon emerge as the key topic for the upcoming Presidential elections, the war in Iraq still is an important factor in choosing a candidate. Of concern to me is the increasing lack of military service among our elected leaders, from state governments to the U.S. Congress and the Presidency. Fewer and fewer elected officials have ever worn the uniform.

During the Cold War and compulsory service – the draft – many more of our leaders had experienced life in the military. Whether you serve in combat or not, service in the armed forces provides invaluable insight into the capabilities and more importantly, the limitations of the military. In the past, military service was considered almost mandatory to be a viable candidate for political office. That does not appear to be the case today. Approximately one-third of the members of the House and Senate are veterans - the percentage declines after every election.

The current candidates

Taking a look at the front runners for the Presidency in 2008 does not appear comforting. On the Democratic side, none of the leaders - Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator John Edwards - have served in the armed forces; they are all lawyers. Senator Clinton has the added stigma of attempting to prohibit military officers from wearing their uniforms in the White House while her husband was the President. Of course, the Clintons now deny it, but I have it from two fellow military officers. I’ll take their word over a Senator – after all, Congress has achieved the lowest favorable ratings of any institution in the country.

On the Republican side*, consider the backgrounds of Governor Mitt Romney, Governor Mike Huckabee and Mayor Rudy Giuliani: none have served in the military. Senator John McCain, as we all know, was a career officer in the U.S. Navy (retiring as a captain), a pilot shot down over North Vietnam and prisoner of war for over five years. So, of the seven people from which we will elect the next President of the United States, only one has ever donned the uniform of their country, let alone heard a shot fired in anger.

When you are responsible for ordering young Americans into harm’s way, or responsible for declaring war (which today takes the form of an authorization for the President to use military force), service in the armed forces should seem to be a desirable quality. It provides an insight you can’t get from “reading about it.” Until you are involved in the massive logistical efforts of moving a fighting force halfway around the world, then feel the tension and fear when steel starts flying and people start dying, it remains an academic exercise.

“End the War”

It is with discomfort that I hear the rhetoric of the three Democratic candidates talking about ending the war in Iraq. I hope the words I hear are just rhetoric and not resolve. “End” the war is not the word they need to use – they need to say how they are going to “win” the war. Promising to “end the war on January 9, 2009" is just what the remaining insurgents and the Al-Qa’idah terrorists in Iraq want to hear. Hold out until then, hope a Democrat wins the election and victory for the jihad is assured.

I hope that both Senators Clinton and Obama really mean that they will continue to fight the terrorists and insurgents as necessary until a phased withdrawal is plausible. Pulling the plug prematurely is not only contrary to our national interests but dangerous for the troops involved. We should not declare defeat and go home. I am not sure Senator Edwards appreciates the difference.

Last fall, Senator Obama said that he would leave a residual force to fight terrorists, train the Iraqi army and protect the embassy. That’s what the troops are doing…. Let them completely finish that job before you pull the rug out from under them. They have paid too high a price to not be allowed to win.

So, Senators, rather than trite campaign slogans, how about a commitment to an American victory? Do you want to win the war in Iraq or not?

_______
* I have omitted Congressman Ron Paul since I don’t consider him in the top tier of candidates, but want to point out that he did serve as a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon for six years, both on active duty and in the Air National Guard.

January 14, 2008

Conscientious Objector or Fraud?

Dr. Mary Hanna, a doctor who just completed a four-year residency in anesthesiology at a renowned university hospital, was ordered discharged from the Army by a federal court – that ruling was recently upheld on appeal. Read the entire legal case.

Dr. Hanna was provided a full scholarship and salary to become a doctor with the commitment to serve four years on active duty and another four years in the reserves. She took the education, but coincident with her graduation from her residency decided that her religious convictions did not allow her to serve in the Army that funded that education.

Captain Hanna, you took the money, but more importantly, you took the oath as an officer in the United States Army. You’ve offered to give the money back to the Army. News flash: the Army doesn’t need your money, the Army needs doctors – especially anesthesiologists. The Army needed you to honor your commitment.

A Royal Air Force doctor who refused to deploy to Iraq in 2005 was sentenced to eight months in jail. Just like
U.S. Army Captain Ehren Watada who decided he was a conscientious objector when ordered to serve in Iraq, even though he entered the Army voluntarily after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, officers do not get to pick and choose what orders they are going to obey. It’s called the “service” for a reason. The word evokes duty, honor and commitment, values which appear to be not in your lexicon. The British got it right; our courts did not.

I suspect that somewhere about your fourth year of residency you discovered how much money civilian anesthesiologists make – average is about $310,000 per year - compared to an Army captain. Although you would not have anywhere near that serving out your Army commitment, you could have made a difference.

One part of me is disgusted by your cheap theatrics which boil down to your desire to go for the money and hoped that you would have gone to jail. The other part of me is thankful that you will never disgrace the uniform of the country that gave you a future and asked little in return.

January 9, 2008

Conflicting signals from Tehran?

This article appeared on MSNBC.com

Conflicting signals from Tehran?
Francona: Timing of latest clash between the U.S. and Iran puzzling


COMMENTARY
By Lt. Col. Rick Francona
Military analyst - MSNBC


Challenging the U.S. Navy on the high seas is not a good course of action anytime, but the timing of the recent confrontation is particularly puzzling.

After the release of the National Intelligence Estimate in November that indicated that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons development program in 2003, there seemed to be a subtle thaw in U.S-Iranian relations.

The Iranians asked for new talks on Iraqi security with our ambassador in Baghdad. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hinted that normalization of relations with “The Great Satan” was not impossible in the future. American military leaders in Iraq claimed that Iran had decreased its support to Shiite militias in the country. Both Tehran and Washington appeared to have moved back from the brink of a confrontation over Iran’s nuclear research and development program.

Against that backdrop, we almost had a deadly armed maritime confrontation between five IRGC fast runabouts, probably Boghammers or Boston Whalers, and three U.S. Navy warships near the Straits of Hormuz, through which 25 percent of the world’s oil flows. Free flow of oil from the Gulf is a vital U.S. national interest and this is not an area for missteps. It has been our stated policy for decades to guarantee that flow, using military force if necessary.

Iranian challenges to the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf are not new. In 1988, the last year of the eight-year long Iran-Iraq War, there was a series of escalating events between the Iranians and Americans. When the U.S. agreed to escort Kuwaiti tankers in the Gulf, IRGC sailors laid mines in the shipping lanes, one of which damaged a U.S. Navy frigate.

In retaliation, the Navy destroyed an Iranian oil platform used for surveillance of U.S. operations. That caused the Iranian navy to attempt a surface engagement with the U.S. flotilla. In the battle that followed, two Iranian surface combatants and half a dozen speedboats were sunk and many other units and facilities damaged. The action was a stinging defeat for the Iranians, and caused the U.S. sailors to be wary of Iranian speedboats. The IRGC’s seizure of a Royal Navy patrol boat last year only heightens that wariness.

After the USS Cole was attacked by a small boat suicide bombing while conducting a port call at Aden, Yemen in 2000, the U.S. Navy adopted strict policies on how close unauthorized vessels may approach. The deaths of 17 sailors have not been forgotten by their comrades.

I suspect that this action may have been isolated, and not a sanctioned incident. The IRGC is composed of young Islamic radicals who may have thought harassing a Great Satan navy vessel would have no consequences. The Iranian foreign ministry sought to play this down as routine and non-threatening.

What Tehran does not need is a diplomatic flap that will underscore the potential threat posed by Iran at a time when President Bush is in the region attempting to bolster Arab solidarity to confront the ascendancy of Iran as a regional power.


January 5, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

The recently released book and movie Charlie Wilson's War revives some personal history. I received an email asking my thoughts on the events in the book and movie. I have not read the book, but will, then see the movie.

Some thoughts before I do:

From 1987 until Saddam Husayn invaded Kuwait in 1990 and I was deployed to Saudi Arabia, I was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon as the Assistant Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and South Asia. When I was not in Baghdad working the operation assisting Iraqi forces, my office was peripherally involved in the Defense Department's slice of the CIA program supporting the Afghan mujahidin - "holy warriors" opposing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That Defense Department support included the delivery of the FIM-92 Stinger shoulder-fired air defense missile.

At some point in America's support - I think it was 1986 - Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson insisted that the "muj" needed an air defense weapon to combat the heavily armed Soviet MI-24 assault helicopter gunship, the Hind. He insisted that they get the U.S. Stinger.

Afghan Mujahidin and FIM-92 Stinger



Charlie Wilson was a charming Southern gentleman. When I visited his office the first time, the launcher that fired the first Stinger in Afghanistan was hanging on the wall - he was extremely proud of that. He liked to talk about the Confederacy, in fact, much of the art in his office portrays battles of the Civil War. When my boss remarked about a depiction of Pickett's July 3, 1863 unsuccessful charge at Gettysburg, he quietly nodded his head and remarked, "If Pickett had been successful, we'd be having this conversation in Richmond...."

Back to the Stinger. There was absolutely no interest at the Pentagon in supplying the world's most lethal shoulder-fired air defense system to a bunch of tribesmen in Afghanistan - for several reasons. First, we believed they could have achieved the same effect with lesser-capability Soviet weapons, such as the readily-available (and not traceable to the United States) SA-7. Second, and more importantly, no one wanted the Stinger in the hands of potential bad guys. Since we had to provide all of the weapons and equipment via the Pakistani intelligence service - the ISID - we were concerned that money talks and the Stinger would find itself where we did not want it to go.

We were proven right in October 1987 when the U.S. Navy seized the Iran Ajr - while it was laying mines - in the Persian Gulf. Found on the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vessel was a battery of a Stinger launcher. The serial number of the battery was traceable to the CIA Afghan Task Group - it had been sent to Pakistan destined for the muj. I am not sure where it was diverted, but I am betting on the ISID. We in the HUMINT (human intelligence) business used to joke that you had to recruit an "x" (the nationality of your choice), but you could buy a Pakistani - in south Asia, money talks. To make matters worse, during the operation, another Iranian boat fired two Stingers at a U.S. Navy A-6. We concluded that weapons we had sent to support anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan were being used against us in the Persian Gulf. This is euphemistically called "unintended consequences."

When Wilson was in Pakistan on an official visit in 1986, he wanted to use the U.S. Defense Attaché's C-12 (actually the USAF's but leased to DIA for a dollar a year) to fly somewhere. Fine, but Wilson wanted to take his "girlfriend." The Defense Attaché, a USAF colonel, said, "Sir, you mean your assistant." Wilson - looking for a fight - insisted that the colonel was going to take his girlfriend along. The colonel refused; it caused us hours of grief trying to save the airplane once Wilson got back to Washington.

All in all, am I a fan of Charlie's? Let's see - a former Navy intelligence officer, a drunk womanizer but who got things done. I'm not sure peer reviews of my career at DIA, CIA and NSA would read much better....