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Commentary: Lessons in Discipline Might be in Order for Bush Administration on its Policy With Regard to Iraq

All Things Considered: July 29, 2002

A Leaky Cabinet


News analyst Daniel Schorr has been following the Bush administration's approach to foreign policy, and he says some lessons in discipline might be in order there.


I never thought I'd be saying, `Hold the information,' but with all the Pentagon and administration sources telling us how Saddam Hussein will be brought down, `Please, shut up.' Hardly a day passes without the latest leak of a war plan in various sizes and shapes. Countries are mentioned as staging areas for invasion, like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, that have not agreed to be staging areas. The Iraqi opposition is dismissed and embraced on successive days. On July 5th, The New York Times reported in detail on a highly classified plan for an invasion from three directions using air, sea and land forces; `A rare glimpse into the inner sanctum of the war planners,' The Times said modestly.

Other stories in major newspapers before and since have unveiled a scenario for an invasion by 70,000 to a quarter-million troops, a more limited plan based on supporting an internal uprising, and only today in The Times, an inside-out plan, so-called, to seize command centers and cause a quick collapse of the government. The Washington Post, meanwhile, has many senior military officers advising continued containment rather than military action. I don't know if all this keeps Saddam Hussein off balance. It certainly keeps the American public off balance.

President Bush, unlike his father who promoted an extended congressional debate before invading Iraq, has not been very forthcoming with the public about the nature of the Iraqi threat, what it will take to deal with it and what happens when Saddam Hussein is vanquished.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is launching a series of public hearings on Wednesday with scholars, but so far no administration official on the witness list. For all the latest on administration and Pentagon thinking, wait for the next leak. This is Daniel Schorr.

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