Battle of the leaks

I never thought I'd be saying "hold the information," but will all the Pentagon and administration sources telling us how Saddam Hussein will be brought down, please shut up.

Hardly a day passes without a leak from one of the latest war plans that seem to come 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 in leaks on successive days.

On July 5, The New York Times reported in detail on a highly classified plan for an invasion launched 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, most recently, in the Times something called "an inside-out plan," which is a scheme to seize Baghdad command centers and cause a quick collapse of the government.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, has senior military officers advising against military action and in favor of continued containment. I don't know if all this keeps Saddam Hussein off balance. It certainly keeps the US public off balance. I suspect that the battle of the leaks is a form of debate among uniformed and civilian officials figuratively waving their hands to get the president's attention.

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

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has begun a series of public hearings, featuring scholars, but without any administration officials on its first-week witness list.

For all the latest on what they're thinking in the Pentagon and the White House, wait for the next leak.

• Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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