The ‘latte’ spy in Washington

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(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans says President Bush has a curious lack of concern for secrecy in a preemptive strike against Iraq.

(Seamans) President Bush has adopted the preemptive strike as our military doctrine if he launches his war to depose Saddam Hussein. Military preemption means striking a secret and surprise crippling blow against the enemy before he has a chance to attack you.

There have been three historic preemptive strikes in recent memory, all of which I witnessed as a reporter in the Middle East. In 1967, the Israelis launched the “Six Day War” with a dawn airstrike that destroyed the Arab air forces, the main threat to Israel’s ground troops. Secrecy and Surprise. In 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a preemptive strike that caught Israel flat-footed the so-called Yom Kippur war. Again, secrecy and surprise.

In 1981, Israeli planes destroyed the nearly completed Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad – a preemptive strike the Israelis claimed was imperative because they alleged the Iraqis planned to build an atomic bomb to destroy Israel. More secrecy and surprise.

As for President Bush’s preemptive doctrine, he does not seem concerned about secrecy and surprise. Since July, the most secretive administration in memory has been leaking so-called “classified” military information about how we would invade Iraq.

Meanwhile, it appears to me that Saddam’s spy in Washington has the easiest spook-job in town. All he has to do every morning is buy the New York Times and the Washington Post, settle in his local Starbucks with his latte, and read all about the latest Pentagon plans leaked by unidentified “senior administration officials.”

Saddam’s latte spy has been able to report that we will commit up to 250,000 troops, strike during winter weather to avoid the cruel 120-degree desert heat. Our bombers and missiles will first destroy Saddam’s command infrastructure. Then we’ll drop in special forces teams to establish bases in Iraq from which our heavy armor and infantry can further attack. We will surround Baghdad and try to avoid a bloody house-to-house battle inside the city. Our tank forces are now training intensively next door in the Kuwaiti desert. And more and more details keep dripping out of the Pentagon spigot almost daily.

Some analysts say these highest-level leaks are a deliberate psychological war gambit to convince Saddam that Bush means business. Others think it is Bush’s way to keep the American public mentally prepared for the possibility of war. Whatever the reason, the war-talk is giving the pundits plenty to speculate about now that the election aftermath story is wearing thin.

And have you noticed that Attorney General John Ashcroft has not yet called those senior administration officials “unpatriotic” for leaking all that classified military information?

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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