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For Fear of Endangering Soldiers, Would the Administration Endanger Support for the War?

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When I reread the transcript of my interview with Senator Santorum, this exchange stood out:

HH: No, what I’m looking for is more [if Saddam] knew he had [the WMD], and he was trying to hide them, as opposed [that] to he’d forgotten where he put them….

RS: Well, there is additional information that I think the public should be made aware of that could answer that question.

HH: Very interestingly put, but you can’t answer that based on what was declassified, and what was not?

RS: That’s right.

Earlier in the interview was this exchange:

HH: Now Senator, is it your impression that the classified nature of this material is in place in order to protect the information that might assist insurgents from finding additional stockpiles? Is that…

RS: There’s certainly…that is clearly an element, and there are certainly parts of this report that were not released that should not be released. And that would certainly be one element of it. But there are other elements that I think can be released that could shed more light as to the volume of the problem that we’re confronting, or that we confronted in the sense that how many chemical weapons did Saddam Hussein have prior to the Gulf War, the second Gulf War.

If there is convincing evidence that Saddam and his senior circle knew of stockpiles of WMD and had hidden them prior to the invasion, the refusal to release that information has greatly damaged the debate about the war, even though the invasion of Iraq rested on other compelling grounds than Saddam’s possession of WMD.

The failure to find WMD has had a corrosive effect on the public debate and on some support for the war.

There are only two reasons to have withheld such information.

First, that a political decision was made not to reveal the information until such time as the case could not be rebutted or disparaged except by the nutter fringe. That seems too cautious a move for the Administration.

The second reason is the fear that details of the discoveries would lead terrorists to similarly situated caches, endangering vast numbers of our troops and civilians.

This would be a compelling excuse for the refusal to release the details if in fact the war was carried to a successful conclusion, but ultimately not persuasive if in fact the war effort cannot be sustained because of a loss of support at home.

What we have right now if a very confused picture, and the Adminsitration simply cannot expect the public to be satisfied with the announcement today and the declassified summary provided by Director Negroponte. At a minimum, if more cannot be disclosed, an explanation must be given as to why that is the case.


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