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If George W. Bush gives the order to take out Iraq’s Root of Much Evil, at least a platoon of newspaper reporters, editors and publishers – Palm Pilots at high port – should be leading the charge in the first wave on D-Day. It seems only fair that the finks who couldn’t give Saddam our battle plans fast enough should serve as point men.

Last month, the New York Times set off a startling round of leaks when it published the guts of a classified Pentagon document in a piece by Eric Schmitt detailing how our warriors would knock off the Iraqi army. Schmitt, an experienced defense correspondent who well knows that Loose Lips Sink Ships, revealed that his Pentagon source said the plan called for air, land and sea-based forces to attack from three directions. Outlining the directions from which the assault would come, the number of troops involved and the probable launching pad, Schmitt exposed everything but when the attack would occur and how many additional body bags the Graves Registration teams would need because of his irresponsible dispatch.

Then the New York Post proudly published satellite photos of U.S. bombers lined up at a recently rebuilt “state of the art” air base in Qatar, reporting that the airfield was “expected to be used as America’s base for operations against Saddam Hussein.” A real media coup! But now the base is a prime target for Saddam’s Scud missiles.

Who needs spies when our enemies can rely on the U.S. press corps? But guess what, folks, the enemy’s listening – and such rich skinny has always been one of the most valued assets of war.

Now, on almost any given day, our top newspapers are treating American readers – and Iraqi intelligence operators – to the latest U.S. battle strategies. The Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have reported: U.S. tank forces will be coming from the east; mechanized divisions will attack from the west; paratroopers will drop directly into Baghdad, reversing the strategy employed during Desert Storm I; Marines led by a reincarnated Gen. Chesty Puller will slam ashore on an Iraqi beach, enveloping Saddam’s forces even before they can break out their white flags.

Hopefully the latest – inconsistent – media scoops headlining secret war plans are part of a disinformation campaign being planted to discredit the real deal, confuse Saddam and rally Americans around the flag. Because, let’s face it, we don’t need to know the minute details of military operations. Nor should our opponents have this info handed to them. Nor should we allow the media to justify violations of our national security with comments such as “We are satisfied that the article … was consistent with responsible citizenship,” as the New York Times rationalized when wiggling out of Schmitt’s story.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently said, “The disclosure of classified information … is putting American lives at risk.” He wants to put the leakers in jail.

A firing squad would be more appropriate. Had such reckless news been leaked before the Normandy invasion, I’ll bet that Ike and FDR would have fought over which of them would command the firing detail.

There’s a big difference between releasing information from a classified military plan and exposing the deceptions of the Vietnam War by blowing the whistle via the Pentagon Papers – which won the New York Times the Pulitzer Prize. The latter helped end a great tragedy; the other clearly aids the enemy. Our media must quickly develop the common sense and the moral courage to know the difference.

Of course, partisan politics is one of the reasons behind such despicable acts. Another is that so few folks in today’s media have served in our armed forces that they don’t have a clue how their irresponsible reporting could ratchet up our casualty lists. Gotcha journalism might win coveted media prizes, but is it really worth tearing up a lot of American warriors in the process?

Clearly this irresponsible journalism must stop. Congress needs to protect our soldiers by standing tall and taking action to enforce the existing law – Title 18 U.S. Code, unauthorized release of defense information.

Because right now, our elected representatives are conspicuously AWOL.

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