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"sounds crazy, is crazy"

August 28, 1998

Scott Ritter's Decision

Join a Discussion on A.M. Rosenthal
n seven years as a key U.N. inspector searching out Saddam Hussein's
concealed capabilities to make weapons of mass destruction, Scott Ritter
had to call on all the physical courage in him. Then on Wednesday he
summoned up all his moral and intellectual courage, and resigned. 

In his letter of resignation and in conversation, he gave the world his
reasons, with candor we have almost forgotten. He said the U.S.
Administration, U.N. 

Secretary General Kofi Annan and the U.N. Security Council were seriously
weakening the inspection machinery, the only thing that stood between
Saddam Hussein and revival of Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical
weapon programs. 

Scott Ritter -- William S. only to official records -- has performed what
he considered inescapable duties: refusal to participate in the damage to
inspection, letting the world know arms control in Iraq was an "illusion,
more dangerous than no arms control at all." 

Straight out, he said that the U.S. had blocked additional personnel and
equipment needed to carry out critical spot inspections, that the
Secretary General had made himself simply a sounding board for Saddam's
grievances, that the U.S. and U.N. once again had exacted no penalty from
Saddam for ordering U.N. inspections ended. Iraq, said Mr. Ritter, is now
stronger than when the U.S. and U.N. allowed Saddam to walk away from the
gulf war and took on the job of controlling Iraqi power. 

>From Washington and the U.N., denials and knifings of Mr. Ritter came as
soon as it was known that he had taken on the U.N. bureaucracy and the
American Government he once served as a Marine intelligence officer. 

If Americans leave it at that -- he says, they deny -- Mr. Ritter's
bravery may not bring results. So it is important for Americans to know
the denials and knifing do not come from everybody in Washington or the
U.N., not from the insistently honorable. 

Some of President Clinton's top aides, by acting as if they had believed
him not only about Monica Lewinsky but about far more important reversals,
have lowered confidence in themselves, almost to invisibility. I have in
mind the apologists of his reversal on human rights, on the relative
ranking in American foreign policy of democracy and foreign trade, the
bailing out of corrupt foreign despotisms, his furious fight against
monitoring religious persecution abroad, that kind of thing. 

Now Mr. Clinton's people tell us to believe that his war against terrorism
can consist of missiles against terrorist gangs in Afghanistan and the
Sudan -- while Iraq, a major terrorist state, is getting immunity for
closing down U.N. inspections. Secretary of State Albright says that's a
matter between the U.N. and Iraq. 

With such judgments, and with a President who has to think politically,
whether about Monica or Saddam, Americans should search for other minds to

I trust the people at the U.N. and in Washington who tell me that Mr.
Ritter was telling the truth. Bolstering them is the evidence of American
journalists, who even before the Ritter resignation were documenting U.S.
diplomacy against surprise inspections that might upset Saddam and our
allies who want his business back. 

But why would the U.S. damage inspection of Iraq? Mr. Ritter, and I, do
not believe that the President & Co. have fallen in love with Saddam. But
from what clues the Administration grants the public, the idea seems to be
that Iraq can be so weakened in pocketbook that Iraqis will get real mad
and somebody will kill him. 

Mr. Ritter points out that the U.N. already grants Iraq more oil to sell
than Iraq can pump. He says that soon the U.N. will allow Iraq the funds
to build more pumps. Sounds crazy, is crazy. Resignations, anyone? 

All Mr. Ritter really wants, I come to understand, is for America to be
what he thought it was -- not bloodthirsty against Iraq but staunch,
determined to prevent Saddam from killing us and other enemies, in mass. 

I hope someday his twin 5-year-old girls read this job assessment of their

Brave in service against state terrorism, even braver in resigning to
speak truths, and admirable in the faith that his countrymen will
recognize awaiting dangers, if told by those who know. 

If all that is the mark of an innocent, send in more. 

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