The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
Greetings! You may find the following article very interesting. I certainly did. Peace, KH Scott Ritter on the Iraqi Sanctions By Ali Asadullah Scott Ritter is indeed a controversial figure. A former U.S. Marine Captain who fought in the Gulf War, Ritter led the UNSCOM disarmament team in Iraq for seven years. During that time Iraq accused him of spying for the United States and Israel. He resigned his post in August of 1998, citing the U.N. Security Councilís inability to enforce its own resolutions on Iraq. Since that time, Ritter has spoken out against the economic sanctions that have crippled Iraq and ravaged its population. With more conservative political leanings, Ritter is sometimes at odds with more liberal elements of the anti-sanctions movement. He is no less opposed to the sanctions program; but has a uniquely conservative view on the methodology to resolve the crisis in Iraq. Ritter spoke with iviews.com on Jan 31 with reference to his willingness to dialogue with presidential candidates on the issue of the sanctions. What follows are excerpts from that conversation. The problem of the left Ritter: One of the problems is that the issue of economic sanctions in Iraq has been embraced by, I would say, the fringe left of the United States. Itís not a mainstream issue, unfortunately. It should be. When I speak out, almost everywhere I speak to mainstream audiences, when you confront them with the fact that 5 to 6 thousand kids are dying every month as a result of economic sanctions theyíre shocked. This is a reality that the mainstream American public chooses to ignore. Because the issue has been embraced by the left -- including radical elements of the left -- itís lost a little bit of its political credibility. For the most part, when you talk about economic sanctions, and youíre confronted by Voices in the Wilderness Ė I forget some of the other ones Iíve talked with Ė these are well-meaning people but itís very easy for mainstream politicians to brush them off because these people have no constituency, and for the most part because of their radical beliefs. All of what they say is wrong, factually; or heavily slanted with a political ideology that most of Americans donít find attractive. The problem of politics Ritter: Weíre dealing with a situation now where politicians do not want to take on this issue -- because the facts are irreconcilable. What Americaís doing with Iraq today is criminal. Itís a violation of international law; itís about as anti-American as I can think of anything that weíre doing. And yet Saddam Hussein has been demonized by the American media, by American politicians. And itís political suicide right now for a politician to do anything other than stand on a podium and give an anti-Saddam speech. And itís very difficult Ö they donít want to be wasting their limited airtime with the American public trying to discuss the intricacies of Iraq, the Middle East policy, etc. They want to simplify the situation; and the best way to simplify it right now for a politician is to go with the old adage that Saddam Hussein is evil and that we will continue to oppose him. And right now one of the main vehicles for opposing Saddam is the continuation of containment through economic sanctions. And thatís why no one will listen. I canít get the New York Times to publish an op-ed piece that talks about this in the context of the presidential elections because they say it doesnít matter if what youíre saying is right. What matters is that no one else believes it should be a presidential issue. ÖIf any journalist or anybody in any of the campaigns desires to talk about Iraq and would like to understand my perspective and some of the reasons why I believe the way I do, Iíd be more than happy to talk to them. The problem is, when Iraqís sexy I get a lot of media attention; when Iraqís not sexy, I get zero media attention. Thatís the reality of the way the media does business. It has nothing to do with the substance of the issue or even the fact that almost everything Iíve said about Iraq, every prediction Iíve made, has come true. Every fact Iíve said has held under close scrutiny. The media doesnít care about that. Youíve got your window where the public is paying attention and theyíll put me up with someone who has zero credibility on the subject and give them equal airtime. So Iíve been challenging the American public and the media and the political mainstream for over a year now to think responsibly about Iraq. Itís just not happening. Itís very frustrating. And if thereís anything I can do to continue the education process, Iíd be more than happy to do it. Both liberals and conservatives have it wrong Ritter: Thereís very few people who are in opposition to the sanctions who have served in the military. So when you get, for instance Ė I think itís Voices of Reconciliation is one of these groups Ė I had a long discussion with them. I gave them a large interview. I told them right up front [that] when they address the issue of economic sanctions and then they liken what the United States is doing to Auschwitz, I said, "Youíve lost everybody at that point." Itís about as grossly an irresponsible statement as I can imagine. This isnít Auschwitz, this isnít genocide, this isnít the Nazi regime attempting to eradicate the Jewish race off the face of the earth. This is horrible policy thatís resulting in hundreds of thousands of dead kids. But thereís a big difference between the two. And thatís why I talk about levels of irresponsibility. I also believe that these people havenít a clue about the reality of the regime of Saddam Hussein. I hold that for conservative too. I think that the people who are advising George W. Bush Ö are giving as misguided policy on Iraq to presidential candidate George W. Bush as one can imagine. Yet theyíre to the far right. So both sides of the spectrum have it totally wrong when it comes to Iraq. One side tends to Ö view the regime as some sort of nice little genteel Middle East nation. The other one demonizes it to the point of Ö making it the Middle East equivalent of Adolph Hitler. No one looks at the reality of Iraq within the context of the modern Middle East, and what the alternatives to Saddam Hussein would be, why this isnít an issue of Saddam Hussein but this is an issue of Iraq, etc. And until people introduce all those levels of complexity to their argument, their basic stance is full of holes and will be shot down. On Ramsey Clark Ritter: I wouldnít be in touch with Ramsey Clark Ö I fought in the Gulf War. I was in that war, I know what went on during that war, and weíre not war criminals. Iím not a war criminal. And none of the people I served with are war criminals. And yet heís accusing the United States of committing war crimes because A-10 aircraft fired depleted uranium shells at Iraqi tanks. Thatís horribly irresponsible. I donít want to be associated with this man. Thatís the kind of thing Iím talking about. He may have a point when it comes to economic sanctions but he hasnít a clue of whatís involved in modern warfare and why we targeted certain targets. He doesnít know the intelligence information that went in behind it. And so when he offers the kind of gross condemnation that he sets forth, itís unwarranted. On continued trips back to Iraq Ritter: Thereís two issues here. One, youíre dealing with the concept of civil disobedience; and it has a grand and glorious history in the United States. Everything that we did with the civil rights movement was a civil disobedience. And when you have a gross injustice, civil disobedience has a great role. The problem is, it was easy to convince people when you saw a picture of a white sheriff beating up a black girl that this was wrong. But because weíve demonized Saddam Hussein to such an extent and weíve personalized this conflict around Saddam Hussein, itís very hard to convince the mainstream American that this act of civil disobedience Ė and again, I have nothing but the highest respect for the people in Voices in the Wilderness who go to Iraq. I think theyíre brave. I think theyíre courageous. I think theyíre courageous both in terms of physical courage and also moral courage. Now does that mean Iím going to get on the next bus and go to Iraq? No. Not because Iím a coward. But when Iíve done my assessment of the situation. And Iíve told them this -- they have been painted as reactionaries. And therefore no one will respect the act that they took. Same thing with Ramsey Clark. No oneís going to sit there and say this was a brilliant act of civil disobedience done by a brave and courageous person. Heís grossly irresponsible in some of the things he says. And Voices in the Wilderness have some things that have painted them in that corner. What needs to be done Ritter: What will be required is for a mainstream American group to not only go to Iraq but to directly challenge Ė this has to become a political issue. Thatís something Iíve said all along. The reason why I say this Ö [is because] one of the things that has hamstrung our ability to formulate effective policy in Iraq isnít just ignorance at the highest levels of the American government or the American political body. The fact that weíve passed something called the Iraq Liberation Act Ė this is public law which mandates that the United States provide $100 million worth of funds for the sole purpose of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein. People have to understand that we have passed a law that supercedes, in terms of the American system, Security Council resolutions. So itís hypocritical for anybody in this administration to be talking about arms control, to be talking about anything that relates to a Security Council resolution or a Security Council mandate because United States law dictates the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. And this has to sink into peopleís heads. Now the only way weíre going to solve the issue of Iraq is to overturn that law and that has to be done through political action. We have to get enough congressmen and senators to understand that the law is not only illegal in terms of international law, but itís wrong and itís not going to work. It only hurts the United States, it only hurts the people of the Middle East, it only hurts Iraq. If we can get that law overturned, I think youíll see almost an immediate change in policy. Conyers/Bonior Letter Ritter: Again, the problem is the sponsors. If I call up somebody on Senator Helmsí staff and mention that letter, theyíre not going to even bother reading the body of the letter. Theyíre just going to immediately say, "Those left-wing radicals." I like the letter Ö Itís a good letter. Itís something I wish the media would pick up on. And I wish that it would get grass roots support from the American public to put pressure on the representatives who didnít sign that letter because we need to de-link the two (economic and military sanctions). But itís bigger than de-linking. You canít treat things in a vacuum. The de-linking of economic and military sanctions is meaningless as long as the United States continues to pursue a policy of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein. You have to deal with this issue on a comprehensive level. And the letter doesnít do that. Thatís why I think itís just a drop in the pond and it will ultimately have zero impact because it tries to oversimplify the problem by picking a single issue and saying, "If we do this everything will be OK," and thatís not true. If we do that everything wonít be OK. Facing hypocrisy Ritter: Take a look at some of the statements coming out of the U.S., government. We passed [a U.N.] resolution in December -- and of course we had the abstentions -- itís a binding resolution. And one of the things it calls for is the U.N. to pass a plan for improving the flow of humanitarian goods. Secretary General Kofi Annan has submitted this plan. The United States has come and said, "Weíre going to veto it." Thatís garbage. What it is, is that the U.S. doesnít want a massive alleviation of the humanitarian situation in Iraq because that basically starts the crumbling process for the entire system of economic sanctions. So again, itís pure hypocrisy being run out of the State Department and the National Security Council. But the American people donít care because itís oversimplified by politicians. For instance, Senator McCain, who I have nothing but the highest respect for Ė Iíll vote for him Ė but hereís a man who talks about "rogue nation rollback." Well Iíd like to hear how heís going to roll Iraq back. Thatís a fascinating concept Senator, but letís talk about the realities. Are you going to put American ground troops in Iraq? I donít think so. Are you going to increase the number of sorties flown? To what extent? Whatís your targeting plan? What are you going to target? Why are you going to target? Is Iraq a rogue nation? Weíve a got a lot of problems here. Compare and contrast Iraq with a country like North Korea. Right now, weíre entertaining a North Korean delegation to talk about their ballistic missile activity. Why can we deal diplomatically with North Korea and not with Iraq? Thereís just a lot of inconsistencies with the way we pursue foreign policy. And a lot of it boils down to internal domestic politics. Because weíve demonized Saddam Hussein, itís politically unacceptable for anybody to go out and embrace a diplomatic solution for fear of being called an appeaser. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi