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]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

~Scott Ritter on the Iraqi Sanctions~

   You may find the following article very interesting.  I certainly did.

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 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
Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]