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B. Phoenix: Interview w/Scott Ritter (5-11 May 2000)

The Boston Phoenix
5-11 May 2000
Human rights
Irrationality and Iraq
by Laura A. Siegel

Scott Ritter led the United Nations weapons-inspection team in Iraq until he quit in August 1998, 
claiming that the United States was using the team to spy on Saddam Hussein. His experiences in 
Iraq have left Ritter convinced that UN sanctions against Iraq should be lifted. As the Phoenix 
went to press, Ritter was scheduled to testify before Congress on this topic May 3. He spoke with 
the Phoenix last week.

Q: If sanctions continue, is war inevitable?

A: Absolutely. Innocent people are going to continue to suffer for two or three years, but 
eventually there will be a moral and economic imperative for the rest of the world to begin doing 
business with Iraq. Trade will be uncontrolled. Iraq feels threatened [by Iran, Syria, Israel, and 
Saudi Arabia].  Iraq is not going to sit there in the face of an Iranian threat.

Q: Should sanctions be lifted without further disarmament?

A: Disarmament has already occurred. I don't believe the intent [of the UN resolution] was to get 
the world tied up in a hunt for nuts and bolts and pieces of paper. Iraq has no long-range 
ballistic missiles, no warheads that could go on these missiles, no means of producing chemical, 
biological, or nuclear weapons. That doesn't mean they can't reconstitute them -- which is why it 
is very important to get a viable weapons-inspection program back in Iraq.

Q: You wrote, "When it comes to Iraq, a politics of irrationality reigns supreme." Why? 

A: It began in the 1980s -- we were supporting Iraq blindly against the Iranian threat. Once Iraq 
invaded Kuwait, it threw the Bush administration for a loop. How to respond? Demonize Saddam 
Hussein. Hussein was suddenly called the Middle Eastern equivalent of Adolf Hitler. But [when Iraq 
left Kuwait] Saddam Hussein was still there -- it was like we'd lost. The US became focused on how 
to get rid of Saddam.

Q: So should we give up on getting rid of him?

A: Getting rid of Hussein is illegal as hell. People talk about "rogue states" -- what defines them 
as "rogue states"? Total disregard for international law.  We have shredded the fabric of Iraqi 
society. The only good news is that Iraq is ready to rebuild.  You want to get rid of Saddam 
Hussein? Lift the economic sanctions. The expectations of regrowth are so high that Hussein . . . 
will have to privatize. You're basically talking about turning power over to the people, [which 
will create] a viable middle class, [which will lead to] democracy.

Q: Why hasn't the press covered this more?

A: If these were Serbian white kids or Jewish white kids dying, Americans would be repulsed.  We're 
a society that seems to feel the price of life is cheaper in Iraq than in Europe or America.  It's 
not newsworthy unless you can get the candidates and the president to talk about Iraq. That's the 
last thing anyone wants to talk about, because you can't defend what we're doing.
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