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[casi] The inconistency of Scott Ritter

Dear all

A useful piece on the inconsistency of Scott Ritter. Not
mentioned is his book Endgame, in which he basically argued
that Iraq was so dangerous that the US should go to war
with Iraq immediately, and failing that the US should do a
deal to get proper weapons inspections and the lifting of
the sanctions.



>From the November 19, 2001 issue: The strange career of
former U.N. arms inspector Scott Ritter.
by Stephen F. Hayes
11/19/2001, Volume 007, Issue 10

 "IRAQ TODAY represents a threat to no one."

 It's hard to imagine that argument coming these days from
anyone other than Tariq Aziz, or another of Saddam
 Hussein's propagandists. But those are in fact the words
of Scott Ritter, former chief U.N. weapons inspector in
 Iraq. This represents an astonishing conversion. Ritter,
after all, abruptly quit that job in frustration three
years ago,
 complaining of Iraqi obstructionism and U.S. acquiescence.
At the time, he had quite a different view of Baghdad:
 "Iraq presents a clear and present danger to international
peace and security."

 But Ritter has lately been hawking his Iraq-as-a-lamb
theory to everyone who will listen--from his perch as a Fox
 News analyst, in regular appearances on NPR, to reporters
at newspapers across the country. When his former
 U.N. supervisor, Ambassador Richard Butler, suggested that
Iraq might be responsible for the spate of anthrax
 attacks in the United States, Ritter told a Boston Globe
reporter that such speculation is "irresponsible." Asked on
 Chris Matthews's Hardball whether Saddam Hussein has
anthrax, he equivocated: "Well, there's--you know, we,
 as weapons inspectors for United Nations, destroyed Iraq's
biological weapons program. There's a lot of things
 that are unaccounted for such as growth media, which
allows them to--to grow these germs. But the basic
 factories, the fermentation units, etc., had been
destroyed. So, you know, the--the chance of Iraq having
 like this is--is slim to none. We won't ever know until we
get weapons inspectors back in. But Iraq's not on the top
 of my list in terms of, you know, places we should be
worried about."

 Obviously, Ritter's views on Iraq have changed over the
past three years. Indeed, they've basically flipped. Then,
 Iraqi leaders were inveterate liars; today, they are
victims of American "propaganda mills." Then, Saddam Hussein
 was hell-bent on building his deadly arsenal; today, he
wants to feed Iraqi children. Then, the key to Iraq's future
 was overthrowing Saddam Hussein; today, Hussein is a
"viable dictator."

 The Scott Ritter of 1998 would have some fierce debates
with the Scott Ritter of 2001. But the Scott Ritter of 2001
 doesn't even admit to having changed his mind. "That's a
common criticism," he says, but "I just ask people to
 take the time to review the record. When I first resigned,
which was in August of 1998, I spoke out--and I said this
 to the Senate--that I'm speaking out as an inspector, even
though I'm not an inspector. And what that means is, I'm
 speaking out in defense of the resolution, 687, that the
Security Council passed that the United States endorsed.
 And this called for 100 percent disarmament, and we have
less than that."

 So does Ritter believe, as he wrote October 12 in the Los
Angeles Times, that Iraq really "represents a threat to no

 "From a conventional standpoint, I'd say that Iraq
represents virtually a zero-sum threat," he insists. On
 of mass destruction, Ritter hedges a bit. "I'll always
maintain that we never got 100 percent of the weapons, but I
 will maintain--and the facts speak for themselves--that we
got 90-95 percent of it," he says. "In the past three
 years, we just don't know what's been going on. And that
should be put on the table right off the bat. But what we
 do know is that using 1998 as a benchmark, Iraq, frankly
speaking, hasn't had the time or the resources to
 effectively reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction

 Among the former arms inspectors, Ritter is unique in his
benign views of the Iraqi threat. Butler has referred to
 this as "Ritter's crap." Iraqi leaders, needless to say,
are thrilled with what the Washington Post's Colum Lynch
 called Ritter's "bizarre turnaround." They now "seem to
view their erstwhile enemy as an asset in the propaganda
 war against the United States." But don't take the Post's
word for it. On Iraq's official a few words of token
criticism of the former weapons inspector, there is a
 to Ritter, in a rather fractured translation from the
original Arabic.

 "The admittance of Scott Ritter and his enthusiastic in
calling for the lifting of the unfair embargo and to halt
 continuous bleeding of Iraqi people is a conscience
scream." Then there is an appeal to other former U.N.
 inspectors to follow in his footsteps. "The truth veiled
by the American poisoned propaganda . . . sooner or later
 the truth will shine. . . . He who will not participate in
revealing the truth and support Iraq will regret in the
future. He
 who says the truth, as Scott Ritter did, will be happy,
conscientious, and proud to be one of the honest people who
 participated in revealing the truth. Those who will be so,
we will admire and greet."

 The part about admiring and greeting is literal. Ritter
was welcomed back to Baghdad in July 2000, with the
 blessing of Saddam Hussein. The reason for his trip? To
produce a documentary film, "In Shifting Sands," that
 would chronicle the weapons-inspection process and, he
says, "de-demonize" Iraq. The 90-minute film, which he
 says he is close to selling to a broadcast outlet, was
produced with the approval of the Iraqi government and
 features interviews with numerous high-level Iraqi
officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

 U.S. intelligence officials and arms control advocates say
Ritter has been played--perhaps unwittingly--by
 Saddam Hussein. "If you're Scott Ritter," says one arms
expert, "the former 'cowboy' weapons inspector, kicked
 out by Saddam Hussein, you're not going to get back into
Iraq unless Saddam Hussein invites you and wants you

 Ritter doesn't entirely disagree. Though he claims the
film is an attempt to be "objective" about the situation in
 Iraq, he predicted before its completion, "the U.S. will
definitely not like this film."

 He acknowledges, as well, that the U.S. government doesn't
like how the film was financed. Shakir al-Khafaji, an
 Iraqi-American real estate developer living in Michigan,
kicked in $400,000. By Ritter's own admission, al-Khafaji
 is "openly sympathetic with the regime in Baghdad."
Al-Khafaji, who accompanied Ritter as he filmed the
 documentary and facilitated many of the meetings, travels
to and from Iraq regularly in his capacity as chairman of
 "Iraqi expatriate conferences." Those conferences, held in
Baghdad every two years, are sponsored and
 subsidized by Saddam Hussein.

 The conferences are little more than propaganda shows,
designed to bash the United States and demonstrate to
 the world that Hussein has support even among Iraq's
expatriate community. The official conference website
 posts several articles condemning U.S. "terrorism and
genocide" against Iraq.

 Ritter says al-Khafaji had no editorial input on the film
project but that without his help, the movie would not have
 been made. "I tried to get independent sources to fund the
movie," he says. "People can talk about the funding all
 they want. If I'd been able to be bought--from '95 to '98
the CIA paid me. Did I do their bidding?"

 Ritter says the FBI investigated the relationship between
him and al-Khafaji and found nothing. "They surrounded
 my house, they stopped me on the street," he says.

 HOW DID THE MAN who was arguably Public Enemy No. 1 of
Saddam Hussein's Iraq end up three years later as
 perhaps the leading American apologist for Iraq? Ask the
average American about Scott Ritter, and those who
 don't confuse him with the clumsy guy on "Three's Company"
will probably still tell you he's an American hero.

 Ritter was the ex-Marine tough guy who very publicly
resigned his position as chief U.N. weapons inspector in
 in late August 1998. Since the end of the Gulf War, he had
been part of the team enforcing the cease-fire
 agreement that prohibited Iraq from developing weapons of
mass destruction, the equipment to make such
 weapons, and the vehicles (missiles) to deliver them. By
the mid '90s, the inspection process had deteriorated
 into a potentially lethal game of hide-and-seek. Ritter,

as he put it, was "the alpha dog," a badass inspector there
 to show the deceitful Iraqis who was in charge.

 Except for the occasional armed confrontation, the routine
was predictable. Iraqi leaders would insist that they
 were fully disarmed, and shortly thereafter U.N.
inspectors would happen upon, say, a stash of VX nerve
agent or
 perhaps some shells containing mustard gas, 97 percent
pure. When the inspectors showed up at potential
 weapons sites, the Iraqis often simply refused to give
them access.

 "The fact of the matter is that since April 1991, under
the direct orders and direction of the president of Iraq,
 government of Iraq has lied to the Special Commission
about the totality of its holdings," Ritter later

 Ritter became frustrated and demanded a more aggressive
inspection process. "He used to write me the most
 strident memos about their refusal to let us do our jobs,"
says Richard Butler, former head of the U.N. inspection
 team and Ritter's boss. "I remember him banging his fist
on the table--telling me to let him go in."

 But as Ritter grew more determined to force inspections,
the Clinton administration grew wobbly. "We have been
 directly told, 'Do not do these inspections,'" Ritter
recalled shortly after resigning. "And since April [1998]
we have
 not been allowed to do these tasks, largely because of
pressure placed upon the Special Commission by
 administration officials."

 A week after his resignation, following a whirlwind of
debriefings and interviews, Ritter was invited to testify
at a
 joint hearing of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign
Relations committees on September 3, 1998. Strom
 Thurmond, the South Carolina Republican, introduced Ritter
as "a tough and demanding inspector" and a
 "dedicated American."

 Ritter wasted no time in offering his assessment of the
continuing threat: "Iraq has not been disarmed." The
 United States, he claimed, had deliberately thwarted the
U.N. inspections for fear of a confrontation with Iraq. He
 ripped the administration for its refusal to back up the
inspections process with a legitimate use of force,
 including, but not limited to, removing Saddam Hussein's

 Ritter was such a hawk and so critical of the Clinton
administration's non-confrontational approach that he drew
 the ire of Senator Joe Biden. "They have responsibilities
above your pay grade--slightly above your pay grade--to
 decide whether or not to take the nation to war alone or
to take the nation to war part-way, or to take the nation to
 war half-way," the Delaware Democrat scolded. "That's a
real tough decision. That's why they get paid the big
 bucks. That's why they get the limos and you don't."

 But the hearing's most sober moment came just minutes
later, when Sam Brownback, Republican from Kansas,
 asked Ritter for his opinion about the continuation of the
Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction program. "Once
 effective inspection regimes have been terminated," said
Ritter, "Iraq will be able to reconstitute the entirety of
 former nuclear, chemical, and ballistic missile delivery
system capabilities within a period of six months."

 All inspections stopped in December 1998. That same month,
in an article written for the New Republic, Ritter
 again warned of the continuing Iraqi threat, this time in
much greater detail. "Even today, Iraq is not nearly
 disarmed," he maintained. "Based on highly credible
intelligence, UNSCOM [the U.N. weapons inspectors]
 suspects that Iraq still has biological agents like
anthrax, botulinum toxin, and clostridium perfringens in
 quantity to fill several dozen bombs and ballistic missile
warheads, as well as the means to continue
 manufacturing these deadly agents. Iraq probably retains
several tons of the highly toxic VX substance, as well as
 sarin nerve gas and mustard gas. This agent is stored in
artillery shells, bombs, and ballistic missile warheads.
 And Iraq retains significant dual-use industrial
infrastructure that can be used to rapidly reconstitute
 chemical weapons production."

 Saddam Hussein had successfully faced down the United
Nations and the United States, and if Scott Ritter was
 right, that was big trouble.

 SO IT WAS, and is. But Ritter now utterly contradicts his
testimony of 1998, according to which Saddam Hussein
 could have reconstituted a fearsome arsenal of weapons of
mass destruction by the middle of 1999. By that time,
 in a June 1999 interview with leaders of the Fellowship of
Reconciliation, a peace organization based in Nyack,
 New York, he had changed his tune. "When you ask the
question [does] Iraq possess militarily viable biological or
 chemical weapons? The answer is 'no.' It is a resounding
NO! Can Iraq produce today chemical weapons on a
 meaningful scale? No! Can Iraq produce biological weapons
on a meaningful scale? No! Ballistic missiles? No.
 It is 'no' across the board. So from a qualitative
standpoint, Iraq has been disarmed. Iraq today possesses no
 meaningful weapons of mass destruction capability."

 Virtually every expert on Iraq and arms control disagrees.
Ambassador Butler, Ritter's former boss with the U.N.,
 says that Iraq never disarmed during the 1990s and almost
certainly has weapons of mass destruction today.
 Charles Duelfer, Butler's number two, believes Iraq
currently has biological and chemical weapons, and the
 means to deliver them. Arms control experts Gary Milhollin
and Kelly Motz, with the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear
 Arms Control, detailed in the July issue of Commentary the
steady and stealthy weapons trade with Iraq.

 Butler, for one, is nonplussed when asked about Ritter's
change. "In a day filled with lots of phone calls,
 interviews, etcetera it's almost a waste of time to
comment on that," he says. "I don't want to sound arrogant,
 simply ridiculous." Pushed, though, he offers this
assessment: "I'll say this about Scott, either he's
misleading the
 public now, or he misled me then."

 Duelfer, too, rejects Ritter's all-clear declarations on
Iraq. "Why would [Saddam] have given up his intent to
 develop these weapons? He's made credible arguments that
these weapons have saved them in the past, in the
 war against Iran, in the Gulf War," says Duelfer. "Why
would Saddam say, 'This saved my ass one time,' and then
 say, 'Oh yeah, you're right. This isn't moral. I'll

 "Maybe Scott's got some very narrow definition of
'threat.' I just don't see it."

 Ritter is dismissive of his former supervisors. "Those
critics?" he says. "Screw 'em."

 In his less guarded moments, though, Ritter appears to
acknowledge that Iraq retains weapons of mass
 destruction. Just minutes after he told the Fellowship of
Reconciliation that Iraq has "no meaningful weapons of
 mass destruction capability," he qualified that assertion.
More than that, he offered a justification for Saddam
 Hussein to repudiate the agreement that ended the Gulf War
and rearm Iraq.

 Iraqi leaders, he said, "see their neighbors' weapons of
mass destruction, they see the inevitability of conflict
 the United States, and they're not going to give up their
weapons. When Madeleine Albright made that awful
 statement in March of 1997, that economic sanctions would
continue while Saddam was in power regardless of
 weapons disarmament, she basically closed the door on any
hope that the Iraqis would get rid of their weapons."

 Ritter says he doesn't want to whitewash Saddam, but that
Iraq's "mistakes" are no different from those of the
 United States. "We are the United States, and I'm not
trying to give Saddam Hussein the moral equivalency that
 the United States has, but I believe that it's
disingenuous to acknowledge that we are capable of making
 mistakes, and on the other hand interpreting everything
the Iraqis do as having nefarious intent. This is a nation
 that has been devastated by a war, bombed to hell and
back, and then it has these brutal economic sanctions
 which leave the country in disarray. There will be

 Earlier this year, Ritter worried in the Harvard
International Review about pre-Gulf War "propaganda mills in
 America" that "demonized Saddam in the most extreme
fashion in preparation for war." Saddam Hussein, he
 argued in a recent interview, is simply misunderstood. "We
try to apply our own perceptions of morality and
 ideology to an environment that we just do not
understand." He pushed the same line at an appearance last
 month at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

 "When I say Saddam Hussein, you say 'evil,'" Ritter
rebuked his audience. "I say 50,000 liter fermentation
unit, and
 everybody goes, 'biological weapons.'" (Actually,
everybody probably goes, "Huh?") "Well, that's not
necessarily the
 answer. The answer might be that Iraq wants to make
single-cell protein so that it can feed its cows, so the
 can produce milk, so the children can have something to

 Yes, Scott Ritter is right. There may well be propaganda
mills in America. It certainly looks like he is running one

 Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

 November 19, 2001 - Volume 7, Number 10

Dr. Eric Herring
Department of Politics
University of Bristol
10 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TU
England, UK
Office tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582
Mobile tel. +44-(0)7771-966608
Fax +44-(0)117-973-2133

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