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]
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. Cheers Eric http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/524dplvk.asp >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 something 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 one"? "From a conventional standpoint, I'd say that Iraq represents virtually a zero-sum threat," he insists. On weapons 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 program." 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 website--www.uruklink.net--after a few words of token criticism of the former weapons inspector, there is a tribute 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 the 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 there." 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. "Nothing." 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 Iraq 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, the government of Iraq has lied to the Special Commission about the totality of its holdings," Ritter later testified. 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  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 regime. 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 its 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 sufficient 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 large-scale 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, it's 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 stop.'" "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 with 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 mistakes." 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 cows can produce milk, so the children can have something to drink." Yes, Scott Ritter is right. There may well be propaganda mills in America. It certainly looks like he is running one of them. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/Politics/ http://www.ericherring.com/ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk