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Think Beyond Impeachment, Says Former U.N. Weapons Inspector

By Nathan Diebenow
Associate Editor

03/09/06 ''
Lone Star Iconoclast" -- -- AUSTIN — Scott Ritter, the former United Nations weapons inspector who served during President Bill Clinton’s administration, had some strong words for people who call for President Bush’s impeachment.

Ritter explained that more people should be held accountable for supporting the current war in Iraq than the Bush Administration, including members of the Clinton administration, congressmen, senators, the U.S. media, and the American people.

“The Bush administration has committed felony after felony after felony by going into Iraq. There’s no doubt about that,” Ritter said, while describing a meeting he had with Democrats on Capitol Hill on the issue of impeachment. “But I say, ‘Timeout, guys.... We’re culpable.’”

Guidepost

At a recent activism workshop in Austin, Ritter said that the American people should use the U.S. Constitution as a guidepost for making decisions with regard to U.S. foreign policy.

“When we say, ‘Bush administration, do it yourself. Clinton administration, do it yourself,’ I say, ‘No. America, do it yourself,’” said Ritter. “We the people of the United States of America need to reflect on the preamble to that constitution. It’s our constitution. It’s our country. This is our problem. The only way we are going to resolve it is to infuse ourselves with a sense of citizenship that has sadly not been in this country today.”

Ritter said that the American people seem to behave more like consumers than citizens: “We want the easy fix. We want the government to solve the problem for us. That’s not how democracy works. Democracy is a tough, dirty business. And it takes a lot of work. It requires citizens to invest themselves. And we the people have failed egregiously.”

Sponsored by Tour of Duty, Ritter’s talk was moderated by talk radio host Jack Blood before a packed sanctuary at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin. Earlier in the day, a conference was held on the church grounds devoted to linking spirituality and activism.

Iran War Looming

Ritter noted that after the three-year U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, the next challenge to the American people is finding the truth about Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Though he is skeptical of Iran’s claim that its civilian energy program is peaceful, Ritter said that no one has yet to supply hard evidence to the public that shows Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Still, he said he supports a presence of viable, capable U.N. weapons inspectors as an alternative to rushing “hell nell” toward armed conflict with Iran.

However, Ritter said he fears that the Bush administration has already gained the support of the American people who follow him to a new war without question.

“This is where we the people have failed yet again because when you take a poll of the American people, 80 percent believe that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Why?” He asked. “Because they have failed their responsibility in citizenship. They accept at face value everything they hear from Fox News, from CNN, from The New York Times. And they still don’t engage that little brain matter between their earlobes to think for themselves. It’s the mistake we made in Iraq.”

Signs of War

Ritter went on to say that the United States military is already gearing up for armed conflict with Iran as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld drums up the support from countries that have airbases surrounding Iran. Another sign of war, Ritter noted, is that U.S. aircraft are being used to scout future missions for U.S. troops.

“We’re over flying in Iran and we’re taking photographs. Is this peaceful?” asked Ritter. “If the Cubans were flying over our nation with reconnaissance aircraft taking photographs of facilities they were getting their troops ready to target, we’d shoot their planes down, and we’d say we have to right to protect our national defense.”

To drive his point home, he added: “If the Cubans were taking Cuban Americans in the United States and forming them into operational groups to go around blowing up bridges and assassinating politicians, we’d call it an act of terror. Not only would we hunt down the perpetrators, but we’d probably blow Cuba off the face of the earth in the process because they’re attacking us. But we’re doing the same thing (to Iran).”

Ritter suggested that to stop a war with Iran, Democrats must be elected to take control of at least the House of Representatives in the 2006 election. This way, said the self-described registered Republican, a healthier amount of skepticism will check and balance the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.

No Surprise

Ritter explained that none of the sectarian violence currently going on in Iraq should have taken anybody by surprise because the only thing holding the three infighting ethnic and religious groups (Kurds, Shi’a, and Sunnis) together since the end of the Ottoman Empire after World War I was Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Party.

“People say, ‘Why was Saddam Hussein so brutal against the Shi’a?’ Because if he wasn’t, you’d have the same problem you’d see in the streets today. ‘Why was Saddam Hussein so brutal against the tribes?’ If he wasn’t, you’d have the same problem you’d have today. ‘Why did Saddam Hussein repress Kurdish independence?’ Because if he didn’t, you’d see the same problems you’d see in Iraq today. It’s all predictable,” said Ritter.

He told the audience that the United States used Saddam only when it was convenient, such as during the Iraq/Iran war in order to keep Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist government at bay. The Gulf War, Ritter said, however, was the result of poor communication between the United States and her ally Iraq due to the first Bush administration’s heavy, narrow focus on the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In March 1990, then-President George H. W. Bush sent a delegation to Iraq led by Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) that embraced Hussein’s government during a spat between Iraq and Israel, but by October 1990, Saddam invaded and occupied its southern oil-rich neighbor Kuwait, Ritter explained. That summer, Hussein had asked Washington three times whether or not he had the green light to take land away from Kuwait over a border dispute. All three times, Washington told Hussein, “America has no position,” according to Ritter.

Kuwait Invasion

The initial response inside the U.S. government toward the Iraqi invasion was “good” because “[e]verybody understood that Kuwait was doing some bad things in terms of slant drilling and holding Iraq’s feet to the fire on financial issues,” Ritter explained. “And the feeling was that if Iraq had limited its incursion by simply taking over the Ramadi oil fields, controlling the Emir’s palace, and occupying the (nearby) islands — there wouldn’t have been a problem.”

Instead, Hussein moved into Kuwait City and threatened Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, which forced President H.W. Bush to raise his rhetoric even harsher by comparing Hussein to the former leader of Nazi Germany Adolph Hitler, said Ritter, adding that in doing so, the president covered up the complicated nature of the situation from the American people to wage war against Iraq.

“We knew there were nuclear weapons and biological weapons, but while we had our chemical protective gear, we had our little magic pills, [and] we had our inoculations, there wasn’t a big fear factor,” said Ritter, who served during the Gulf War as a Marine. “There seemed to be more fear about Iraq’s nuclear weapons capabilities in 2003 when they didn’t have them than in 1991 when they did have them.”

Life Or Death

To further the case for the Gulf War, there were charges that the Iraqi leader was a “personification of evil” who gassed his own people, namely the Iraqi Kurds.

As Ritter explained, during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the Iraqi Kurds switched allegiance to Iran and fought against Iraq. At a battle over a dam where electricity was created to power Baghdad, Iraq used a mustard agent to repel Iranian soldiers from a hill top. When the Iranians counterattacked with a cyanide-based blood agent, the Kurdish rebels were killed in the middle.

As a preventative measure in “a life or death struggle,” as Ritter termed it, Hussein gassed at least three Kurdish villages, which is not the same as a systematic extermination of defenseless people such as the six million Jews in Europe who died under Hitler’s reign, Ritter noted.

This weaponized blood agent may have resulted in the deaths of 7,000 Kurds, he explained, during a war in which about a million people died from conventional weapons like artillery and machine guns used by Iran, a country of 60 million people, and Iraq, a country of 23 million people.

“I’m not condoning the Iraqi actions, but we need to put it in perspective,” said Ritter, adding: “With the exception of nuclear weapons, a Marine corps rifle company with an unlimited supply of ammunition will kill far more people than chemical weapons, biological weapons, or long-range ballistic missiles. I mean, but we don’t call a Marine corps rifle company ‘a weapon of mass destruction.’ Maybe we should.”

Deal With Saddam

At the same time in the 1980s, Ritter noted, Donald Rumsfeld delivered assurances from the United States to Hussein to make it clear that the U.S. government sided with Iraq, but all the while members of Congress condemned the Iraqi leader’s use of chemical weapons on the Kurds, even as the U.S. government was secretly supplying Iran with ballistic missiles for use against Iraq’s army.

“So we did condemn Saddam from using chemical weapons but said, ‘No problem, you keep doing it.’ Why? Because it’s good for us. It helps America contain Iran. The problem is ... we now have to deal with the reality of Saddam,” Ritter noted.

The tactics with which to “deal with Saddam” after the Gulf War meant political trouble for President H.W. Bush because the American leader left “the new Hitler” in power for the security of the region instead of ousting him like he had promised at the outset to the American people, according to Ritter.

“We needed Saddam Hussein to die, so that [President H.W. Bush] wouldn’t be opened up to political criticism here at home. But the war is over. The troops are home. How are we going to get rid of this guy?” explained Ritter.

The answer was a policy of containment through which a series of economic sanctions was arranged to continue as long as Hussein stayed in power, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for the sanctions to be lifted once Iraq disarmed itself of weapons of mass destruction.

Enter Scott Ritter

Enter Scott Ritter and his frustration with the U.S. government during the implementation of Security Council Resolution 287 to inspect and disarm Iraq’s weapons.

“A successful inspection regime would be the enemy of American policy. That is something that I as an inspector found since day one,” said Ritter. “When I showed up, it was obvious that the United States did not want the weapons inspections program to succeed. They were afraid.

“When I reported to the CIA in 1992 that we could account for all the Iraqi nuclear capability, that was a finding they did not want because we could account for missiles, but right now, there was a possibility we could account for chemicals. If we could account for chemicals, then we can account for biologicals, and then we can account for nuclear for Iraq to disarm.

Ritter told his audience in Austin that the fact that the U.S. government rejected the inspectors’ findings, instead of saying, “Hoorray! Good job inspectors,” meant it didn’t want them to succeed in any step of the disarming process. Then, the director of the CIA said before the U.S. Congress that 200 missiles were still in Iraq, a number the CIA head made up, according to Ritter.

“Two hundred missiles that physically can’t exist in Iraq. Where did you get that number? You made it up. Ladies and gentlemen, it should be clear to everybody,” he said. “This isn’t about Bush bashing. Have you noticed the time frame I’m talking about? The majority of my life with the U.S. government took place between 1992 to 1998 during the Clinton presidency. This isn’t about Republicans. This isn’t about Democrats. It’s about America, about American politics, about going down the wrong path.”

Act Like Saddam

Ritter said that the last three presidential administrations deliberately misled the American people about the reality of Iraq.

“When people say we didn’t find any weapons in Iraq in 2003, I’m here to tell you that, no, it wasn’t a mistake,” said the former U.N. weapons inspector. “The CIA knew in 1993 that there were no nuclear weapons programs in Iraq. The CIA knew in 1994 that there were not chemical weapons in Iraq. The CIA knew in 1995 that there were no biological weapons in Iraq.

“The CIA knew that Iraq had been disarmed, but that’s not the CIA’s job,” he added. “The CIA’s job is not to disarm Iraq but to create the conditions for the removal of Saddam Hussein. This is important because that same pattern of deception that you saw in Iraq is taking place today when it comes to the issue of Iran.”

Until 2000, the United State waited for someone like a Sunni general who could be like Saddam Hussein without being Saddam Hussein and be called to assassinate Hussein and take over control the Baathist Party and Iraqi government, Ritter said. “Then we’d be happy.”

Baathists Ousted

But then, on March 19, 2003, the U.S.-led invasion force went into Iraq and threw the baby with the bath water, so to speak, by removing the Baathist Party along with Saddam Hussein, a move that caused widespread civil unrest in Iraq soon after.

“As soon as we invaded, someone said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘America has lost the war.’ He said, ‘How can you say that?’ The second we crossed the line, we lost the war because we embarked on a mission that was going to undo that which held Iraq together, and there was no way America could sustain a long-term presence in Iraq that would devolve into chaos and anarchy,” said Ritter.

Addicted To War

Ritter stressed that U.S. presidents are in essence forced to lie to the American people about going to war in the Middle East (by using the excuse that the nation in question poses a threat) because the United States is addicted to its lifestyle based on cheap oil.

“We consume far more than we produce as a nation. Therefore, this lifestyle that we are all addicted to requires our government to gain access to resources we need to sustain this lifestyle, and to gain access to these resources on terms that are economically beneficial to America, so we have to have a foreign policy in place that guarantees we have this access,” explained Ritter.

He added, “A president can’t flat-out say, ‘I have to feed your addiction to oil, so I’m going to gain total 100 percent control of the Middle East. I’m going to get rid of every government in the Middle East ... that doesn’t march to our tune.’ What president is going to be honest enough to say that? Not a single one of them.

“So they are going to come up with excuses: ‘Saddam Hussein is a threat to our security because he has weapons of mass destruction. We need to get rid of Saddam. Iran is a threat because of a nuclear weapons program. We need to get rid of the Iranians. The Saudi Arabians are a threat because they finance global terror.’ That might actually be a true statement, but we’re not marching on Riyadh anytime soon.”

More Active Citizens

The bottom line, Ritter said, is that citizens of the United States should take the responsibility for the deployment of their armed forces more seriously, as they are empowered to do so by the U.S. Constitution, for the sake of their country and “those men and women who honor us by the uniform of the armed services of the United States [who] took an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States.”

“The military doesn’t get to engage in this constitutional debate. Why? Because they expect the people of the United States to do it,” explained Ritter, who as a Marine, served as a ballistic missile advisor to Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf during the first Gulf War. “That was another great lesson I learned. When the boss says, ‘Take the hill,’ you don’t go, ‘But there’s machine gun up there!’ You take the hill ... Tough luck. Get the job done.”

Ritter added that the only reason why the military should be asked to fight in the name of the United States is when “there is a threat that puts our nation at risk.”

Marine’s POV

When asked about the dangers of depleted uranium radiation from U.S. weapons, Ritter, a U.S. Marine who served 12 years, unapologetically answered that he looked at the issue from the standpoint of a Marine in the heat of battle.

“You put me in charge of a couple hundred Marines, and we’re dug in and a T80 Battle Tank comes over. I don’t want to fight an equal fight. I don’t want him anywhere close to me. I’m going to open up a 120 millimeter Battle Tank gun with continued depleted uranium rounds that will carve up that tank like a hot knife through butter and kill everyone inside before they can even come close to me,” said Ritter, who served as a ballistic missile advisor to Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf during the first Gulf War.

“I love DU!” he added. “I want to be able to use it on my 20 millimeter Bushmaster, on my LAB25, so it’ll cut through T62 tanks. Why? I don’t want an equal fight, ladies and gentlemen. You send me to war, and I’ll kill the enemy. I’m going to slaughter them! I’m going to eviscerate them! I’m going to annihilate them! And I’m going to do it in a way that brings all my Marines home or at least as many of them as I can. THAT’S—MY—JOB! My job is to wage war, not make the world lovey dovey. You click on the “on” switch on, it’s going on, and I’m going to them, and you better give me the weapons to do the job.

“And you better understand that when you give me those weapons, and I use those weapons, there are repercussions. When I pull that trigger on a DU weapon I’m creating conditions that are harmful to American service members. I’m creating conditions that are harmful to innocent civilians that have to live in that area. If you don’t want that, don’t send me to war.”

2006, The Lone Star Iconoclast

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