TCS Daily

Great Scott! How He Lies

By Stephen W. Stanton - September 18, 2002 12:00 AM

These days, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter discusses his views on Iraq with any willing journalist - and there are a lot of them. According to Ritter, "the truth is, Iraq is not a threat to its neighbors and it is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside its borders... Military action against Iraq cannot be justified."

Many former inspectors do not share Ritter's controversial views. One particular inspector at Ritter's level reported to a Senate committee that UN inspections, "Iraq, today is not disarmed, and remains an ugly threat to its neighbors and to world peace."

Who is this other inspector? Surprise! That was Scott Ritter, too.

It would seem that Mr. Ritter had a change of heart. Certainly, Iraq cannot be both "an ugly threat to its neighbors and to world peace" and "not a threat to its neighbors." Yet Ritter does not see it that way. He has never been wrong. Just ask him. In a Fox News interview, Ritter declared, "I don't disagree with anything I've ever said. Why in God's name would I disagree with something I've said?"

Moreover, Ritter is not a scientist, and he has never been an expert on biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. As a marine and an intelligence expert, Ritter's job was to gain access to facilities so the more qualified weapons experts on his team could make their assessments. To this day, the true experts on his team agree that Iraq indeed possesses chemical and biological weapons, presenting a clear threat to the world.

Iraq has now gone four years without an inspection. According to Ritter himself, Saddam was not disarmed in 1998. Saddam likely is more heavily armed today. Given Ritter's recent denial of Iraq's capabilities despite his contradictory remarks and making assessments that are "above his pay grade," as Senator Joe Biden once put it, it's best to get a second opinion - and maybe a third, fourth, and fifth opinion as well.

  • Scott Ritter's former boss, Richard Butler reported to the UN that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction. An independent investigation initiated by Russia confirmed the veracity of Butler's report.

  • David Kay, Chief U.N. Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq from 1991 through 1993, told a Senate committee that "There should be no doubt that Iraq, under Saddam, continues to seek nuclear weapons capability and that given the time it will devote the resources and technical manpower necessary to reach that goal." As for the use of force, Kay told CNN "It's only when Saddam fears for his very survival that there's any hope that he will admit inspectors. So if you want to give peace a chance, you need to authorize the president early to use military force if he fails to."

  • Richard Spertzel, Chief Biological Weapons Inspector from 1994 through 1998, reported to a Senate committee, "There is no doubt in my mind that Iraq has a much stronger BW program today than it had in 1990. Perhaps of most concern would be anthrax and tularemia bacteria and smallpox virus as well as antianimal and anticrop agents."

  • Dr. Khidir Hamza provides an insider's opinion on Saddam's capabilities as Iraq's former Director of Nuclear Weaponization, and the highest-ranking scientist ever to defect. He told PBS that Iraq is very close to getting nuclear weapons. "If it managed to get [fissile material], either from Russia, from some of the ex-Communist states, one way or the other, then it is within two to six months ... because they already built a mock-up, complete."

Ritter - who recently addressed the Iraqi National Assembly to speak out against the United States, claiming the US "seems to be on the verge of making a historical mistake" - also contradicts many prominent and informed leaders, including President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Senator Joe Lieberman. Even former President Bill Clinton - not known for taking a hard line against Hussein - spoke about Saddam at a Democratic fundraiser: "There's no question ... he has significant stocks of chemical and biological agents."

The case against Scott Ritter's credibility is already firm. This begs the question, why did he change his tune? Circumstantial evidence suggests a possible explanation for his erratic behavior with personal politics - and some plain old lucre - impaired his judgment.

  • Scott Ritter believes that sanctions kill more people that Sadaam's brutality. "[Saddam] may torture to death 1,800 people a year. That is a lot. That is terrible. I am not saying this is acceptable. We kill 6,000 a month. Let's put that on a scale."
    - Nicholas Arons, "Fellowship of Reconciliation," June 24, 1999

  • Ritter believes UN sanctions are "pure racial politics, there is no doubt about that." He believes that the sanctions would have been long gone if the children of Iraq were Christian or Jewish.
    - ibid.

  • Ritter accepted over $400,000 from an American businessman with ties to Saddam's government to make a documentary film. Ritter acknowledged to the Washington Post this benefactor "opened the door" to the Iraqi government. The head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate, Hussam Mohammed Amin, told Reuters that Ritter was in Iraq "to film a documentary on the impact of the unjust embargo on the Iraqi people and (show) that Iraq has no more weapons of mass destruction."

The precise reasons for Ritter's actions are unclear. What is perfectly clear, however, is that he is not a credible authority on the question of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

Four years ago, Scott Ritter was a competent weapons inspector. Today, Scott Ritter, the activist, tells a different story than Scott Ritter, the inspector. He is not a technical expert on weapons of mass destruction, he is not an expert on foreign policy, and he is no longer an active member of the intelligence community. Yet Ritter presents himself as all of those things. It borders on irresponsible for the media to continue to provide him a platform to air his views. Richard Butler described Ritter's actions best: "What Scott Ritter has been saying is baffling, but whether or not it is baffling, it is this: It is wrong." Yet the media still listens to Ritter. That too is baffling. And it is wrong.



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