The Coming War in Iraq
August 9, 2002
On July 24, former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter addressed a crowd in Boston. The following week, Ritter explained, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee would hold hearings on George W. Bushs plan to attack Iraq. Ritter feared that crucial information would be ignored in a rush to authorize military action based on political expediency and ignorance.
Ritter (who spent seven years in Iraq with the United Nations weapons inspection team uncovering and destroying Iraqs weapons program) decided to go public with his concerns and with his demand that the Senate allow him to stand as a witness.
When contacted by The-Edge on July 29, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee spokesperson confirmed that the committee had received a great many letters and calls asking that Ritter be included. Nonetheless, Ritter was not allowed to testify.
In the last few weeks, the consensus for attacking Iraq has begun to crumble. Military action that appeared scheduled for October was suddenly rescheduled for sometime after the November elections and then no sooner than early next year. That doesnt mean that the risks of a dangerous military war are receding. It does mean that the visible signs of a growing anti-war movement in the US are growing.
A New Skepticism is finding voice in George W. Bushs terror-spooked America. Scott Ritters is one of those voices. Here is a portion of what he had to say, as reported by William Rivers Pitt at www.truthout.org.
The Coming War in Iraq
By William Rivers Pitt
BOSTON Room 295 of the Suffolk Law School building in downtown Boston was filled to capacity with peace activists, aging Cambridge hippies and assorted freaks. The contrast presented when Scott Ritter entered the room could not have been more disparate. There at the lectern stood a tall lantern-jawed man a twelve-year Marine Corps veteran and former UN weapons inspector in Iraq who looked and spoke like a bulldogging high school football coach.
I need to say right out front, Ritter began. Im a card-carrying Republican in the conservative-moderate range who voted for George W. Bush for President. Im not here with a political agenda. Im not here to slam Republicans. I am one.
Yet Scott Ritter had come to Boston that night to denounce, with roaring voice and burning eyes, the coming US war in Iraq. According to Ritter, this coming war is about nothing more or less than domestic US politics.
The Third Marine Expeditionary Force in California is preparing to have 20,000 Marines deployed in the (Iraq) region for ground combat operations by mid-October, he said. The Air Force used the vast majority of its precision-guided munitions blowing up caves in Afghanistan. Congress just
told Boeing company to accelerate their production of the GPS satellite kits, that go on bombs that allow them to hit targets
by September 30, 2002. Why? Because the Air Force has been told to have three air expeditionary wings ready for combat operations in Iraq by mid-October.
The Oval Office cowboy versus the Autocrat of Baghdad. Credit for Bush photo: White House photo.
As a guy who was part of the first Gulf War, said Ritter, when you deploy that much military power forward disrupting their training cycles, disrupting their operational cycles, disrupting everything, spending a lot of money it is very difficult to pull them back without using them
. You got 20,000 Marines forward deployed in October, you better expect war in October.
According to Ritter, there is no justification in fact, national security, international law or basic morality to justify war with Iraq. When asked pointedly what the mid-October scheduling of this conflict has to do with the midterm Congressional elections that will follow a few weeks later, he replied: Everything.
This is not about the security of the United States, said this card-carrying Republican. This is about domestic American politics. The national security of the United States of America has been hijacked by a handful of neo-conservatives who are using their position of authority to pursue their own ideologically-driven political ambitions. The day we go to war for that reason is the day we have failed collectively as a nation.
On the Ground in Iraq: Ritter and the UN Inspection Team
The Bush administration has provided the American public with little more than rhetorically laced speculation, said Ritter. There has been nothing in the way of substantive fact presented that makes the case that Iraq possesses these [chemical, biological and nuclear] weapons or has links to international terror, that Iraq poses a threat to the United States of America worthy of war.
Ritter noted that Iraq had these weapons at one time. At the outset, said Ritter, they lied about the existence of their biological and nuclear programs. They hid everything they could, as cleverly as they could.
After the first lie, Ritter and his team refused to believe anything they said. For the next seven years, the UNSCOM team meticulously tracked down every bomb, missile and factory designed to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weaponry. They went to Europe and found the manufacturers who sold the equipment. They got the invoices and shoved them into the faces of Iraqi officials. They lifted the foundations of buildings destroyed in the Gulf War to find wrecked labs (at great risk to their lives) and used the reams of paperwork there to cross-reference what they had already cross-referenced.
Everything they found was later destroyed in place.
After a while, the Iraqis knew Ritter and his people were thorough. Fearing military retaliation if they hid anything, the Iraqis instituted a policy of full disclosure. By the time he was finished, Ritter was mortally sure that the UNSCOM investigators had stripped Iraq of 90 to 95 percent of all their weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq manufactured three kinds of these nerve agents, Ritter explained. Sarin and Tabou have a shelf life of five years, so even if Iraq had somehow managed to hide these weapons from Ritters people, they would now be harmless.
VX gas is more stable and can last a lot longer. But the VX facility was totally destroyed when it was hit by a Gulf War bomb on January 23, 1991. The weapons they loaded up have been destroyed, said Ritter. More importantly, the equipment procured from Europe that was going to be used for their large-scale VX nerve agent factory was identified by the special commission still packed in its crates in 1997 and destroyed. Is there a VX nerve agent factory in Iraq today? Not on your life.
Of course, no weapons inspection team has set foot in Iraq since 1998. Ritter believes that Iraq was technically capable of restarting its weapons manufacturing capabilities within six months of his departure.
If no one were watching, Iraq could do this. But they would have to start from scratch. They would have to procure the complicated tools and technology through front companies, which would be detected. Manufacturing chemical and biological weapons emits gasses that would have been detected by now if they existed. Manufacturing nuclear weapons emits gamma rays that would have been detected by now if they existed. We have been watching, via satellite and other means and we have seen none of this. If Iraq was producing weapons today, Ritter said, we would have definitive proof, plain and simple.
Saddam-Masochism: Backed into a Rhetorical Corner
In 1991, the UN Security Council mandated the destruction of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction. Sanctions were placed upon Iraq to pressure them to comply. The first Bush administration signed on to this, but also issued a covert finding that, even if all the weapons were destroyed, Bush Sr. would not lift the sanctions until Hussein was gone.
In 1998, the GOP-controlled Congress passed the Iraqi Liberation Act, demanding the removal of Saddam Hussein. In 1999, Ritter recalled, an open letter was written to Bill Clinton
condemning him for failing to fully implement the Iraqi Liberation Act. It demanded that he use the American military to facilitate the Iraqi oppositions operations inside Iraq, to put troops on the ground and move on up to Baghdad to get rid of Saddam. Who signed this letter? Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, Robert Zoellick, Richard Perle. [These men are now all leading members of George W. Bushs cabinet.]
The removal of Saddam Hussein was a plank in the GOPs 2000 presidential campaign. Once in power, however, Bush slowly realized what his father and Clinton already knew talking tough was easy but removing Hussein from power was not.
Within days of the September 11 attacks, Bush was on television claiming that the terrorists must have had state-sponsored help and that state sponsor must be Iraq. When the anthrax attacks came, Bush blamed Iraq again. Both times, he had no basis whatsoever for his claims.
When Defense Secretary Rumsfeld appeared before NATO leaders to demand that they support Americas looming Iraq war, they tried to question him about the basis for this war. Rumsfeld absolutely refused to answer. Instead, he offered: The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.
Ritter subsequently appeared before NATO at their invitation. Much of what he told them was mirrored in his comments in that Boston classroom. After he finished, 16 of the 19 NATO nations present wrote letters to the US government complaining about Rumsfelds presentation.
It has been suggested that the administration may have secret evidence pointing to an Iraqi threat. Ritter dismissed this out of hand. If the administration had such secret evidence, he said, wed be at war in Iraq right now. We wouldnt be talking about it.
Ritter dismissed oil as a motivating factor. Yes, Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves on Earth, but the US already buys some 68 percent of all the oil produced in Iraq. The Navy ships in the Gulf who work to interdict the smuggling of Iraqi oil, said Ritter, are fueled by Iraqi oil. Iraqs Oil Minister has stated on camera that if the sanctions are lifted, Iraq will do whatever it takes to see that Americas oil needs are fulfilled. You cant get a better deal than that, Ritter noted.
Ritter made no bones about the fact that Saddam Hussein is an evil man. Like most Americans, however, he detests being lied to. His work in Iraq, and his detailed understanding of the incredible technological requirements for producing weapons of mass destruction, leads him to believe beyond question that there is no basis in fact for a war in Iraq. This Marine, this Republican who seemed so essentially hawkish, now says the man he cast a presidential vote for is a liar.
The clock is ticking towards war, he said, and its going to be
a war that will result in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Its
going to devastate Iraq. Its
going to destroy the credibility of the United States of America. I just came back from London, and I can tell you this: Tony Blair may talk a good show about war, but the British people and the bulk of the British government do not support this war. The Europeans do not support this war. NATO does not support this war.
Osama bin Laden used the civilian suffering in Iraq under the sanctions to demonstrate to his followers the evils of America. After 9/11, much of the Islamic world repudiated bin Laden and his actions. Another Iraq war would go a long way to proving, in the minds of many Muslims, that bin Laden was right all along. The fires of terrorism that would follow are unimaginable.
Scott Ritter wants the inspectors back in Iraq. He wants to keep American and Iraqi blood from being spilled in a military exercise promulgated by right-wing ideologues.
This is not theory, said Ritter that night in Boston. This is real. And the only way this war is going to be stopped is if Congress stops this war.
William Rivers Pitt is a teacher from Boston. His new book, The Greatest Sedition is Silence, will be published soon by Pluto Press. A longer version of this article first appeared as an editorial on www.truthout.org, an excellent resource for alternative perspectives on US domestic and foreign policy.
Sign the Petition; Stop the War: Sixteen Reasons to Stop Bush's Invasion of Iraq!
To: George W. Bush, Congress, and the Media
We, the undersigned, oppose the Bush Administration's "wag the dog" plan to invade, conquer, and occupy Iraq.
Iraq will accept a resumption of UN weapons inspections if the US agrees not to invade. But George W. Bush refuses to accept new weapons inspections for reasons that are purely political:
The reasons for opposing a US invasion of Iraq are overwhelming:
- Bush's poll ratings are falling quickly because of public outrage over corporate corruption scandals and the falling stock market, and so he needs another war to change the news headlines and boost his poll ratings. In other words, Bush is "wagging the dog."
- Bush's Republican Party is likely to lose control of Congress and key Governorships in the November elections, and Bush desperately needs to engineer a Republican victory. In other words, the war in Iraq is also Bush's "October Surprise."
- Bush's oil industry donors want to gain complete control of Iraq's large oil reserves by stealing them. Their views were summed up by Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) on April 12, 2002, when he told a large group of Republicans: "Why don't we just take [Iraq's] oil? Why buy it? Take it!"
- Bush's weapons industry donors want to profit from another war. This includes Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, and his Florida recount chairman, James Baker, who are investors in the Carlyle Group, one of the largest weapons manufacturers in the US.
- Bush wants to avenge his father's failed Presidency by killing Saddam Hussein. During the Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush refused to invade Baghdad and overthrow Saddam Hussein because of the opposition of US allies and because the US was not prepared to occupy and rule Iraq.
- Bush wants to demonstrate to the world that US power is supreme and unchallengeable. Bush views America as the modern-day Rome, which will rule the world through force. Bush does not believe in freedom and democracy, either around the world or in the US.
When challenged about these issues, the Bush administration and its supporters can only resort to the most absurd and outrageous justification for sending our children to their deaths.
- 250,000 US troops could be deployed, risking tens of thousands of American deaths and widespread illness from toxic chemical releases. Tens of thousands of Gulf War veterans are still suffering from the unexplained Gulf War syndrome.
- The Gulf War cost $61 billion ($80 billion in current dollars), of which $48 billion was paid by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Japan - but that still caused a US recession, even though the war ended in 3 days and we did not occupy Iraq. Since no other countries will pay for the US to conquer Iraq, US taxpayers will have to pay all of the costs, which will be much greater. That means all domestic programs will be even more deeply cut, the enormous Bush deficit will get much bigger, taxes will have to be raised to maintain reduced services, and the current recession will turn into a Depression.
- US allies among Arab countries strongly oppose an invasion, and outrage among Arab citizens could result in the overthrow of several weak pro-US governments (especially Jordan, Saudia Arabia and Egypt), which would be replaced by Taliban-style anti-American and anti-Israeli extremists.
- The US imposed strict economic sanctions on Iraq after the Gulf War, which has resulted in the deaths of half a million innocent children. This is a massive violation of human rights, and it fosters the spread of anti-American hatred among Arabs.
- Iraq has never attacked the U.S., and played no role in the September 11 attack. All propaganda efforts by right-wing officials like Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to link Iraq to 9-11 have failed.
- The US does not have the capability to occupy Iraq and run a democratic government. Even in Afghanistan, the US-imposed government has no control outside of Kabul, despite large numbers of US and other allied troops. This undemocratic government has been paralyzed by assassinations by rival warlords. Moreover, the heroin industry - which is so devastating to the US - has resumed production.
- Scott Ritter, the former Marine who led extensive UN weapons inspections of Iraq, is nearly certain that Iraq does not possess chemical or biological weapons. Moreover, Iraq does not possess long-range missiles to deliver such weapons, and the US (or Israel) could easily destroy any such missiles through precision bombing - as Israel did when it destroyed a nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq.
Finally, George W. Bush has no authority under the Constitution to invade Iraq. The Constitution requires Congress to declare war, but Bush believes he can simply ignore the Constitution, in direct violation of his sworn oath to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." If Bush insists on starting a war without an Act of Congress, then Bush should be impeached.
- James R. Schlesinger, a member of Bush's Defense Policy Board, says: "Given all we have said as a leading world power about the necessity of regime change in Iraq, means that our credibility would be badly damaged if that regime change did not take place." Let's be clear: only Bush demanded a "regime change" in Iraq, not the American people. We will not fight a war for Bush's credibility!
- Larry Kudlow, a right-wing pundit, wrote: "The shock therapy of decisive war [on Iraq] will elevate the stock market by a couple-thousand points." We will not fight a war for the stock market!
We call upon all genuinely patriotic Americans to join us in declaring our opposition to a US conquest of Iraq.
To sign the petition, go to www.Democrats.com.
Democrats.com has been giving "Aggressive Progressives" a voice since the Democratic convention in Los Angeles in 2000. Democrats.com features online discussions, Web polls, chats with leading Democrats, and free Web pages.
For more information contact:
Contact the websites and resources in the above article.