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US: Attack Iraq? Scott Ritter

The debate over attacking Iraq took an unexpected turn with the intervention of Scott Ritter, a Marine who took part in the Gulf War and then served as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He must have an unusual knowledge of Iraq. He became disillusioned with US policy because, he charged, American inspectors were being used for intelligence purposes, indicating the sites for US and British planes to bomb. In defiance of the UN, the US ordered the chief inspector, Richard Butler, to leave his job. Ritter became convinced that the Bush administration was determined to attack Iraq. Former warriors behave in different ways. Some boast about their exploits, others realize that war is hell and do their best to prevent it. Ritter belongs to the latter group. Using private funds, including his own, he started an international campaign to prevent an attack on Iraq. At the Johannesburg Conference on Sustainable Development he met with Iraqi officials. As a result he was invited to address the Iraqi National Congress on September 8. He gave a very balanced presentation and came across as a very intelligent, responsible individual. He gave the same talk on C-Span on September 16. To balance him, C-Span invited David Kay to speak. Kay was chief UN nuclear weapons inspector from 1991-93 (a short period: he probably fought with Ritter); he now is an official of a corporation whose size he stressed. He did not compare with Scott Ritter in any way. Viewers who called in were very divided, as is the American public generally. The Bush administration must think Ritter is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. He stressed the importance of international law and urged Iraq to comply with UN resolutions. Implicitly the US should do likewise.

Ritter was skillful in his discussion of the Israel-Palestine fight. It is almost taboo to mention that Israel is in violation of UN resolutions. Ritter did not name Israel. He said that Iraq could not be more Palestinian than the Palestinians. The implication was that, since Palestine has agreed to accept the existence of Israel, so should Iraq. and not make greater demands than the Palestinians do. Or less?

My guess is that Ritter's speech was accompanied by a simultaneous translation, and that he had submitted the text in advance. It remains to be seen what the response of the Iraqi people and of other countries will be. Presumably in the UN the US would belittle his plan, as it has already done, and veto any adoption of it. Shortly afterwards, Kofi Annan, who clearly agrees with Ritter, announced that Iraq had agreed to accept UN resolutions unconditionally. Scott Ritter repeatedly called for the appointment of "an honest broker", meaning a group of representatives of neutral countries under neither the US nor the UN. It was not clear whether Ritter had thought through the implications oof his plan. It would get rid of the UN veto and would lead to a lead to a scramble to get on to the proposed committee. When at the UN the foreign minister of Iraq read a statement about his country`s unconditional acceptance of UN resolutions, he was accompanied by the representative of the League of Arab States, a clear gesture of Arab solidarity. It remains to be seen what the US will do. It remains also to be seen what will happen to Iraq, the world, and Scott Ritter.

Ronald Hilton - 9/17/02