During the run-up to the Iraq War, some time during 2002, I attended a talk and question and answer session by a fellow named Scott Ritter.  Ritter, an ex-Marine with impressive credentials and an intellectual bent, had formerly been a UN weapons inspector in Iraq.  He resigned from that position in 1998, fed up with the Clinton administration’s policy maneuvers and sick of the way that the inspections were being used solely as a means to gather intelligence.  His experience in Iraq and elsewhere, however, made him an expert on the issue of WMDs, and this is the issue that he addressed when I went to see him speak. He argued, quite simply, that there were no WMDs in Iraq.

Before I attended the talk, I wasn’t entirely sure what to believe regarding the presence of WMDs in Iraq, partly because there was so little factual information available on the topic and even less “straight talk.” However, my instinctive mistrust of the Bush administration and its motives, as well as its tendency to paint every issue with a broad brush, made me lean toward believing that the WMDs didn’t exist or, at best, that no one really knew for sure.  Also, my intuitive read on the situation was that Saddam Hussein was playing an elaborate game of cat and mouse. Why? Because that is what I might do were I in his situation.  If you have nothing with which to defend yourself, then you’d better at least make it seem like you do—puff yourself up and seem bigger, as most vulnerable creatures have done since the beginning of time. I’d also read a good book on Iraq by a fellow named Dilip Hiro, who argued that Iraq had been so crippled by the sanctions that they could barely keep the water running, let alone develop weapons of mass destruction. Made complete sense to me.

Anyway, after listening to Scott Ritter talk, I was almost 100% certain that the WMDs didn’t exist, and, since then, of course, Ritter has been proved correct.

Why did I find him credible? Partly because of his experience with the matter and partly because of the logical way he presented the information. Sometimes when you listen to someone speak you just know that they are telling the truth because they are able to make all the proper connections, they are able to illustrate without embellishing, and they are able to provide specific examples to support their points. They are able to answer questions on the topic with great ease and they are able to provide lots of background information. So it was.

So why was 99% of the country not listening to Ritter? Partly because none of the major media outlets were willing to give him a voice. News programs that had formerly used him as a Mid East expert then refused to interview him. Why? Because the media outlets drank the Kool Aid, just like most everyone did at the time. In addition, some reporters tried to shame and slander Ritter by making much of a misdemeanor charge that he tried to solicit sex from a 16 year old girl, via the internet (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). The charge was eventually dismissed, but some say that it was dismissed only because a deal was struck, something that we will never know about for sure because the court records in this sensitive case were, quite properly, sealed. Anyway, all of that did not change or affect his experience and knowledge regarding Iraq. He was a Republican, too, but I didn’t hold that against him.

He argued and continues to argue, quite rightly I think, that the proponents of this war were mostly ideologues (but ideologues unaware of their own underlying cynicism—my point not necessarily Ritter’s) and that the Bush administration was and is all about regime change. Well, we know that now. And Ritter continues to argue that Iran is next on the agenda, regardless what anyone says.

Here’s an interview that Ritter gave on the topic in March of 2006:

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/850768/view]

And here’s another one on Iraq, older I think:

http://www.chartock.net/ritter.html


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