Scott Ritter Charges Iraq War for Global Hegemony
From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Sept. 15, 2003
Interview with Scott Ritter, former U.S. Marine and U.N. weapons inspector, conducted by Scott Harris
Listen in RealAudio: http://www.btlonline.org/ritter091903.ram
As violence continued to consume U.S.-occupied Iraq, President Bush addressed the nation on Sept. 7 to explain his administration's policies there and request $87 billion for the pacification and reconstruction of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the president conspicuously omitted any mention of the U.S. failure to capture Osama bin Laden or to locate any of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction used by his administration to justify its war, he maintained that Iraq was now the central front in the war against terrorism. As he has many times before, the president linked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the U.S. to the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein, despite the lack of any evidence connecting Iraq with the al Qaeda network.
Acknowledging the fact that his administration's "go it alone" approach was not working, Bush also announced a new initiative to ask for soldiers and money from United Nations member states to stabilize Iraq.
Scott Ritter is a former Marine intelligence officer and U.N. weapons inspector who served in Iraq for seven years before resigning in 1998. In the months before the U.S. invasion, Ritter had publicly challenged the Bush administration's contention that Baghdad's weapons systems posed a grave risk to the U.S and necessitated a war. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Scott Ritter about the Bush administration's justification for war and the U.S. occupation of Iraq detailed in his new book titled, "Frontier Justice, Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America," published by Context Books.
Scott Ritter: The president tried to convince the American public that what is happening today circa September 2003 is a direct result of the events of September 11, 2001, as though there is a continuum there, when in fact, the reality is there is no linkage between Saddam Hussein's regime -- the one that we have overthrown -- and those who perpetrated those horrific attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the other airplane that was hijacked and crashed in the hills of Pennsylvania. The president didn't lay out the fact that the reason why we find ourselves waging this struggle is because of his own failed policies. Now, you wouldn't expect him to say that, but you wouldn't expect him to assume that the public is as ignorant as anyone who listened to that speech and accepted it at face value would have to be.
This is not a war in Iraq that we had to fight, it was very much an elective war, a war that the president elected to fight, and he did so under false pretense. He told the American public that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction, this threat has yet to materialize. It appears that his administration exaggerated the case for war and now that we have troops deployed in harm's way, we can't just simply cut and run. So we are in for the fight. But the fight that's being fought in Iraq is not a fight that would've been fought had we not invaded. If we didn't invade Iraq, there wouldn't be a war against terror in Iraq, because Saddam Hussein's regime, as terrible as it was, was the antithesis of an Islamic fundamentalist anti-American regime. It was a secular regime that was readily contained by the United Nations (under) a program of sanctions and weapons inspection. And now what we have is a nation of 23 million caught up in chaos and anarchy that is derived from o ur own actions. We're unable to rally the world behind us to contain this, and it's a magnet now for those who have a gripe against the United States.
The president didn't say this. I'm hopeful that many Americans will look through his rhetoric and realize that this is a man who has yet to recognize that he's to blame.
Between The Lines: Could you comment on the unfolding scandal in Britain over Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government's involvement in exaggerating the threat coming from Iraq and how that may spill over and affect the Bush presidency here?
Scott Ritter: I personally am enthralled with the concept of Tony Blair being held accountable for his words and his actions. I'm heartened that a democracy can say, "We stand for something greater than the office of the prime minister. We stand for the rule of law, we stand for values and ideals that do not accept an elected representative lying to their people." Now here in the United States, there seems to be a greater willingness, on the part of the people of the United States, according to polls, to give the president a break. Tragically, I feel that many Americans would accept the fact that the president misled them or lied to them, distorting the threat posed by Iraq, if we had gone in there, booted Saddam Hussein out with relatively few casualties and we were treated as liberators and our boys and girls were home now. I think Americans would say, "Well who cares about the weapons. That guy's a bad man. We found the mass graves, etc."
But the problem is, they're not home, and they’re starting to come home more and more of them tragically, in body bags or mutilated, or destroyed psychologically by the effects of war. In addition to this, we're suddenly faced with this huge price tag, billion of dollars a week and it's going to go up in the weeks and months to come. Who's paying for that? The American public is. And now people are going to say, "Hey, the economy is faltering. We've got this expensive war, we've got Americans dying. Why is this occurring?" At that point in time, we'll be compelled to come back to the weapons of mass destruction issue, and at that moment they will realize that all of these bad things are happening because the president lied to them. Then, and sadly only then, will they have a chance to reflect on what that means for democracy as a whole, American democracy, and hopefully the president will go through the same sort of heat that Tony Blair is (undergoing) right now.
Between The Lines: If securing the United States from an imminent threat, as they described it, was not the motivation for the Bush administration policy in invading Iraq, what was, in your view?
Scott Ritter: What you need to do to answer that question is dissect who populates the senior most decision-making hierarchy positions in the Bush administration and what motivates them. What is their stated ideology? You will find that somewhere around 90 percent of these senior positions are held by people who have an affiliation with the Project for a New American Century, which is a neo-conservative thinktank and their ideology has been stated clearly, several times in writing. It's global hegemony. It's the United States of America imposing its will, pre-emptively if necessary on the world, where we find our national security to be at risk. We will take advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union to leverage our overwhelming military and economic power to our benefit. We will walk away from multi-lateralism. We will walk away from the United Nations and this will become an America-only world. These people believe in Plato's noble truth, where they are "in power of the noble truth," the vision that says, America is just, America is right and the world must follow our path.
And here we've stumbled on stage one. We've gone into Iraq and we stumbled, we stubbed our toe. We're not going anywhere else. It's a disaster. The neo-conservative vision of the Project of the New American Century is fluttering away. The Bush administration has to go back, hat in hand, to the United Nations to beg for help. But the tragedy is, this is something that anybody who had subjected their vision to a fair and open debate would have ascertained for themselves. It would have been nice if we had the informed consent of the American people regarding Iraq. It would have been nice if the Congress of the United States had asked the tough questions and demanded the tough answers. It would have been nice if the American media had done that. But instead, everybody just bought into the rhetoric of the Bush administration, especially after September 11, 2001, where the Bush administration was very effective in exploiting the ignorance and the fear of the American public to push this agenda.
And that's what's going on. Iraq was never a threat to the United States of America. Iraq was the easiest target to pick for a major playing out of the neo-conservative agenda of global hegemony.
Related links on our website at http://www.btlonline.org#1hed:
-"A Weapons Cache We'll Never See," by Scott Ritter, New York Times, Aug. 25, 2003
- "Iraqmire: Bush Gets Desperate," by David Corn, The Nation editor, Sept. 8, 2003
- "EPIC Accountability Campaign: Urge Your Members of Congress to Support a Full Investigation," Resources to hold your government accountable for costly military campaigns, from the Education for Peace in Iraq Center
-"Facing the Truth About Iraq," by James Carroll, Boston Globe, Sept. 2, 2003
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on over 30 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( http://www.btlonline.org), for the week ending Sept. 19, 2003. Between The Lines Q&A is compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.