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Bush Evades Accountability in Iraq-WMD Blame Game

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From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
http://www.btlonline.org
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Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Feb. 23, 2004
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Bush Evades Accountability in Iraq-WMD Blame Game

Interview with Scott Ritter, former chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, conducted by Scott Harris

Listen in RealAudio: http://www.btlonline.org/ritter022704.ram

After grudgingly accepting the evidence that no weapons of mass destruction will likely ever be found in Iraq, the White House has been engaged in damage control, countering critics -- including presidential candidates vying for the Democratic party nomination -- who are pounding President Bush on his "credibility gap."

Although David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq declared that Saddam Hussein's government probably had no WMDs at the time of the U.S. invasion, he blamed a failure of intelligence, rather than the White House. But soon after, CIA Director George Tenet stated publicly that his agency never told President Bush that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S. Another key player in the pre-war drama, former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq Hans Blix, has also pointed fingers. He recently compared president Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair to insincere salesmen exaggerating the importance of the evidence of WMD they used to promote their attack on Iraq.

One of the few officials with a working knowledge of Iraq's weapons systems to publicly oppose the Bush administration's march to war was Scott Ritter, a former Marine intelligence officer who served as a chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 through 1998. In the years before the war, Ritter challenged the president's assertion 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 Capital Hill blame game and his view of the commission appointed by Mr. Bush to investigate U.S. intelligence failures.

Scott Ritter: What we’re looking at here is a very delicate political ballet taking place. We have three players, I guess we should say four players involved.

We have David Kay. If anybody for a second feels that David Kay’s statements are that of an independent objective observer of the process, they’re mistaken in the extreme. David Kay was handpicked, he’s an ideologue; he’s not a technical expert. He’s an ideologue who was handpicked by the Bush administration to do a job in Iraq that had nothing to do with searching for the truth and had everything to do with spinning facts to the political benefit of the Bush administration. This is why David Kay for some time now has been saying that he was going to find weapons, that there were weapons. And then finally in December of 2003 he had to come clean and say, not only were there no weapons, but you weren’t going to find any weapons. And now he opens up and he passes on the baton to the next player. He says “Don’t blame the president, blame the intelligence community.”

Enter George Tenet. Now George Tenet, the director of the CIA says, “Don’t blame us, we never said that there was an imminent threat, that this is a case of policymakers coming to extreme conclusions based upon the intelligence data we did provide.” Now note there was no angry backlash from the White House, on either what David Kay said or what George Tenet said. In fact the president invited David Kay to a lunch. And the president said George Tenet’s job is secure, he has nothing to fear.

The president organizes a commission to investigate the intelligence failures, keeps it away from policy decision-making issues and then says, “I’m going to give them the time they need to reach a conclusion.” Meaning 2005, after the fall 2004 presidential election.

The president succeeded in taking a very delicate issue, allowing the perception of criticism to occur and then packaging it up and processing it in a manner in which whatever conclusion is reached, if one is ever reached, won’t come out until after the period of vulnerability for the president. That is the election of November 2004. This is the political charade that’s being perpetrated before the American public.

Between The Lines: Scott Ritter, there are many prominent Democrats, among them some who are running for president who voted for the Iraq war resolution, and are a little vulnerable on this issue. Do you think that the Democratic party will call the president’s bluff and publicly state that this commission appointed by the president to look into these intelligence failures is not credible? Or is the American public going to be stuck with what you’re describing as pretty much a sham?

Scott Ritter: No, I don’t believe that there is anybody in the Democratic party right now who has the courage to call the president’s bluff, because they are almost all universally culpable in this war.

John Kerry, so far the leading candidate for the nomination, is somebody who had ample opportunity in the buildup to this war to debate the issue of the threat posed by Iraq etc. Instead of having an honest debate, John Kerry went through the process of a sham hearing using the Senate foreign affairs committee to bring in handpicked witnesses that did nothing more than sustain a foregone conclusion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and represented a threat to the United States worthy of military intervention.

John Kerry did this because in 2002, John Kerry knew that he was going to run for president and he wasn’t going to get himself involved on the wrong side of a political argument. He made what he deemed to be the politically correct choices. Tragically, the men and women of the U.S. armed forces are the ones who are paying a blood price for the politically correct choice of John Kerry and the other Democrats who didn’t have the courage to stand up to the president in 2002.

Between The Lines: What advice do you have for all of us as citizens and what we can do to restore credibility and extricate our country from what some people are calling a quagmire or a sand trap?

Scott Ritter: There will be no elegant solution. We are not going to come out of this smelling good. This is going to hurt. Now, what we need to do is remember where our loyalties lie. And our loyalties lie with the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States armed forces. And the question every American should be asking themselves is: How big do they want the war memorial to be. How many American names do they want carved into whatever memorial will eventually be produced from the war in Iraq?

We are not going to win this war. This war is already lost. So my solution is to get our troops out now! Our presence in Iraq is not a constructive presence. To use an analogy, view Iraq as a nation on fire, from top to bottom, from east to west. The fuel that feeds this fire is the presence of American troops. In order to put the fire out you have to remove the fuel -- get the boys and girls home now!

Do what we can with the international community to try and achieve some sort of stability. But the bottom line is, Iraq is going to have to sort this problem out without a unilateral American occupation.

Scott Ritter's book, "Frontier Justice, Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America," is published by Context Books.

For more information on the campaign to oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, contact United for Peace and Justice at http://www.unitedforpeace.org

Related links:

"Distorting the Intelligence”
"Intelligence Panel's Finances Will Stay Private”
"The Man Who Knows Too Much”
"Bush's Iraq Commission Won't Be Investigating The Key WMD Issue”
"President Stumbles in Reacting to the Public Unraveling of White House Justification for Iraq War"
"The Iraq War & The Bush Administration's Pursuit of Global Domination”
"Secret Pentagon Unit Churned Out Dubious 'Intelligence' Used to Justify Iraq War”

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Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on over 35 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 Feb. 23, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.

PRINT INFORMATION: For reprint permission, please email betweenthelines@snet.net.


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