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Saturday, September 14, 2002

Inconvenient Facts: The Threat v. Ritter et al

Tony Adragna
In arguing on how wrong Scott Ritter is, I keep getting pounded by his supporters who note that we critics are willfuly blind to "inconvenient facts." Reason Express puts it thusly:
Don't be surprised if Scott Ritter gets the full-on demonization treatment. Maybe not this week, maybe not next -- but sometime soon. The former UN weapons inspector and Marine intelligence officer keeps bringing up inconvenient facts that get in the way of the administration's full-court press to attack Iraq.

"The truth is, Iraq is not a threat to its neighbors and it is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside its borders," Ritter has said. "Military action against Iraq cannot be justified.
While those calling the administration on hyperbole — count myself in that crowd — are correct, it's also true that Ritter et al are doing the same.

Let's start with the inconvenient fact that Ritter has done a 180° turn since he left UNSCOM. Indeed, at that time Ritter's stance on Iraq was fully in line with the sentiments of such "hawks" as Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz — just read what Dean Wolfowitz had to say at the same 1998 hearing at which Ritter gave testimony :
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the invitation to testify before this distinguished committee on the important subject of U.S. policy toward Iraq. It is always an honor to appear before this committee, but it is particularly an honor to appear as part of a hearing in which Scott Ritter testifies.

Scott Ritter is a public servant of exceptional integrity and moral courage, one of those individuals who is not afraid to speak the truth, even if powerful people are offended. As an intelligence officer at CENTCOM during the Gulf War, he refused to submit reports that would have substantiated claims made by senior officers in briefings, even though he was pressured to do so, because he knew those claims to be untrue.

Now he is speaking the truth about the failures of the U.N. inspection regime in Iraq, even though those truths are embarrassing to senior officials in the Clinton Administration. And the pressures he is being subjected to are far worse. After first trying to smear his character with anonymous leaks, the Administration then took to charging that Mr. Ritter doesn't "have a clue" about U.S. policy toward Iraq and saying that his criticisms were playing into Saddam Hussein's hands by impugning UNSCOM's independence.
Wolfowitz goes on in that statement to put forth his unchanged position on Iraq — i.e Saddam is The Problem; liberation of the Iraqi people ought be a goal; "decisive action" is needed, even if that means the U.S. acts unilaterally.

If Wolfowitz is no longer willing to speak the same high praise for Ritter, that's not because Ritter has gotten "the full-on demonization treatment." Rather, it's because Ritter turned!

And why is it that "Iraq [...] is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside its borders"? Is it because... ummm... we've been all over Saddam's sorry hide over two thirds of his country, and maintain a force in theatre capable of forcefully responding to Iraqi aggression? Can Ritter tell us what will happen if we remove that counterthreat? We do know that Saddam Hussein has a record as a belligerant neighbor, and has used banned weapons in prior wars and internal conflicts. Ritter et al can't offer a persuasive argument contra those concerns — all they can do is aver that Iraq poses no threat, even if that means avoiding the inconvenient fact that they were either lying then or lying now.

If you've impeached your own testimony, then you've proven yourself a liar — nobody had to do it to Ritter, 'cause he did it to himself much more elegantly than if we had been forced to make it all up.

Inconvenient Facts: Unilateralism v. Multilateralism

Tony Adragna
[Note: the following will be a bit of a ramble, but there's a point at the end, so please bear with me]

Mornin' Will. I've had a chance to chaw over The Hammer's op-ed from yesterday. I really needed to think about a response that gets at the heart of where Charles went wrong. He started off his entry with:
So much for the great Republican split over Iraq. Just weeks ago, we were told that dissenters included the old-guard heavyweights: Brent Scowcroft, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Dick Armey and, heaviest of all, Colin Powell. Let's review the lineup.
Then, after "review[ing] the lineup", he concluded (excluding Armey):
It turns out that the disagreement among Republicans was less about going to Iraq than about going to the United Nations. It was a vastly overblown disagreement, because even the most committed unilateralist would rather not go it alone if possible. Of course you want allies. You just don't want to be held hostage to their veto. And as the first President Bush demonstrated when he declared that the United States would liberate Kuwait unilaterally if necessary, the best way to get allies is to let others know you are prepared to go it alone and let them ponder the cost of missing the train.
Help me out Will — is that a gloss, or a spin? I think it's both.

Of course the disagreement was much overblown by both sides of the debate — sometimes it even went so far as both sides claiming support from the same opinion! I even had a few email exchanges telling me that I was wrong about Mr. Webb's argument because, they say, I misapprehended his argument as as Multilateral when it was actually Anti-War. I spoke in defense of Mr. Carter's argument when others were reading too much between the lines. And, I noted that it's even a stretch to insinuate — as Charles does with his closing line — that Democrats are "looking for an excuse to not go."

But the reason why the disagreement got overblown was because too few people in the center focused on the real disagreement while ideologues on both sides have been getting away with framing moderate disagreement as alternately — depending on which extreme the critic inhabits — war mongering or anti-war.

Look, salient debate on foreign policy since Clinton's first term — at least — has been Unilateralism v. Multilateralism. Between TheWars it was Isolationism (and Pacifism) v. Internationalism. During the Cold War it was Anti-Communism and Containment v. Socialism (read: Social Justice) and Non-Interventionism (read: Anti-War). Those were the proper debates framed in the context of those times,

Now the context has changed, and it's been apparent to anybody who has been following the debate that The Debate has changed, too. The Context is what Bush pere termed — perhaps clumsily — a "New World Order": It's globalization, stupid! We live in a world where we can't afford to act solely in our own interests without regard to the rest of the community. That's an inconvenient fact.

Some few have railed against that fact. I remember hearing a story — it may be urban legend — that a certain United States Senator offered in frustration to lend Mr. Annan a Marine battalion to aid in packing up the entire United Nations and seeing them off. The sentiment — whether or not ever expressed that bluntly — is perfectly in character. I can hear the old senator's thoughts: Geez, you'd think these guys would take a hint — we were kinda hopin' that by not paying our dues they'd cancel our membership.

But, that bitter complaint — a denunciation of multilateralism per se — is no more valid that that of the "anti-globos".

Most others have been critical for more altruistic reasons. These are the folks who have a vision of foreign policy that projects our national interests in values — you know, things like Freedom & Democracy — rather than the traditional "balance of power" interests. The UN shares that vision — on paper anyway — for all nations, and so would be a natural venue in which to work toward that result.

Alas, our hero has a tragic flaw. The UN has too often allowed the principle of "pacific settlement" to blind the world body when confronted by flagrant threats to peace and security. Hiding behind the rose colored glasses of Resolutions, the diplomats have declared the fires under control and retreated to the relative security of "stability".

Yet the threats still present. Continuing the firefighting analogy: A firefighter will never leave the scene 'til every smoldering ember is quenched. Any other approach to firefighting will only have the engines back in time to face an even bigger conflagration. Time and again the UN has taken the wrong approach, or worse — as in Rwanda — not even respond[ed] at all. Certainly the "humanitarian response" — nevermind that 'twould have been much more Human to act sooner in the cause of bringing the killing to an end — was appreciated. But I keep returning to that phrase in the middle.

Rather than looking for an answer to "why not put out the fires", it's perfectly rational to take an alternate approach: I'm not waiting around for the fire dept so long as I got a hose. In other words — Screw the UN if they can't take the heat... I understand that reasoning, and find it cogent. The argument has elicited in myself a desire to go against closely held principle. I've resolved this conflict by recalling my own firefighting training — what's the first thing you do when you see a fire?

If you answer "fight the fire", then you're wrong. The first thing you do is yell Fire, Fire, Fire! Going it alone more often than not results in tragic consequences for self and neighbors. You may in the end be left to fight the fire by yourself, and if you don't step ut to the challenge you're a fool [or afraid]. But let it not be your fault that more harm was done by not sounding the alarm and seeking help. This is a fundamental in firefighting, and when there's disagreement on such basic principles the debate is significant.

This "fundamental" is what The Debate has been about [noting here that "debates" usually reflect rhetorical rather than actual postions]. Charles wants to gloss real differences [in rhetoric] by noting that the disagreement "was less about going to Iraq than about going to the United Nations", then somehow spin that into there was no disagreement. Chuck is late to the game on what the disagreement was all about — probably because while your's truly was noting "who won the argument" back on March 14, he was feeling smug over having pronounced the establishment of "a new American foreign policy based on three distinctive principles: morality, preemption and unilateralism." Can't you just admit that you were wrong, Chuck?

Whether the disagreements over means to get at Iraq were sincere, or just rope a dope type blustering — and I agree that the principals from both Bush administrations were on the same page in re the ends — the debate took place between Unilateralists and Multilateralists, and we know which side won again.

The question now is whether the UN is up to Mr. Bush's challenge — if the world body can't get its "declaratory policy" realized through action, then it's time for a burial. But that failure wouldn't mean the end of multilateralism, because nations still need to consult each other and act in concert as needs arise — even the most "hawkish" Unilateralists will grudgingly concede that point.

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
Former Vice-President Al Gore's 19 year old son was arrested for DWI a few nights ago. My heart goes out to the Gore family, just like it goes out to any family with a child in trouble. It's not easy to be a parent and it's not easy to grow up these days, especially if one is the offspring of a famous couple.

The former vice-president is a private citizen now and his son's arrest garnered scant attention from the media, as it should have. There was more interest in allegedly semi-salacious pics of Chelsea Clinton. That anyone is even following the Clinton's only daughter around is a sad commentary on our faux celebrity culture.

I wonder if any of those who viciously skewered President Bush and his daughters when they had their brushes with the law are having second thoughts now. I wonder if any of them will apologize and acknowledge that it doesn't matter what political party a parent belongs to, what a parent may or may not have done in the past, or what a parent believes now. Every parent is subject to that dreaded call in the night, summoning them to pick up their child after some infraction or, heaven forbid, an accident. I wonder if once and for all we'll let our political leaders have a zone of privacy around their children, in good times and in bad.

Unfortunately, no.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Out on a limb with Bush

Tony Adragna
Hey Will, the "war lust" has been useful, or so says Saletan. I'm inclined to agree.

On unilateralism v. multilateralism, Kagan says we're all a little of both and not quite either. I've been writing for some time now that the Mr. Bush team hasn't been as "unilateral" as rhetoric from both opponents and supporters would have us believe.

Again, just recall how we've acted so far. Tony Blair said it best when he adverted to how we proceded toward Afghanistan after September 11. We had in that set of facts and circumstances a much stronger case for acting unliterally and immediately, yet "[Bush] waited weeks in order to make sure that the action that would be taken was right, he built up international support, he was firm and determined to deal with the issue but dealt with it in the right way."

I don't see any potential that we would act unilaterally in the instant case, notwithstanding the hawkish rhetoric from Cheney et al. Mr. Bush often enough is tagged "Dumbya", but he's not really, and knows that we would have little to no chance of success in such an undertaking — invading Iraq — without international support. In fact, without support from Muslim nations in theatre it would be a near impossible task.

So, what was the point of letting the hawks carry on so? Mr. Cheney's performance last weekend especially made no sense after Mr. Bush's announced intent to take the case to the UN.

You ever heard of putting the fear of God into somebody? That's exactly what all of the bellicose blustering has been about. You think he's got everybody's attention now? Yeah, I think so too...

And the best part is — alotta diplomats probably got thrown for a loop not expecting such a clear and cogent presentation based on principles of international law.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Professor Larry Sabato of UVA and the Center for Politics has updated his "Crystal Ball." The House and the Senate remain very tight. Meanwhile, Mickey Kaus picks up signals that the Democrats aren't so sure of taking the House or keeping the Senate.

I'm surprised there isn't more outrage over voting problems in South Florida, especially from the "Al Gore Was Robbed" crowd. I guess irregularities only matter if your candidate is losing. We all have a stake in fair and efficient voting, no matter what our partisanship. Voting is a local function and local officials need to be held accountable, despite the urge to tar higher officials or engage in wistful conspiracy theories.

Telemarketers supposedly took 9/11 off; it's obvious the email spammers didn't.

The Op-Ed battle for President Bush's soul is over and he has seized the initiative from his critics. I'm sure they are scrambling to find a new strategy and we haven't heard the last of them.

If the president had called for a "regime change" in Afghanistan in 1998, I doubt if he'd found much support for pre-emptive action. I'm sure there would have been apologists for the Taliban and critics of the US's arrogance. Those critics would probably occupy reverse sides of the aisle from the way critics lined up against pre-emptive action versus Iraq. The big difference between 1998 and 2002, though, is 9/11/2001. This nation can't afford to let the enemy take the battle to us first. We know their intentions and we know their capabilities. If other nations of the world don't like pre-emption, blame terrorist supporting states, not the US.

Talk radio yesterday was filled with ads for the debut of George Stephanopolous as sole host of ABC's This Week. Punditwatch is expecting some real razzle-dazzle as the enfant terrible of the Sunday shows tries to create a "buzz."

JulieC upheld the honor of The Refuge in the latest Caption Contest. There is dignity in even the worst pun.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

I Just Can't Help Myself...
Gotta Have Another Helping of Ritter

Tony Adragna
Ritter makes a point of bad mouthing Richard Butler:
But Richard Butler had come to a decision that we couldn't carry out certain activities without the support of the United States. That the United States was somehow our No. 1 backer in the Security Council, and he allowed the United States to start calling the shots. An inspection a little too confrontational, Richard? Why don't we pull the plug on it, buddy, and stop it.
Does that sound like the "honest, objective, independent United Nations official" who Ritter once said was the victim of an UN conspiracy.

Ritter says we don't know nuthin' - ain't got no "hard facts". Ritter, again, in his own words:
Ritter says he and his inspectors were on the verge of a major breakthrough in finding concealed Iraqi weaponry in the summer of 1998 when UN inspections were abruptly halted. That's when Ritter quit, "out of pure frustration." He said that with the help of Israeli intelligence experts he had cracked the Iraqi code and knew what the Iraqis were going to do before they did it. "I finally came up with the solution," Ritter told Ha'aretz. "I broke the code. We untied the Gordian knot. We figured it out. We had the problem solved…We started with nothing and in the end we were down to where we knew when, where, how, why, who and what was happening."
This is what Ritter was there to do — to get around Saddam Hussein's "April, 1991 [presidential directive] ordering that Iraq lie to UNSCOM and the International Atomic Agency so that Iraq could keep its weapons of mass destruction." The unit of UNSCOM that Ritter led was not per se in the business of "inspections", but of using surreptitious methods to gain intelligence on Iraq's undeclaresd activities.

Ritter even made a point of telling us all to "remember that these weapons of mass destruction are protected by the same people that protect the president of Iraq [...] Saddam Hussein's bodyguards hide the weapons. They also protect Saddam Hussein,"

The intel Ritter was getting — if his telling isn't just a bunch of horn blowing — was crucial to the inspectors' mission, he knew it, and — like the inside guy who just wants to get out in the field — he wanted to be at the scene of action. So, tell me again how those special places — Republican Guards compounds, Presidetial Palaces, etc. — had nothing to do with disarmament when those were the very locations from which the "Mafia" style operation was run?

They we're spies, no doubt about it! So, on Jan 18th '98, when the Iraqis accused Ritter of being a spy, they were correct.

So what! Ritter was an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps — he knows how the game is played: You go in with the rest of the crew and hope nobody gives you a second look. When you do get eye balled, you beat a quiet retreat instead of making a lot of noise. You do whatever you can to make sure the mission gets carried forward, even if that means you don't get to be on the mission.

But Ritter didn't do that. And the worst part of Ritter's noise making, as Dr Hamza points out, is that you'd hafta give close to even odds on who did more to bring UNSCOM down: Ritter or Hussein.

I Strenuously Object!

Tony Adragna
Hey Fritz, the reason that Californians oughtn't use so much water washing their clothes is 'cause we don't wear all that much!

How 'bout doing something on the weather, then y'all wouldn't need so many clothes — I never had to have different clothes for different times of the year when I was growing up. I never did 'till I came out here to the land where you get in the car, start driving the interstate, and the next thing you know you're in another state — sheesh, what's with all these little states stuck into pockets between Megalopolis and the ocean. You know — places like Rhode Island and Delaware!

And, what's with yous guys calling that puddle an ocean?

Finally, that's the "Bear Republic" to you, you freakish Delawarean — that's an awful clumsy word to call a people, it doesn't roll off the lips... pick another name!

Mess with my nanny and her cubs are apt to take exception — even if you are correct

[ Hey, just trying to have a little silly fun whilst the world gets terribly serious all around me! Life's gotta go on!]

The Rememberances Have Ended,
Now Let Us Go Forth...

Tony Adragna
Read the case against Iraq, and the President's presentation to the UN — 'tis exactly the correct message, delivered with the proper tone.

Thanks for all the linkage on the Ritter items — y'all know who you are! An especial thanks to John Hudock at Common Sense and Wonder for posting a link to the Richard Butler interview I mentioned the other day. Also gotta mention a shipmate who consistently covers my six — both beams, all quarters, and looking out ahead, too — for being there again with on target salvos of counter-battery fire [note to Bill: No you wouldn't! ]

And, don't forget that there's a certain bit of international support that we can always count on.

Then, there are those who who want to make Mr. Bush — the former and the current — into this story's villains. I've said plenty on where I think both administrations went wrong, and I'm noting that 43 has gotten it together: The din of discord — debate within the administration — is set to be replaced with Churchillian tones.

But whatever criticism might be validly hurled at the Bushes, you can't overlook the inconvenient facts that Hussein is a murderous butcher and Ritter is a contemptable liar...


Wednesday, September 11, 2002


Will Vehrs
Tony, I, too, will let those of eloquence have this day, those like Dodd Harris. And those like William Saletan:

Our efforts to learn from the tragedy are wise; our wish to honor the fallen is noble; our instinct to mark the day is understandable.

And I take it as a great sign of our fundamental national unity that the New York Times today publishes an op-ed by President Bush.

America, home of the brave, land of the free.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Too Tired to Write,
but I'm Not Writing Tomorrow

Tony Adragna
Will, I've decided that I'm going to let tomorrow speak for itself. Everybody else can write about what's changed Since, how we've been affected collectively & individually. Not me — it's a year past, and I still haven't figured out what changed in me that day. I do know that I haven't worked through everything I went through watching the live broadcasts as the second plane went in, seeing the plume of smoke rise from across the Potomac, then returning to the t.v. to see the towers fall, or the replay — I don't remember except what I wrote and saw — grief & anger is all I remember, and seeing the images replayed now is just taking me right back.

If someone more eloquent has something more elegant to say, I'll just sit back and let 'em say...

Re: the articles I pointed to earlier, I think both Lewis & Armstrong are fundamentally correct. I just have a minor problem with Armstrong's essay to the extent that she nuances exactly what it is that Islamic "fundamentalists" want and why they're upset with their own governments, which goes to why they're lashing out at us.

It's not repression per se that al Qaeda & ilk hold against their government. Rather, it's the fact that their governments won't give up links to the West, won't kick out the Western Infidels, but will suppress opposition to those facts. The "fundmaentalists" want not Freedom & Democracy, but the full realization of their vision of Islam, even if that means respressing opposition the their own agenda.

[ I also think Armstrong made too much of watching out for our own fundamentalists — certainly we've got some crazies who use religion to justify murderous violence, but the scope of that problem presents nowhere near the threat that Islamofascism presents]

Just look at bin Laden's closest ideological allies and the "state" they created — the Taliban's Afghanistan...

'Course that isn't what most Muslims want — just look at how Afghans turned against the Taliban, a turnabout which began not too long after the old regime was defeated... "be careful what you wish for" is the old saw that comes to mind, and Afghans who were initially happy with the Taliban's law & order program learned that lesson real well...

I'm wanting to leave the Scott Ritter thing along, but you know how I am when my mits are got into the the meat of a story. What got me now is a clip I saw the other night where Richard Butler accused Ritter of being a liar — Butler said either he was lying to me then, or he's lying now. So, wanting to see a piece of paper showing exactly what Ritter said to Butler, I decided to look at the resignation letter.

Oddly, what Ritter cites as The Problem with which he could not up put then — "diplomacy" where a military confrontation was needed — is the exact opposite of what he now cites. Indeed, he now vigorously asserts the U.S. really just wanted to start bombing, and we're wrong for wanting to do the same now. Truly inexplicable...

I do think Philip Gordon, Martin Indyk, and Michael O'Hanlon are about as right as anybody on going to war in Iraq — issue an ultimatum, get the international community behind it, then go kick some ass. You know, just like we did the first time around, 'cept we gotta finish it this time...

That's all from me 'til Thursday...

Quick Hits

Tony Adragna
No time for weighty thoughts right now, Will — I've actually a paying gig for the next two weeks... God, I need a real job!

In the mean time, I commend to you Karen Armstrong's Fostering a Democratic Islam and Bernard Lewis' Targeted by a History of Hatred...

Today's readings from the peanut gallery are Richard Cohen's War Without Evidence and Scott Ritter's Aug '98 resignation letter.

I think Hinkle was too kind to Fisk — it oughtn't be some other time, but never!... I know, we shouldn't start silencing people, but Fisk really doesn't have anything to say...

I'll be back [late] this evening with some comentary...

Let's Fisk Tonight

Will Vehrs
Robert Fisk speaks tonight, on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, at George Mason University in Fairfax. His talk is entitled, "September 11--Ask Who Did It, But Don't Ask Why." Contrary to the implication of that title, dissent and academic freedom are alive and well in the US.

This morning, Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist A. Barton Hinkle offers a "fisking" of this spectacle:

AN OLD JOKE has it that a liberal is someone who won't even take his own side in a fight. In Fisk's case this actually so.

If Fisk doesn't want to take his own side, fine. If he doesn't want to take the United States' side that's fine, too. And if George Mason wants to hear his views on terrorism and the U.S., great. Universities should be open to all views.

Yet to invite Fisk on the eve of September 11 - a moment of profound solemnity and tribute to the fallen - seems in poor judgment. By all means, let us have spirited debate about the roots of terrorism. But there is a time and a place. You don't hold a funeral for a victim of domestic violence and then ask for some words from a guy who thinks the wench had it coming

Hopefully, in the outpouring of remembrance and respect, Fisk's speech will be little noticed, except as a reminder that the forces of appeasement remain an ally of our sworn enemies.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Update The Last

Tony Adragna
OK, so I lied — one more, then I'm done. Somebody who goes by "Mr. Superbad" points to an outright contradiction:

Iraq, today is not disarmed, and remains an ugly threat to its neighbors and to world peace. Those Americans who think that this is important and that something should be done about it have to be deeply disappointed in our leadership.

Scott Ritter, Sep 3rd 1998


"The truth is Iraq is not a threat to its neighbors and it is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside its borders," Ritter said. "Military action against Iraq cannot be justified."

Scott Ritter, Sep 8th 2002
[A little over] 4 years to the date [ or is that 5 years? — doesn't change the qualitative assesment!], and a complete inexplicable turnaround. And remember, as of Sep '98 he was a "former" inspector.

More Ritterisms...
And Why He's Doin It

Tony Adragna
Again from the CNN interview:
O'BRIEN: When you say that to them -- that it's important to allow these inspections to resume -- what's the reaction?

RITTER: I think the Iraqi government understands that if they do not allow the unconditional return of inspectors with unfettered access, that war is all but inevitable -- that there will be nothing that can stay the hand that President Bush and [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair seem prepared to unleash on Iraq.

And so that's why I've proposed that a mechanism be put forward that provides a confidence-building measure for the Iraqi government so they can allow these inspectors to return unconditionally and give them unfettered access.

Let's keep in mind that the reason why inspectors are out of Iraq isn't because Iraq kicked them out, but rather they were ordered out by the United States after the United States manipulated the inspection process to create a confrontation that led to Operation Desert Fox and then used intelligence information gathered by inspectors to target Iraqi government sites, including the security of Saddam Hussein.

So it's going to take awhile to convince Iraqis that they should once again trust inspectors. But frankly, they have no choice.
Compared to a 1998 Newshour interview:
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Who specifically blocked the investigation?

WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER, JR.: Well, I mean, now we're getting down to who made the phone calls. The bottom line is the people held accountable are the national security policy team of the United States. Policy is made in policy coordination meetings, where the principal people meet. This would be Sandy Berger, the national security adviser; Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state; and other principal personnel from the State Department, from the Department of Defense, from the intelligence community. They will meet and they will decide on policy issues. And it's this body that makes a determination that they needed to basically put pressure on the special commission to slow down, to postpone, to cancel certain operations because they would lead to confrontation, which the United States was not willing to step up to.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And is it your contention that without a significant and realistic threat of military action, Iraq will not allow the investigations to begin again, beyond just the monitoring that's already going on?

WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER, JR.: Well, in this I would only echo the words made by the Secretary-General and other personnel back in February, who said that you couldn't have had the February MOU without the real and credible threat of military force. That's an obvious statement. You can't expect to enforce the law unless you have the means to carry out the enforcement.
This Newshour interview was on the occasion of Ritter's resignation, so he can't say he was "speaking as an inspector".

Now, which is it? Did the U.S. manipulate the situation into a confrontation as Ritter now asserts? Or, were we trying to avoid a confrontation as Ritter then aseerted?

Will some "confidence-building measure" move Iraq toward cooperation? Is it no longer true that "You can't expect to enforce the law unless you have the means" — and, I should add, the feck — "to carry out the enforcement"?

Make up your mind Mister Ritter, if you haven't lost it...

For the record, what actually happened was that Iraq manipulated the situation into a confrontation, and the U.S. did step up to the plate — that's what Operation Desert Fox was all about.

Of course, Desert Fox came in December after Ritter's [August] claim that the U.S. wasn't willing to confront Iraq. So, Ritter had to change his story to make it fit what happened to wit: Iraq was trying to comply and we were just trying to get at Desert Fox.

Seth Gitell at the Boston Phoenix has been on Ritter's case too:
[...]It’s true that former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter now maintains — as stated in a July 20 Boston Globe op-ed piece — that he was able to verify a 90 to 95 percent level of Iraqi disarmament regarding these weapons. But Ritter is no longer a credible source on Iraq. The reason is simple: everything Ritter is now saying about Iraq directly contradicts everything he said about Iraq back in 1998 when Hussein kicked him out of that country. Those who believe in Ritter might say that he was in the thrall of the defense establishment back then, and can only now tell the truth. But this requires too great a leap of faith. For me, Ritter is the David Brock of foreign affairs — not worth listening to.[bold emphasis added — eds thank Croooow Blog for the heads-up]
I think I've done Seth one better: Ritter's statements since after he resigned aren’t even consistent.

And since everybody's having to explain "why now" whenever they go after somebody, the answer in my case is: I started on Ritter in March, and this is "the full argument" I promised then. As I noted, what piqued my interest — what gave me that funny feeling in my tummy — was remembering a Think Tank show where Mr. Wattenberg called Ritter on his changing story
BW:[...] This is what you wrote in December of 1998: “Even today Iraq is not nearly disarmed. Based on highly credible intelligence, UNSCOM suspects that Iraq still has biological agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, the clostridium perfinogens”--which I surely know what that means—“in sufficient quantity to fill several bombs and ballistic missile warheads, as well as the means to continue manufacturing these deadly agents stored in artillery shells, bombs, and ballistic missile warheads”--and it goes on and on. Now, that’s pretty damning, particularly if they had that then and they’ve had three more years with no inspection. I don’t get it why you can now say that it’s no problem; there’s no credible threat to the United States. Don’t they still have that?

Scott Ritter: Well first of all, I never said they had them. I said there was credible intelligence information that suggested that Iraq might be maintaining this. And as a weapons inspector, remember I headed the team that investigated all of this intelligence information. It was our job so long as the Security Council would not accept the technical findings of the special commission, which had ninety to ninety-five percent of Iraq’s known capability accounted for and insisted that we continue to investigate to account for the remaining five to ten percent. That as long as such intelligence information existed, it was our job to go into Iraq and investigate this. And that was all I was trying to do, and that’s what I was prevented from doing.
Well first of all Ritter did say "they had them" — that’s exactly what “Even today Iraq is not nearly disarmed" means. "Highly credible intelligence" means you have information that you believe to be true. He goes on to admit in responding to Wattenberg that of Iraq's "known capability" — not "suspected" but "known" — five to ten percent was unaccounted for. I don't know how Ritter twists that into "I never said they had them."

What I do know is that Ritter's whole argument is so convoluted — we know they have capability; a certain amount is unaccounted for; I'm not saying they have the capability — that it boggles the mind trying to figure out exactly what he believes. Some may say I’m twisting Ritter’s words, but it’s actually untwisting that I’m doing.

I don't think Ritter knows what he believes — I think he's making it up as he goes...

Why is he doing it? Go back to the Newshour interview:
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Mr. Ritter, there were-were there requests to specifically withdraw you?

WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER, JR.: Again, I'm not going to avoid the issue. The bottom line is that because of Iraq's choosing, they have painted me as a troublemaker in an effort to distract the world's attention away from its failure-Iraq's failure to abide by its disarmament obligations. In doing so they made me a lightning rod for attention, and there many in the U.S. administration of Madeleine Albright included, who felt that my inclusion on certain inspections would attract attention and would become the cause for conflict, and they felt that it should be the inspections, not the inspector, that are at issue, but they just don't get it. The executive chairman is the one who dictates who will be chief inspector, not Iraq. The executive chairman picks the personnel who are best qualified to do the job, not Iraq. And when the executive chairman says that Scott Ritter will be the one who heads his team and Iraq doesn't agree, I think that's an issue worth fighting for, not because of Scott Ritter, but because it's the executive chairman and his appointed leader that's being affected.
See, Ritter wasn’t “recalled” like everybody else — he was expelled. When all of the America-haters pointed at Ritter as a “troublemaker”, he felt like a fall guy. He points to the U.S. administration not backing him personally as a problem. But, I thought the important point was to get the inspections going? To hear Ritter tell it, defense of executive prerogative — Mr. Butler’s — and of Ritter’s own position were more important than the inspections.

But now he says: It’s the inspections, stupid!

I think Ritter’s carrying a grudge against the U.S. over what happened to him personally, especially on the FBI investigation going back to Jan ’97. For Ritter this isn’t about principle & sincere difference of opinion — It’s the foreign policy equivalent of “going postal” on his old bosses!

I'll say no more of Ritter now...

Correction: This entry has been edited to change "April" to "August" -- the Newshour transcript linked to clearly read August, but you'rs truly just typed the wrong month.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Update: Scott Ritter Prevaricates,
Evidence of Same to Follow

Reconcile what Ritter says in the article cited in the post below:
[...]1995, Iraq threatened to sever relations with the UN weapons inspectors, only to have the crisis shift gears with the defection of Hussein Kamal; 1996, Iraq confronted weapons inspectors over the issue of access to "sensitive sites," forcing a compromise reducing the effectiveness of the inspection regime, and Iraq invades Kurdistan, routing CIA-backed coup plotters; 1997, Iraq again blocked the work of weapons inspectors, this time over the issue of inspector access to so-called "Presidential Sites"; and 1998, Iraq refused to cooperate with the weapons inspectors, prompting a confrontation which led to military action and the final expulsion of the inspection personnel.[emphasis added]
With what he says in the CNN interview:
O'BRIEN: But the situation had become untenable for those inspectors, it's worth reminding our viewers. You're taking that a bit out of context. The inspectors, at that juncture, weren't really able to do their job properly, were they?

RITTER: No, absolutely false. The inspectors were able to do their task of disarming Iraq without any obstruction by Iraq.
Let's keep in mind that from 1994 to 1998, the weapons inspectors carried out ongoing monitoring inspections of the totality of Iraq's industrial infrastructure. And at no time did Iraq obstruct this work.

The obstruction only came when weapons inspectors sought to gain access to sites that Iraq deemed to be sensitive. And many of these sites -- including intelligence facilities, security facilities, Saddam Hussein's palaces -- had nothing whatsoever to do with weapons of mass destruction.

So we've got to put this in its proper perspective. Yes, there were obstructions. But this obstruction had little, if anything, to do with actual disarmament.
If the failure to inspect these sites was of such little significance, then why did he previously note when speaking of those same sites that Iraq forced "a compromise reducing the effectiveness of the inspection regime"?

He can't even keep the story straight!

Scott Ritter Knows,
and That Makes His Argument Most Disturbing

Tony Adragna
Thanks for alerting me to the FOXNews coverage, Will — you know I leave the Sunday shows to you. I read the transcript, and Powell was reponding to the following clip:
SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government and others has not to date been backed up by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for attacking the United States. Void of such facts, all we have is speculation.
Powell does Mister Ritter the courtesy of simply suggesting that Mister Ritter is misguided.

I say Mister Ritter is pursuing a personal agenda, and he's lying! Mister Ritter knows all too well that there's no logical nor factual basis for the conclusion he implies — he gets away with it by saying there are no "hard facts", but he conveniently skips over why there are none:
The nine past Hot Seasons underscore this: 1991, Iraq obstructed weapons inspectors hunting Iraq's undeclared nuclear program; 1992, Iraq blocked inspectors from gaining access to a cache of proscribed documents hidden in the buildings of the Iraqi Agriculture Ministry; 1993, Iraq interfered with the installation of cameras at ballistic missile test sites; 1994, Iraq moved troops towards the Kuwait border in an attempt to trade the recognition of that border for an easing of sanctions; 1995, Iraq threatened to sever relations with the UN weapons inspectors, only to have the crisis shift gears with the defection of Hussein Kamal; 1996, Iraq confronted weapons inspectors over the issue of access to "sensitive sites," forcing a compromise reducing the effectiveness of the inspection regime, and Iraq invades Kurdistan, routing CIA-backed coup plotters; 1997, Iraq again blocked the work of weapons inspectors, this time over the issue of inspector access to so-called "Presidential Sites"; and 1998, Iraq refused to cooperate with the weapons inspectors, prompting a confrontation which led to military action and the final expulsion of the inspection personnel. If one includes the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, we have a decade of Hot Seasons which have shaped the world's relationship with Iraq.
Those are Mister Ritter's own words from "Iraq's Hot Season, Redux", written for The American Spectaor in '99 [ American Spectator Archives don't go back that far, but it's a safe assumption that Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI) reproduced the text without fault]

After recounting the history of Iraq's intransigence, Mister Ritter goes on to blame the U.S. — specifically Mr. Clinton (Ritter is a registered Republican, by the way) — for the UNSCOM's failure by alternately pursuing an agenda other than the one "ostensibly" purported and allowing Iraq "the last laugh" on having "lure[d] the Americans into a trap..."

And it's not even clear the there are no "hard facts"Mister Ritter can't even brimg himself to argue that Iraq has no banned weapons, arguing instead, "My personal feeling is that Iraq is qualitatively disarmed and the Security Council should reassess its position." Why should there be a reassessment on "qualitative" grounds? What was wrong with the original quantitative condition — i.e. Iraq must dismantle her banned weapons program and destroy all existing banned weapons.

There's nothing wrong with the original condition but that Saddam Hussein won't comply, and Mister Ritter's suggestion is nothing more than capitualtion to non-compliance. What signal does that send to the Iraqi regime? I don't need to answer that...

For the record, I agree that sanctions & containment aren't the answer, and allow (but aren't responsible for) more harm. But Mister Ritter is a naif if he believes that Iraq will of a sudden begin complying if we just did away with those counter-productive policies. Tony Blair had the best answer to that suggestion:
[...] if this was a regime that was trying to acquire these weapons of mass destruction but had a record of peaceful co-existence with its neighbours, well you might take a slightly different view, but it is not, it is a regime that every time it is allowed out of its box basically starts a war of aggression.[emphasis added]
Mister Ritter knows Iraq's record vis a vis belligerance & banned weapons, and yet he still makes arguments that don't fit those facts & circumstances. Why?

I don't know! I've seen it suggested — one of Glenn Reynolds' readers emailed me that same WaPo story — that Mister Ritter is in essence Hussein's hired gun. That suggestion may be true, but I think it's a marriage of convenience [ rather than the suggested employment relationship] — Hussein's agenda is to get out of the box, Mister Ritter's agenda is that of any other disgruntled employee making argument against those he believes are responsible for his lack of position. And Iraq still get's the last laugh on Mister Ritter — he fell right into their trap, and they're playing him for the fool he is.

Follow-up on "Occupation" It's been suggested that when I drew distinction between period of occupation in Japan & Germany v. what we were doing there all the rest of the time ("We've had forces in those countries for that peiod of time, but the period of 'occupation' was..."), that I was making a distinction without a differencedoesn't matter why we're still there, only that we are.

Gimme a break! The "why" is material: what we've done in those countries since the occupation ended is present opposition to potential belligerants (China & the Soviet Union). If we do end up needing to face down countries other than Iraq in the region — Gen. Pace's list — then doesn't it make sense to have a large force in the region?

Powell Tackles Ritter on Punditwatch

Will Vehrs
Because of the start of the Redskins' season and an ill-timed second grade birthday party, Punditwatch is up a bit late.

Tony, I hope you saw Secretary of State dismiss Scott Ritter on Fox News Sunday. That's in there, as is a rundown of the latest Iraq spin and a farewell to Sam and Cokie.

Oh, and Shields and Brooks are back. All's right with the pundit world.

Scott Ritter to America — Go Screw Yourselves!

America to Scott Ritter — Get A Clue!

I don't need any explaining why Ritter is in Baghdad. What I don't understand is how he's reached the opinion he holds — it's contrary to logic and evidences a lack of just plain ol' common sense!

Where does Ritter get off pointing to how the U.S. would be violating international law at the same time that he refuses to acknowledge Iraq has violated international law on numerous occasions in the past? Ritter points to a founding principle of the UN — the pacific settlement of conflicts — without noting that Hussein has never given that same principle any heed. Hussein's belligerance violated that principle in going to war against Iran, and the invasion of Kuwait is what started us down this current path a decade ago!

How about the obligation of UN member nations with respect to actions of the Council — to wit, Iraq is currently in violation of international law.

What significance does Ritter give Iraq's history vis a vis the use of weapons banned in warfare — those Conventions banning chemical & biological weapons are international law.

Moreover, Ritter repeats the canard that the U.S. is rushing headlong into "unilateral action" — notwithstanding rehtoric from hawks, that simply isn't on the agenda and Ritter ought know better. Maybe he does know better...