Ritter opposes U.S. involvement in Iraq

Jessie Markovetz

BRYN MAWR – It’s been four years since Scott Ritter has been to Iraq, yet to hear the former U.N. chief weapons inspector discuss whether or not the United States should go to war, it’s clear he hasn’t lost his passion.

“Should a single American die [fighting Iraq]? Hell no,” he said.

“They must be compliant with weapons inspectors … if they [have weapons of mass destruction] we’ll find the trace evidence, which is all we need.”

Ritter addressed Bryn Mawr College on Wednesday night in the Marie Salant Neuberger Centennial Campus Center as part of the college’s series of lectures on Iraq.

Ritter, who publicly resigned from his post as a weapons inspector in 1998, spent 12 years in military intelligence, becoming a major in the Marine Corps, before leaving to perform inspections for the United Nations in 1991.

During his tenure he completed more than 30 inspections, leading 14 of them.

Prior to his resignation, Iraq accused Ritter of being a spy. He was consequently denied escort to suspected weapons facilities, preventing his team from completing their objectives. Iraq’s frustration with the inspection program was visited upon Ritter as well – he was held at gunpoint and pelted with fruit on various missions.

At a press conference earlier Wednesday afternoon, Ritter decried U.S. corruption of the weapons inspection program, saying data supplied by his inspection teams was used to destroy Iraq’s infrastructure after it was determined that weapons construction capabilities were crippled. “In 1998 … 100 percent of the facilities used to make weapons of mass destruction had been eliminated,” he said.

“I don’t know what Iraq has today … I believe they have the capability to produce chemical weapons on a small scale.”

While the weapons capability of Iraq is unknown, Ritter believes inspection, not war, is the key to handling the issue, likening the American threat of war to the execution of a suspect who has not been tried.

“The U.S. policy of regime removal pollutes the process of disarming Iraq,” Ritter said.

The United States’ calls for a regime change are outside the bounds of U.N. charter; accordingly, Ritter said a different approach must be taken for peace in the region.

“For this to work, there needs to be a third party … to ensure neither side deviates.”

This is particularly important to Ritter because of the lies he claims the American government has fabricated about Iraq. He denied the link between Iraqi officials and al-Qaeda, including an incompletely reported story about supposed Iraqi medical aid to an alleged terrorist.

Ritter also pointed out Osama bin Laden’s hatred of Saddam Hussein’s secular government, which has been at odds with bin Laden’s fundamentalist group for years.

Congress, ceding the power to declare war to the president, also infuriated Ritter.

“Our most basic obligation has been turned over to the president,” he said.

“This is a failure of Congress and democracy … I would hope the American people hold their officials accountable.”