When I heard that Scott Ritter was appearing at a nearby library, I made sure I was going to be there. How often do you get to shake the hand of someone who tried with all his power to prevent a war that has tragically damaged our country's place in the world. The talk was part of his book tour for "Target Iran" which lays out the parallels between the run up to Iraq and what he sees happening now with Iran.
Ritter, a retired combat Marine officer is proud to say he is no pacifist, giving even greater impact to the words he speaks. I videoed about ten minutes of his talk to share with the readers here. While we are part of his "choir" that he is preaching to, his words, his passion, just may light the fire under those elected officials who can cancel the second act of an increasingly tragic drama.
Here are a few points that Ritter made:
The invasion of Iraq was the end stage of the larger movement for "regime change" that began during the Clinton administration. He has no respect for those Senators who voted for the Iraqi War Resolution, but has some extra antipathy for Hillary Clinton among those who are vying for the Democratic nomination.
He has worked closely with Israel over the years and considers himself a supporter of that country. He views AIPAC as separate from the state of Israel. He says some of his Israeli friends say, ironically, that AIPAC (the American Group) is willing to defend their country to the last drop of each Israeli's blood. He also said that Israel never felt that Iraq was a real threat, but they do see Iran as the ultimate danger, even if it is not immediate.
He rejects the accepted wisdom that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. He sees them pursuing a legitimate need for alternate energy sources once their oil is depleted. He points out that during the Ford administration the Shah of Iran was being supported in this quest by the then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld (same man, both the youngest and the oldest in his two stints in that position). The U.S. also agreed at that time that Iran should be able to produce their own enriched uranium so they would have a protected source. Ritter also points out that despite public perception, Iran has not withdrawn from the Non Proliferation Treaty. What Iran is now doing is under IAEC inspection, with their reports, which support his thesis, available on the Internet.
He was also asked about his reaction to 9-11 conspiracy theories. He starts off his response on a jocular vein saying that the U.S. Government could never pull off such a complex activity with the degree of competence to make it work. Ritter is an outgoing guy with friends in all walks of life. He knows building demolition professionals. He spoke to a man who saw with his own eyes the plane that crashed into the pentagon. He lived with the fire fighters who were in the World Trade Center. As much as he deplores the illegitimate use that Bush made of our country's response to 9-11, he expresses, with due courtesy that he shows to everyone, his conviction that conspiracy theories about that day of infamy have no basis in fact.
Of all those who have written about the Iraq war, Scott Ritter is the only one who spent years walking the streets of that country and breaking down the doors of suspected WMD stores. He combines a steely toughness with a natural ease, a complete absence of pomposity, a clear analytical mind, and the courage to speak truth to power. The failure of our country to heed his warning in 2003 is not a reflection on any failures of this man, but says volumes about the defects of our nation. We cannot afford to make the same mistake a second time. But it seems like we are about to do exactly that.
Scott Ritter, over the course of his contentious career, has had all of his flaws, all of his inconsistencies, all of his human failings exposed to the glare of public exposure. The guy is no saint. He is certainly not a pacifist. But, when you try to place him on the common continuum anchored at the extremes by "Hawk" and "Dove," you can't. He puts the need for military might in the appropriate ever-changing context of actual world events. He is for a strong military, but to be used only under those circumstances when peaceful means of resolution are exhausted.
Trained as an intelligence analyst he sees all organizations in functional terms, noting their weaknesses and strengths. Although having in the past been identified with Republicans, he is no party loyalist. This allows him to criticize a Republican President who would continue to support an incompetent Secretary of Defense, as well as a Democratic Speaker who would appoint a clueless head of the Intelligence Committee.
If we want to place Scott Ritter on some scale, some continuum, we have to invent a new one. On one extreme are those who, if they vote at all, decide by slogans, not having any better information, since their free time is spent on the dross of our mass culture. Going up this dimension we have people who try to stay informed, try to get the best people elected by working and contributing, and maybe even writing articles. Then we have people who actually make the great effort and sacrifice to run for office. And higher still are those who maintain their integrity once they attain their electoral goal.
And at the top, you would have those who fight for their beliefs even when most of his fellow citizens are contemptuous of them; someone who is willing to die for his country if necessary, who never stops learning and sharing his observations, never stops trying to make his country live up to its ideal. I have a word for that end point. It is a word that, however debased by becoming a label for its antithesis, captures an ideal that we need to revere no matter how disappointed we become with the state of our political culture The word, the label I would use for Scott Ritter, is Patriot.
Here's the ten minute segment of the speech I promised you.