Trent Hawkins and Nathan Verney
Many pro-war politicians attribute the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to mistakes made by Western intelligence agencies. For Scott Ritter, former chief United Nations weapon inspector in Iraq between 1991-98, it was "deliberate deception" designed to force regime change.
Ritter has been in Australia promoting his new book, Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein. Green Left Weekly caught up with him on November 30.
Ritter said that after President Bush Snr laid waste to Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, his government voted for UN economic sanctions on Iraq while disarming the country. Comprehensive weapons inspections by the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) virtually eliminated Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capability by 1998, a fact the CIA also recognised, Ritter said. Despite this, the primary reason Washington gave for the 2003 invasion was Iraq's supposed stockpile of WMDs.
"These were politicised intelligence reports designed to sustain a policy of regime change, as opposed to being a genuine effort to disarm Iraq. We had fundamentally disarmed Iraq; we had accounted for 90-95% of their WMDs." The primary motivating factor for Washington's disarmament policy, Ritter said, was "to provide justification for initiating actions that would terminate the regime of Saddam Hussein".
Asked about recent revelations surrounding the US military's use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium munitions in Iraq, Ritter replied that the main issue remained the illegal nature of the invasion — the ultimate war crime. "The crime isn't the use of white phosphorous; the crime is American troops in Iraq pummeling Falluja in violation of international law. When we set the military loose they're gonna do their job, they're gonna terminate life."
In 2002, Ritter joined millions of others around the world opposing the pending invasion of Iraq. Under Australia's new terror laws, modelled on the US Patriot Act, this could now be considered an act of "sedition". "I could have been arrested in 2002 for speaking out against the war, even though I spoke the truth", Ritter said.
Ritter said he had information that Bush had ordered the Pentagon to complete preparations for military strikes on Iran by June this year, under the cover of unilateral action provoked by an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Ritter was concerned by the parallels in US policy towards Iraq and Iran. "There's no sense in talking about disarmament, the rule of law and non-proliferation, if the US govenrment's objective isn't to mitigate this", Ritter said. "What we're seeing is a case of criminal deception on Iraq and Iran, with the US only seeking regime change, and continuing to undermine the genuine international security objectives of non-proliferation and disarmament."
Should the US troops be withdrawn? "We're not defending democracy; we're just making matters worse in Iraq. The continuing presence of American and Coalition forces is only exacerbating the situation", he said.
And a final word of advice: "If you want to truly safeguard Australia from terror, Australia needs to re-examine its relationship with the United States, at least with the Bush administration, and stop getting involved in activities abroad that create animosity towards Australia."
[Iraq Confidential is published by Nation Books.]
From Green Left Weekly, December 7, 2005.
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