Was Ritter Right?

| April 2003

Last fall, former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter was publicly vilified for claiming that Saddam Hussein could not have rebuilt his chemical and biological weapons programs after the last Gulf War. Today, reports Andrew Gumbel in the London-based The Independent, Ritter?s stance seems a lot more plausible than that of the Bush administration.

Ritter asserted before the U.S. invasion of Iraq that 90-95 percent of Iraqi ?weapons of mass destruction? were destroyed during his seven-year stint as aU.N. inspector and that international sanctions combined with US and British surveillance made it all but impossible for the programs to resume. Mainstream American media called him ?disloyal.? Cable news host Curtis Sliwa called him a ?sock puppet? who should ?turn in his passport for an Iraqi one.?

But it may be time for Americans ?to reassess who exactly has been the deceiver and who the dupe in this whole affair,? writes Gumbel. Citing a ?pattern of false information emanating from both Washington and London since last September,? Gumbel alleges the misinformation that ?launched a major war? is only now gaining wider exposure. Such lies, according to Gumbel, include:

  • Vice President Cheney?s speech last summer to the Veteran of Foreign Wars, in which he stated, ?The Iraqi regimes has been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological warfare.? Ritter classified this statement as ?pure fiction.?
  • A brief issued last fall by British Prime Minister Tony Blair?s administration, alleging Iraq had purchased uranium for nuclear weapons from Niger. The International Atomic Energy Agency has since deemed the documentation of this purchase as ?glaringly obvious fakes.? As the release of this misinformation coincided with the congressional vote giving President Bush permission to invade Iraq, angry congressional leaders?including Rep. Henry Waxman of California?are demanding an explanation as to why they were misled.
  • A list of ?dangerous substances? that President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed were unaccounted for, including 15,000 liters of anthrax that was ?a hypothetical projection of future production? of a biological plant that was already closed. Ritter debunked the list as ?another distortion.?

Gumbel concludes that although Ritter has not ?been vindicated quite yet,? as it?s still possible that evidence of these weapons could materialize, the ?pattern of deception and unsubstantiated allegation is unmistakable, even as the political embarrassment for the Bush administration deepens.?

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