Was Ritter Right?

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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