Scott Ritter: Reflections

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of President Bush’s launch – in defiance of the UN Security Council – of a war of aggression against Iraq, the New York Times asked nine "experts on military and foreign affairs" to "reflect" now upon their positions taken then.

Several of the nine NYT "experts" had been demanding for years "regime change" in Iraq, by force, "if necessary." None of the nine had actually opposed invading Iraq.

So, you can guess how guilt-ridden they all are, upon reflection, now that Operation Iraqi Freedom has been revealed to be "the greatest strategic disaster" in our history.


But, you probably wouldn’t have guessed the nature of the reflections of a true "expert"; Scott Ritter, former Chief Inspector of the UN Commission on Iraq, who wasn’t asked by the NYT to reflect. The reflections are entitled "My Dinner With Ahmed", and you really should read them. Or re-read them following this prologue.

After passage of UN Security Council Resolution 686 in 1991 – the Gulf War “cease-fire” resolution – UN observers had entered Iraq and discovered that Saddam Hussein was in substantial noncompliance with several UN arms-limitation conventions, most especially the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Their discoveries led to Resolution 687.

Resolution 687 imposed economic sanctions that were not to be lifted until Iraq was once again in substantial compliance with all UN arms conventions, including the NPT. All chem-bio weapons and agents and the facilities capable of making them were to be destroyed – under the supervision of the UN Special Commission – and never rebuilt. All nuclear facilities – peaceful and otherwise – were to be destroyed – under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency – and never rebuilt.

Then, in 1995, Gen. Hussein Kamal – director of Iraq’s nuke, chem-bio and missile programs and Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law – defected to Jordan.

Kamal was "debriefed" in Jordan by Rolf Ekeus, Chairman of UNSCOM and Chief Inspector Maurizio Zifferero of the IAEA.

It turned out that shortly after the Gulf War cease-fire, Kamal – at Saddam Hussein’s direction – had ordered the destruction of all Iraqi chem-bio weapons, the makings thereof and the missiles to deliver them. He also ordered the destruction of those facilities – that had not already been destroyed in the Gulf War – associated with Saddam’s attempt to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Quoth Kamal; "Nothing remained."

A military aide who defected with Kamal supported Kamal’s assertions. Furthermore, Kamal had brought thousands of supporting documents with him.

By late 1997, the IAEA was able to report to the Security Council that "based upon all credible information to date" – which we now know included that provided by Kamal – they had formed a technically coherent picture of Iraq’s "clandestine nuclear program."

There were "no indications" that Iraq "had produced more than a few grams of weapon-usable nuclear material," much less the tens of thousands of grams absolutely required to make even one nuclear weapon. Furthermore, "there are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of weapon-usable material of any practical significance."

However, in late 1997, the situation with respect to physical capability for the future production of chem-bio agents was more complicated because commercial bakeries and aspirin factories could be relatively easily and quickly converted to make them. That is, if the Iraqis decided to do so.

Hence, on January 26, 1998, a bunch of what were then called "warhawks" sent an open letter to President Clinton, excerpted below;

"Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction.

"In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing.

"In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.

"That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy."

The "letter" to President Clinton was signed by Elliott Abrams, Richard L. Armitage, William J. Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Peter W. Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, William Schneider Jr., Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, Robert B. Zoellick.

So, now that you’re primed, please go read – or re-read – Ritter’s "My Dinner With Ahmed", said dinner occurring six months later, in June,1998, in Georgetown.

And, once you’ve read that mind-blowing account, please attend to excerpts from Scott Ritter’s address in September of 2002 to a special session of the Iraqi National Assembly’s Arab and Foreign Relations Committee in Baghdad.

“My country seems on the verge of making an historic mistake, one that will forever change the political dynamic which has governed the world since the end of the Second World War; namely, the foundation of international law as set forth in the United Nations Charter, which calls for the peaceful resolution of problems between nations…

“As someone who counts himself as a fervent patriot and a good citizen of the United States of America, I feel I cannot stand by idly, while my country behaves in such a fashion…

“My government is making a case for war against Iraq that is built upon fear and ignorance, as opposed to the reality of truth and fact.

“We, the people of the United States, are told repeatedly that we face a grave and imminent risk to our national security from a combination of past irresponsible behaviour on the part of Iraq and ongoing efforts by Iraq to re-acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic weapons … which have been banned since 1991 by a Security Council resolution…

“The truth of the matter is that Iraq has not been shown to possess weapons of mass destruction, either in terms of having retained prohibited capability from the past, or by seeking to re-acquire such capability today…

“Iraq must loudly reject any intention of possessing these weapons and then work within the framework of international law to demonstrate this [to be] a reality.

"The only way that Iraq can achieve this is with the unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors, allowing such inspectors unfettered access to sites inside Iraq in order to complete the disarmament tasks as set forth in Security Council resolutions…"

So, in November 2002, the Security Council passed UNSCR-1441 which afforded – according to President Bush – Iraq "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council."

As we now know, Iraq immediately seized upon that opportunity to prove to the Security Council and the world that it had done so, almost a decade before.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.