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2005-10-21

Scott Ritter on the Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein

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We speak with Scott Ritter, the chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998 about his new book: "Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein." It details how the CIA manipulated and sabotaged the work of UN departments to achieve the foreign policy agenda of the United States in the Middle East. [includes rush transcript]

In a major article in The New York Times this weekend, reporter Judith Miller admitted she was wrong when she wrote several of the key articles that claimed Iraq had an extensive weapons of mass destruction program ahead of the 2003 invasion. Miller wrote, "W.M.D. — I got it totally wrong. The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them — we were all wrong." Today we are joined by someone who was not wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–Scott Ritter. He was the United Nations" top weapons inspector in Iraq at UNSCOM between 1991 and 1998. Before working at the UN he served as an officer in the US marines and as a ballistic missile adviser to General Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf war.

Scott Ritter has just published a new book titled "Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein." The book details how the CIA manipulated and sabotaged the work of UN departments to achieve the foreign policy agenda of the United States in the Middle East.

  • Scott Ritter, was the United Nations’ top weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998. Before working for the UN he served as an officer in the US marines and as a ballistic missile adviser to General Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf war. He is author of a new book, just out, titled "Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!

SCOTT RITTER: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, what do you think is the greatest misunderstanding of the American people right now about what has happened in Iraq?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, first of all, the reason that we’re there. They think that this was an accident, that this was a noble cause, that people like the President, like Bill Clinton before him, like their respective administrations, journalists like Judith Miller just honestly got it wrong. And I don’t think — you know, here we are today in Iraq, and it’s a disaster. I don’t think anybody’s going to debate that statement. Some people say though, ’We’re working towards a continuation of this noble objective. We got rid of Saddam Hussein. That’s a good thing. And now we’re going to try to build on that good.’ And I’m not going to debate whether or not getting rid of Saddam Hussein is a good thing or not. But, you know, if you embrace the notion of the ends justify the means, that’s about as un-American a notion as you can possibly get into.

We’re talking about solving a problem. We have yet to define the problem. And the problem isn’t just what’s happening in Iraq but it’s the whole process that took place in the United States leading up to the war, this dishonest process of deliberately deceiving the American public. And it’s not just George W. Bush. For eight years of the Clinton administration, that administration said the same things. The C.I.A. knew, since 1992, that significant aspects of the Iraqi weapons programs had been completely eliminated, but this was never about disarmament.

AMY GOODMAN: How did they know this?

SCOTT RITTER: They knew it, (a) because of their own access to intelligence information, and (b) because of the work of the weapons inspectors. In October of 1992, I personally confronted the C.I.A. on the reality that we had accounted for all of Iraq’s ballistic missile programs. That same year they had an Iraqi defector who had laid out the totality of the Iraqi biological weapons program and had acknowledged that all of the weapons had been destroyed. The C.I.A. knew this.

But, see, the policy wasn’t disarmament. The policy was regime change. And disarmament was only useful insofar as it facilitated regime change. And that’s what people need to understand, that this was not about getting rid of weapons that threatened international peace and security. This has been about, since 1991, solving a domestic political embarrassment. And that is the continued survival of Saddam Hussein, a man who in March 1990 was labeled as a true friend of the American people and then in October 1990 in a dramatic flip-flop was called the Middle East equivalent of Adolf Hitler.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You were involved for quite a long time with UNSCOM. At what point did you, as you were working for the United Nations, reach the conclusion that regime change really was the intent of the program that — well, the United States intent behind the program that you were involved with?

SCOTT RITTER: It wasn’t a matter of reaching a conclusion. When I joined in September of 1991, that was already the stated policy of the United States government. I outlined this in the book. The fact that in April 1991, the United States helps draft and then votes in favor of a Chapter 7, Resolution 687, that creates the weapons inspections, call upon Iraq to disarm and in Paragraph 14 says if Iraq complies, economic sanctions will be lifted. This is the law.

A few months later, the President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and hia Secretary of State say economic sanctions will never be lifted against Iraq, even if they comply with their obligation to disarm, until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power. It’s the stated policy of the United States government. What we weren’t quite aware of is just to what extreme they would go in undermining the credibility and integrity of the United Nations inspection process to achieve this objective.

AMY GOODMAN: Something that has been repeated over and over again is that Saddam Hussein kicked out the U.N. weapons inspectors. Can you tell us what happened?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, there are several periods of time, but the most dramatic one is the December 1998 period right before Bill Clinton got on national TV, talked about the threat of W.M.D. and said he is launching an air campaign, 72 hours of bombardment called Operation Desert Fox. No, Saddam did not kick the inspectors out. Actually, what was happening at that point in time is that the Iraqi government was complying with every single requirement set forth by the Security Council and the inspectors. They were cooperating with the inspectors, giving the inspectors access, in accordance to something called the "modalities of sensitive site inspections."

You know, public perception is the Iraqis were confrontational and blocking the work of the inspectors. In 98% of the inspections, the Iraqis did everything we asked them to because it dealt with disarmament. However, when we got into issues of sensitivity, such as coming close to presidential security installations, Iraqis raised the flag and said, "Time out. We got a C.I.A. out there that’s trying to kill our president, and we’re not very happy about giving you access to the most sensitive installations and the most sensitive personalities in Iraq." So we had these modalities, where we agreed that if we came to a site the Iraqis called them 'sensitive,' we go in with four people.

In 1998, the inspection team went to a site. It was the Baath Party headquarters. It was like going to Republican Party headquarters or Democratic Party headquarters. The Iraqis said, "You can’t come in — you can come in. Come on in." And the inspectors said, "The modalities no longer apply." And the Iraqis said, "If you don’t agree to the modalities, we can’t support letting you in," and the Iraqis wouldn’t allow the inspections to take place.

Bill Clinton said, "This proves the Iraqis are not cooperating," and he ordered the inspectors out. But, you know, the United States government ordered the inspectors to withdraw from the modalities without conferring with the Security Council. It took the Iraqis by surprise. Iraqis were saying, "We’re playing by the rules, why aren’t you? If you’re not going play by the rules, then it’s a game that we don’t want to participate in." Bill Clinton ordered the inspectors out. Saddam didn’t kick them out.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Your point that this kind of deception occurred under both Democrats and Republicans would at least suggest that what’s happened in Iraq is not just a question of a bunch — of a cabal of zealots in the White House right now that are conducting this, that are hijacking policy, but that there are deeper interests involved in the United States in the kind of policy that we’ve had in Iraq. You get into some of that in the book. Could you talk about that a little bit?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, I don’t want to sound — I’m not somebody who’s into conspiracy theories, and I’m not somebody who’s out there saying this is about global oil. The tragedy of Iraq is that it’s about domestic American politics. This is a president, George Herbert Walker Bush, who in 1990, traps himself rhetorically by linking Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. Once you do that, once you speak of a Nuremburg-like retribution, you can’t negotiate your way out of that problem. Now, it’s either deliver Saddam Hussein’s head on a platter or you failed. And he tried to during the Gulf War. I was part of a team that was targeting Saddam. We didn’t succeed.

Now, the C.I.A. says, "Don’t worry, Saddam will be gone in six months. All you have to do is contain him, put these sanctions in place and keep him bottled up, and he’ll collapse." Six months later Saddam Hussein is still there. His continued survival became a political embarrassment that had to be dealt with.

This was inherited by Bill Clinton. The irony is Bill Clinton — and I’m very critical of Bill Clinton, but, you know, in the period between his election in 1992 and his being sworn in, his administration reached out to the Iraqis in saying, "Look, this is a ridiculous policy. Let’s figure out how we can get sanctions lifted and get you back into the family of nations." But when politicians in Congress, both Democrat and Republican, found out about this, they said, "You can’t do this. We have told our constituents this man is Hitler, and we can’t negotiate with the devil."

We were trapped by this policy. And this cabal we speak of, the neoconservatives, they may not have originated this policy but they exploited eight years of Clinton administration’s ineffective policy of dealing with Saddam. Saddam’s survival for eight years empowered the neoconservatives to use regime change as a rallying cry for the Republican Party.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter, you participated with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Seymour Hersh, who also wrote the introduction to Iraq Confidential, your book, at an event on Wednesday night here in New York City at the Ethical Culture Society, called "Iraq Confidential: How We Got Into Iraq and How We Get Out." I wanted to play an excerpt of that conversation between you and Seymour Hersh and then come back to you.

SEYMOUR HERSH: One of the things about the book that’s amazing is that it’s not about the Bush administration, and if there are any villains in this book — I’m talking about Scott’s new book. If there are any villains, they include Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor and Madeleine Albright and basically what this book does — and there’s been so much talk, I know we’re going to have to deal with it eventually, with the New York Times and all their problems there, but one of the things that’s breathtaking about this book in terms of — as me, as a newspaper — I’ve always been a newspaper guy, is the amount of new stories and new information Scott’s describing, in more detail and with named sources, basically a two or three year run of the American government undercutting the inspection process, and essentially, I think it’s fair to say — the question I would ask is: In your view, all during those years, 1991 to 1998, particularly the last three years, when everything got so intense, was the United States interested in disarming Iraq?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, the fact of the matter is the United States was never interested in disarming Iraq. The whole Security Council resolution was geared — that created the U.N. weapons inspectors and called upon Iraq to disarm, was focused on one thing and one thing only, and that is a vehicle for the maintenance of economic sanctions that were imposed in August 1990, linked to the liberation of Kuwait. We liberated Kuwait. I participated in that conflict, and one would think, therefore, the sanctions should be lifted.

The United States needed to find a vehicle to continue to contain Saddam, because the C.I.A. said, "All we have to do is wait six months, and Saddam’s going to collapse on his own volition." That vehicle is sanctions. They needed a justification. The justification was disarmament, but understand that a Chapter 7 Resolution of the United Nations Security Council, calling for the disarmament of Iraq and saying in Paragraph 14 that if Iraq complies, sanctions will be lifted.

Within months of this resolution being passed — and the United States was a drafter and voted in favor of this resolution — within months, the President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his Secretary of State, James Baker, are saying publicly — not privately, publicly — that even if Iraq complies with its obligation to disarm, economic sanctions will be maintained until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power. That is proof positive that disarmament was only useful insofar as it contained, through the maintenance of sanctions, and facilitated regime change.

It was never about disarmament. It was never about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction. It started with George Herbert Walker Bush and it was a policy continued through eight years of the Clinton presidency and then brought us to this current disastrous course of action under the current Bush administration.

SEYMOUR HERSH: One of the things that’s overwhelming to me as a journalist was the notion that everybody believed before March of '03 that Saddam had weapons. This is just an urban myth. The fact of the matter is that — and my personal experience — and this, I ran into Scott when? In about 1998, 1999? And in talking to people who worked on the UNSCOM and also on the International Atomic Energy Agency, which did a lot of very first-rate reporting. And you know some of the people who wrote some of the reports, former intelligence agents from Britain, among others, they were pretty much clear by 1997 that there was very little likelihood that Saddam had weapons, and there were many people in our State Department, our Department of Energy, in the C.I.A., who didn't believe there were weapons. And I think history is going to judge the — what I can almost call almost mass hysteria we had about Saddam and weapons. And one of the questions that keeps on coming up now is: Why didn’t Saddam tell us? Did he tell us?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, of course, he told. Look, let’s be honest. The Iraqis were obligated in 1991 to submit a full declaration listing the totality of their holdings of W.M.D., and they didn’t do this. They lied. They failed to declare a nuclear weapons program. They failed to declare a biological weapons program, and they under-declared their chemical and ballistic missile capabilities.

Saddam Hussein intended to retain a strategic deterrent capability, not only to take care of Iran, but also to focus on Israel. What he didn’t count on was the tenacity of the inspectors. And very rapidly by June 1991 we had compelled him into acknowledging that he had a nuclear weapons program, and we pushed him so hard that by the summer of 1991, in the same way that a drug dealer who has police knocking at his door flushes drugs down a toilet to get rid of his stash so that he can tell the cops, "I don’t have any drugs," the Iraqis, not wanting to admit that they lied, flushed their stash down the toilet. They blew up all of their weapons and buried it in the desert, and then tried to maintain the fiction that they had told the truth.

And by 1992 they were compelled again because of the tenacity of inspectors to come clean. People say why didn’t Saddam Hussein admit being disarmed? In 1992 they submitted a declaration that said everything’s been destroyed, we have nothing left. In 1995 they turned over the totality of their document cache. Again, not willingly, it took years of inspections to pressure them. But the bottom line is by 1995 there were no more weapons in Iraq, there were no more documents in Iraq, there was no more production capability in Iraq, because we were monitoring the totality of Iraq’s industrial infrastructure with the most technologically advanced, the most intrusive arms control regime in the history of arms control.

And we knew that while we couldn’t account for everything that the Iraqis said they had destroyed, we could only account for ninety to ninety-five percent, we knew that: (a) we had no evidence of a retained capability and, (b) no evidence that Iraq was reconstituting. And furthermore, the C.I.A. knew this. The British intelligence knew this; Israeli intelligence knew this; German intelligence. The whole world knew this. They weren’t going to say that Iraq was disarmed, because nobody could say that. But they definitely knew that the Iraqi capability regarding W.M.D. had been reduced to as near to zero as you could bring it and that Iraq represented a threat to no one when it came to weapons of mass destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter, a U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq in 1991 and 1998, went back in 2002. He’s speaking with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest in studio is Scott Ritter. He is — was a top U.N. weapons inspector, was in Iraq in 1991, 1998, and now has written a book about his experiences called Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein. Scott Ritter, you went back to Iraq in 2002. This is right before the invasion. Why? And what did you do there?

SCOTT RITTER: You know, we talked earlier about in 1998 how weapons inspectors left Iraq and the conditions they left. And this was an ideal circumstance for the U.S. government, because, again, it wasn’t about disarming Iraq, it was about maintaining economic sanctions as a vehicle of containing Saddam until you could overthrow him. So long as weapons inspectors weren’t in Iraq, sanctions were never going to be lifted. Furthermore, the issue of disarmament would never be fully addressed. And there were people out there talking about a resurgence in Iraqi W.M.D. capability that Iraq had, since the inspectors had left, to become a threat worthy of war. And by the summer of 2002, the fall of 2002, we were a nation clearly on the path towards war.

And I had gone to Congress, tried to get the Senate’s Select Intelligence Committee, get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to have genuine hearings about Iraq, where the facts could be put forth. They refused to do so. Now, in September, Bush is going to meet with Blair in Crawford, Texas, and have this little war conference. And they’re going to basically say it’s time to take on Saddam. The only way that you could undo this, to back this up, was to get inspectors back in. But the Iraqis were putting so many conditions on the return of inspectors that it was just a debate that wasn’t going to happen.

I decided to intervene as a private citizen. And I first went to South Africa, where I met with Tariq Aziz and said, "This is what has to happen. I got to get into Iraq. You’ve got to give me a forum. Turn on the TVs. I’m going to speak to your National Assembly. You will not edit my words. You will not know what I’m saying. You’ve just got to trust me on this one. I’m going to confront you, and I’m gonna confront the world. And then I’ll have meetings, and we need to get the inspectors back in." At first he said, "No, you’re crazy. It’s not going to happen." After two days of discussion, he said, "Okay, you get to go to Baghdad."

I went to Baghdad. I spoke before the Iraqi National Assembly. People have accused me of treason for speaking before this body. But if you listen to the words I said, I hold the Iraqis accountable for every crime they ever committed. I didn’t give them a clean bill of health, and I warned them. I said, "Your nation is about to be invaded. Your nation is about to be destroyed. And you are looking the certainty of disaster in the face if you don’t let inspectors back in without precondition." Having broadcast that, the Iraqi government now had to deal with me. And that was the strategy.

So, now I met with the Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan. I met with Naji Sabri, the Foreign Minister. I met with Amir Rashid, the Oil Minister. I met with the scientific advisor to the president. And I said, "You have to let the inspectors back in." At the end of my meetings, they all said, "In five days we’re meeting with the president, council of ministers, and we will prevail on him to let the inspectors in." Five days later, Saddam Hussein announced that weapons inspectors will be allowed back into Iraq without preconditions, one of the highlights of my life, one of the great success stories. Tragically that opportunity was fumbled by the administration that never had an intent of allowing weapons inspectors to do their job, but at least for a moment in time a window of opportunity for peace had been presented.

AMY GOODMAN: You got smeared in the media. What was the government’s — the U.S. government’s response to you doing this?

SCOTT RITTER: The U.S. government knew I was doing it. I mean, I’m an American citizen who understands what the law is and understands what my obligations and responsibilities are under the law. And I went to the F.B.I. before I made this trip, told them exactly why I’m going, who I’m going to meet with, what I hope to accomplish. Then, when I came back from the trip, I had follow-on meetings with the F.B.I. — this is who I met, this is what I did — not because I’m a spy, not because I had this little covert relationship; because I didn’t want the government to distrust my motives.

I’m an American patriot. I love my country, and I’m not about to go around and stab my country in the back. And what I told the F.B.I. is that this is about exhausting every venue possible short of war before we make the decision to go to war, and give me the chance to do this. And they did. I mean, they smeared me afterwards. But, you know, they didn’t interfere. They didn’t stop me from going on the trip. And they didn’t arrest me when I came back, because I did nothing wrong.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Your book, obviously, is very critical of both the Bush and the Clinton administrations in their efforts. But William Arkin, in a couple articles he’s written analyzing your book or purporting to analyze your book, is very critical of you and your role specifically. He says, for instance, that when you were with UNSCOM, you were also participating in covert activities with Israeli intelligence and that to a certain extent you became critical when the U.S. government began to raise questions about some of your tactics and the fact that you were sharing so much information with Israelis. Your response to that, and to his criticisms, in general?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, it’s curious that somebody’s criticizing me for things that he has no firsthand experience in, whatsoever. He’s an outside observer, and he’s somebody who has demonstrated a tendency to be an advocate of invasion, an advocate of intervention. The beauty of Arkin’s articles is that he’s committed himself in writing to a course of action, and anybody who reads my book will understand that William Arkin is engaged in a process of selective quotation.

The book is a very detailed book. It treats every issue that William Arkin raises in extreme detail with extreme honesty, and the chronology and the facts are absolutely dead on. If you read the book, you’ll see that William Arkin has basically created a tempest in a teapot; he’s creating issues where none existed.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you paid by the Israeli government?

SCOTT RITTER: Absolutely not. I’ve been accused of being an Israeli spy. I had an F.B.I. investigation ongoing for several years, initiated by the Clinton administration when I resigned, as an effort to intimidate me into silence. And I confronted the U.S. government on this. And at the end of the day the U.S. government acknowledged that I did nothing wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: What information did you share with the Israeli government?

SCOTT RITTER: I was a U.N. weapons inspector charged by my executive chairman with implementing a disarmament of Iraq. We had several sources of information available to us, number one of which was U-2 imagery. We had a U-2 airplane, a U.S. airplane, working for the United Nations, flying over Israel — or flying over Iraq, taking high-resolution photographs. We tried to get the C.I.A. to cooperate with us on the analysis of this imagery. It was very critical to look at this imagery in a very detailed basis. They would not do that. They provided us with snapshots and limited analysis, oftentimes misleading and faulty analysis based upon the imagery.

When they refused to dig deeper, I went to the chairman and said, "We need to do something." The Israelis had offered some assistance. They have some of the finest photo interpreters in the world. So I went to Israel with the permission of the C.I.A. — that’s what people don’t understand. We met with the C.I.A. We said exactly what we wanted. I wrote a letter outlining the film that I’m going to take to Israel and what we’re going to do with it. The C.I.A. provides the film. I go to Israel. I spend two weeks analyzing the film with the Israelis, and this began a process that generated tremendous information. The C.I.A. knew about it before and after. It’s the same process I had with the F.B.I., totally upfront before, and when I come back, totally upfront about what occurred. It’s only when I resigned that people spun this out of proportion and said, "Oh, no. He shared too much information. He shared classified information." I did no such thing. I did my job as a weapons inspector.

Intelligence is a two-way street. If you’re going to do it right, it’s a cycle. It requires me to provide information. They provide assessments. We act on this information. And then we share the feedback to them, and it begins that cycle all anew. So it was a very close relationship. That’s the reality of a sound intelligence-driven program. I wish we had that with the C.I.A. I wish we had that with other intelligence services. The Israelis, for all their faults — and I’m not here to defend the government of the Israel or its policies — but when it comes to the intelligence relationship with the weapons inspectors, they’re one of the very few nations that behave with full integrity about the legitimacy of our mission. They did not abuse this relationship.

AMY GOODMAN: Did they push for a war with Iraq?

SCOTT RITTER: No. Actually, the other — well, I mean, post-1998. Something happened between 1998 and 2003 that got Amos Gilad, one of the — a senior Israeli intelligence official who was cooperating with this disarmament effort, to suddenly change course and reverse all of the analysis that the Israelis had done. By 1998 Israel knew that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. In 1994, Israel was the number one threat — or Iraq was the number one threat facing Israel, because of W.M.D.

Because of the U.N. inspection process, because of the Israeli — the close link to the Israelis in — given this information and us investigating information, by 1998 they knew that Iraq didn’t have W.M.D. They knew that Iraq wasn’t a threat. And they knew so long as inspectors were in place, Iraq wasn’t going to be a threat. And so, Iraq had dropped to number six on the list and was falling off dramatically because of Israeli cooperation with the U.N. inspection process. Something occurred between 1998 and 2003 to get Amos Gilad to suddenly say, "No, Iraq’s got W.M.D. Iraq is a threat," and to support the invasion, and I would say that that’s sort of the parallel ascendancy of Ariel Sharon and the right wing of the Likud Party with George W. Bush and the neo-conservative cabal that started working together to fix intelligence around policy.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Scott Ritter, Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ: In terms of your going around the country — you’ve spoken now for several years — what is the response that you get from Americans in various places that you go to about the information you’re giving them, in terms of the constant deception that occurred and is still occurring around Iraq?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, the wonderful thing about being consistent in your argument is that you can’t be condemned by your words. Before the war, I spelled out exactly what was going on, that this was a deception, etc., and audiences were somewhat skeptical. I mean, believe me, there’s three kinds of audiences. You have the preaching to the choir, where they’re not going to question anything you say, and they’re going to cheer you no matter what. Then there’s the other side that’s going to reject anything you say no matter what, don’t want to think.

Then there’s the middle group, and that’s the important audience. They’re the ones that — "You’ve got to convince me," they’d say. And before the war they had a hard time embracing an individual, when a government and, indeed, media was going the other direction. They said, "How come you think you’re right, and everybody else is wrong. Isn’t that a little egotistical of you?" I said, "No, it’s about embracing the truth." Today people know that I was telling the truth. People know that my analysis was sound, and the reaction in the audience is a little bit more accepting of not only what I said, but what I am saying today.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to Mohamed ElBaradei and the I.A.E.A., the International Atomic Energy Agency, getting the Nobel Peace Prize?

SCOTT RITTER: What a wonderful thing. Look, Mohamed ElBaradei deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, not only for the potential work that his organization can do down the road regarding Iran and North Korea, etc., but let’s take a look what this guy did. He stood up to the Security Council when it counted. In the weeks and months before the war, this is a man who spoke truth to power. He stared the United States in the face and said, "The data you have provided is false. It’s based on forgeries. There are no nuclear weapons in Iraq. There is no nuclear weapons program. I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say that we don’t want the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud, because no mushroom cloud is coming out of Iraq." Had Hans Blix, his counterpart, done the same thing, showed the same courage, you know, it would have been very difficult for the United States to try and bully the United Nations into this mad, headlong rush to war.

AMY GOODMAN: What did Hans Blix do?

SCOTT RITTER: Hans Blix was a lawyer. He parsed phrases. He didn’t commit to anything. His statements were so watered down.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

SCOTT RITTER: I call him a moral and intellectual coward. This is only an answer that Hans Blix can provide. For me, Hans Blix had an opportunity to stand up and be counted in the face of history, and history is going to condemn this man for not doing what was necessary in one of the more critical times of modern history.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter, this is from Wikipedia. It says on February 18, 2005, you announced to an audience in Washington that George Bush had ordered plans drawn up to bomb Iran in June of 2005 and that the Iraq elections had been rigged by the United States. You reiterated and clarified your statements about Iran in a March 30 article on Al-Jazeera, also alleged that the U.S. had rigged the 2005 parliamentary election to prevent the United Iraqi Alliance from winning an outright majority. All of this true?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, again, let’s set the record straight. I didn’t say that George Bush ordered anybody to bomb Iran in June 2005. I was very clear, based upon the information given to me, and it’s 100% accurate, that in October 2004, the President of the United States ordered the Pentagon to be prepared to launch military strikes against Iran as of June 2005. That means have all the resources in place so that if the President orders it, the bombing can begin. It doesn’t mean that the bombing is going begin in June. And a lot of people went, "Ah, you said they were going to attack in June." Absolutely not.

I threw in a lot of other things that had to happen, like John Bolton had to become the head of mission and that we had to transfer the debate from Vienna to the Security Council. Today, we see Bolton in place. And we’re looking at the United States working very hard to get the issue of Iran’s nuclear program transferred from Vienna to the United Nations. And I guarantee you when it is transferred and when the Russians veto the American effort to put sanctions on Iran, John Bolton has already written his speech. He will stand up, and he will condemn the Security Council as an ineffective body that is unwilling to stand up and deal with genuine threats to the security of the United States of America, and the United States cannot afford to stand by and let this situation exist, and if the Security Council won’t deal with Iran, then we will deal with it unilaterally. That speech has been written. I know the people that helped draft that speech. And he’s ready to give it when it occurs.

What is Congress doing to stop this? Because certainly they know this is taking place. Condoleezza Rice just testified before them and said war cannot be taken off the table when it comes to Syria and Iran, that we’re going to be in Iraq for ten years. The nation’s cheap — chief diplomat, a little Freudian slip there, she might be a cheap diplomat, but she’s the chief diplomat, has said war is the only guarantor of genuine peace and security. What a scary and absurd statement to make. And where is Congress confronting her on these issues?

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about Iran in terms of the — clearly the Bush administration has to know that the American forces are already severely overextended in the wars that they’re conducting now. The idea that they are even contemplating the possibility of initiating another war or another conflict with Iran, it’s almost mind-boggling that they would be even thinking, preparing the American people for such eventuality. I mean, your sense of where the debate on Iran is going right now and what — again, where is Congress on this?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, (a) there’s no debate. I mean, unfortunately, the majority of Americans buy into this notion. Well, we’re overstretched in Iraq. It’s absurd to think we’re going into Iran, and the Bush Administration is just moving forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is the motor behind this?

SCOTT RITTER: Well, this is part of the overall neo-con agenda of global domination, in particular the Middle East, what they call regional transformation. And again, I’m not making this up. Global domination is spelled out in the National Security strategy of the United States that was published in September 2002 by the Bush administration, and regional transformation is the language used by every senior Bush administration official when they talk to Congress about what our policies on the Middle East are. So, it’s not as though this is a secret agenda. It’s part of the overall neoconservative agenda. There’s not a single individual pushing this.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector, Scott Ritter, whose book is Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein.

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