Is Scott Ritter Credible?
Scott Ritter, the former Marine who resigned his position as UN weapons inspector in Iraq in August 1998, has been seen frequently on television criticizing the Bush administrationís claim that Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and must be overthrown. Ritter is presented or quoted as an authority on this subject. For example, on Labor Day, former CIA director James Woolsey told CNNís Wolf Blitzer that clearly Iraq has "substantial chemical and bacteriological weapons," Blitzer responded, "Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector, he was there. He doesnít believe it."
Scott Ritter was there from the end of the Gulf War until 1998 to help enforce the cease-fire agreement and the UN resolution that prohibited Iraq from possessing or developing weapons of mass destruction. His former boss, Richard Butler, who headed the UN inspection team, recalled later that Ritter resigned because Saddam was not allowing the UN inspectors to do their job. Ritter himself testified that under Saddamís direct orders, the Iraqi government had lied to the Commission about its weapons stockpiles and that "Iraq presents a clear and present danger to international peace and security."
Ritter at the time blamed the Clinton administration, saying they feared a confrontation with Iraq. He criticized it for refusing to support the inspection process with a legitimate use of force. He said that since April of Ď98, "we had not been allowed to do these tasks, largely because of pressure placed upon the Special Commission by administration officials."
Ritter has made an about face. He now says "Iraq has been disarmed fundamentally. Their weapons programs have been eliminated. Iraq poses no threat to any of its neighbors. It does not threaten its region. It does not threaten the United States. It does not threaten the world." This is the line he was taking as a guest on Phil Donahueís first show on MSNBC last July. Senator James Inhofe, the other guest, charged that what Ritter was saying was the opposite of the testimony he had given the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ritter tried to deny it, but the Senator read from a copy of the transcript, proving that Ritter had just contradicted what he had said under oath. That should have destroyed Ritterís credibility, but Ritter keeps getting time on TV and being cited as an authority on CNN.
We hate to say it, but Scott Ritter has apparently sold out. He received $400,000 from an Iraqi-American businessman with close ties to Saddam for the purpose of producing a documentary called "In Shifting Sands." The Weekly Standard described it as a film that "would chronicle the weapons-inspection process" and quoted Ritter as saying it would "de-demonize" Iraq.
Ritter was welcomed into Iraq in July 2000 to conduct interviews, and he was praised on the official Iraqi Web site. Ritter claims the 90-minute film, which as far as we are know hasnít aired anywhere, is an attempt to be objective, but he said "The U.S. will definitely not like this film."
Reed Irvine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org