Arms expert Scott Ritter says the
By Curt Guyette and W. Kim Heron
11/30/07 "Metro Times" -- - - It seems that with each passing week there are more stories raising the specter of George Bush turning Iraq and Afghanistan into a bloody trifecta by attacking Iran.
In mainstream daily papers we see pieces like one by Gannett's John Yaukey, who wrote in early November that
"confrontation could be near" because "
We are also witnessing what appears to be a chilling rerun of the
"The Bush administration has charged that
Look beyond daily papers — from Seymour Hersh's
reporting in The New Yorker to articles in The Nation — and the
picture emerges of an administration that is determined to attack
John H. Richardson's "The Secret History of the Impending War With Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to
Know" in the November issue of Esquire magazine is particularly
"It was just like
With all this in mind, we decided to talk with the man who literally wrote the book on Bush's intentions. Nearly a year ago, Scott Ritter's Target Iran was published, and he's been sounding the claxon of impending war ever since.
A former Marine Corps intelligence officer, Ritter served as chief United
Nations weapons inspector in
To learn what he thinks the future holds for
Metro Times: A year ago, when your book Target Iran came out, you were sounding the alarm about war being imminent. Why do you think that attack hasn't occurred?
Scott Ritter: Let's remember that this is an elective war, not a war of necessity. A war of necessity would be fought at the point and time a conflict is required, if somebody is threatening to invade you, to attack, etc. But an elective war is one where we choose to go to war. It will be conducted on a timescale that's beneficial to those who are planning the conflict.
As far as why it hasn't happened, there's any number of reasons. One, the
Bush administration has not been able to stabilize
Also, the need to redefine the Iranian threat away from exclusively being focused on nuclear activity, because now you have the difficulty of both the IAEA saying there is no nuclear weapons program and the CIA saying pretty much the same thing. So the Bush administration needs to redefine the Iranian threat, which they have been doing successfully, casting Iran as the largest state sponsor of terror, getting the Senate resolution calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command a terrorist organization, and creating a perception amongst the American people, courtesy of a compliant media, that talks about the reason why things are going bad in Iraq is primarily because of Iranian intervention.
They have been working very hard to get back on track. I still believe that
we are seeing convergence here. The Bush administration is moving very
aggressively toward military action with
MT: Is your conclusion that an attack is imminent based on the
administration's statements and actions, like labeling
Ritter: I don't have any current sources of the sort you just spoke of. I was plugged in back in 2006 to good quality current information. But I haven't been plugged in recently, so I have to use some sort of analytical methodology as opposed to saying, "Aha, I got it from the horse's mouth." But there's nothing that has occurred that leads me to believe the Bush administration has changed its policy direction. In fact there has been much that's occurred that reinforces the earlier conclusions that were based on good sources of information. We take a look at items in the defense budget, the rapid conversion of heavy bombers to carry bunker-busting bombs on a specific time frame, the massive purchasing of oil to fill up the strategic oil reserve by April 2008. Everything points to April 2008 to being a month of some criticality. It also matches my analysis that the Bush administration will want to carry this out prior to the crazy political season of the summer of 2008.
MT: Last year you expressed hope that if Democrats took control of Congress it might pass legislation that could block the march toward war. Do you see them stepping up?
Ritter: No. They just passed a resolution declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command as a terrorist organization. Unless there is a radical reawakening in Congress, I don't see them passing any sort of pre-emptive legislation of that nature.
MT: But it is now clearer than ever that our invasion of
Ritter: It's difficult to explain. First of all you have to note, from the public side, that very few Americans actually function as citizens anymore. What I mean by that are people who invest themselves in this country, people who care, who give a damn. Americans are primarily consumers today, and so long as they continue to wrap themselves in the cocoon of comfort, and the system keeps them walking down a road to the perceived path of prosperity, they don't want to rock the boat. If it doesn't have a direct impact on their day-to-day existence, they simply don't care.
There's a minority of people who do, but the majority of Americans don't. And if the people don't care — and remember, the people are the constituents — if the constituents don't care, then those they elect to higher office won't feel the pressure to change.
The Democrats, one would hope, would live up to their rhetoric, that is,
challenging the Bush administration's imperial aspirations. Once it became
The Democrats don't want to be explaining to an apathetic constituency, an ignorant constituency whose ignorance is prone to be exploited because it produces fear, fear of the unknown, and the global war on terror is the ultimate fear button. The Democrats, rather than challenging the Bush administration's position on the global war on terror, challenging the notion of these imminent threats, continues to play them up because that is the safest route toward the White House. At least that is their perception.
The last thing they are gong to do is pass a piece of legislation that opens
the door for the Republicans to say, "Look how weak these guys are on
terror. They're actually defending the Iranians. They're defending this Ahmadinejad guy. They're defending the Holocaust denier.
They're defending the guy who wants to wipe
MT: Do you think there is anything that can happen at this point that will stop this attack?
Ritter: You have to take a look at external influences, not internal
ones. I don't think there is anything happening inside the
They are pushing the perception that
And there could be some other unforeseen meltdown globally that's not on the
radar at this time, that, unfortunately, we have to be hoping for to stop an
MT: What's the motivation?
Ritter: The ideologues who are in there believe the United States in
the post-Cold War environment needed to fill the gap created by the demise of
the Soviet Union so that no nation or group of nations would ever again
confront us as equals. And in order to do this, they basically divided the
world into spheres of strategic interest and said we will impose our will. And
It's not just supporting
So, there's a lot of complexity at play here. But you say why do they want
to do this? It's about as Condoleezza Rice continuously says before the U.S.
Congress: It's about regional transformation, inclusive of regime change. It
MT: And when Bush talks about being an instrument of God, do you think he really believes that or is that just political posturing, playing to the religious base?
Ritter: That's a question that can only be asked of George Bush. But I find it disturbing that an American politician who is supposed to be the head of a secular nation where religion is protected but there is no state religion, and who has control over the world's largest nuclear arsenal, not only openly talks about how God is his final adviser, which pretty much negates the role of Congress or any other system of governmental oversight, checks and balances of the executive, but also embraces a kind of evangelicalism that gives legitimacy to the notion of the rapture, Armageddon, the apocalypse as a good thing.
Here's a man who speaks of World War III and the apocalypse and he has his hand on the button and he talks to God. I don't know, if it's a show, its a dangerous show, if its real, we should all be scared to death.
MT: Even going back to before the start of the
Ritter: Again, only they can really answer that question, but I think it is clear the mainstream media, while not outright fabricators, are not there to tell the truth, they're there to win over ratings. They will package their programming in ways that sells well to an audience. And we are dealing with a complacent American audience, where in-depth reality stories are trumped by reality TV. I don't see the programming director saying, "Look, we're going to spend an hour explaining to the American people why Ahmadinejad's speech wasn't that big of a deal." Or they can say, "Hell, no; in three minutes we can lead with a story saying he's a Holocaust denier and win everybody's attention."
MT: Do you think the resolutions in 2001 and 2002 authorizing Bush to
use military force against
Ritter: I'd like to believe it didn't, but unfortunately when you
take a look at it, and I've had constitutional scholars take a look at it, the
feeling is that, yeah, because of the terrorist threat, if you take a look at
the fine print on both of those resolutions, it gives the president
authorization to use military force to take out groups, organizations,
individuals, etc. who are linked to the events of 9/11. And the president has
continued to make the case that
MT: Do you think an attack on
Ritter: It depends on what triggers it. If
There are two conditions that we are legally allowed to engage in military
operations. Militaries are bound by the charter of the United Nations' Article
51, legitimate self-defense, and a Chapter 7 resolution passed by the Security
Council authorizing military force to be used. If we attack
The international community has not agreed upon a definition of what
pre-emptive aggression is, and what the consequences of such are. Let's keep in
mind if we attack
MT: One of the scenarios that's been raised
Ritter: I think
I think what we're looking at is an American attack. It's the only viable
option both in terms of initiation and sustainment of
I think right now what the Bush administration is conceiving is a limited strike against Iran to take out certain Revolutionary Guard sites and perhaps identified nuclear infrastructure. Not a massive, sustained bombardment, but a limited strike. But we were always told in the Marine Corps that the enemy has a vote and no plan survives initial contact with the enemy. So we may seek to have a limited strike, but if the Iranians do a massive response, things could spin out of control quickly.
MT: What do you foresee as some of the possible consequences? No one
is talking about putting troops on the ground in
Ritter: A while back there was talk about having forces move in on
MT: When you say a "limited strike," what might that look like in more detail?
MT: How much damage could be done to the Iranian nuclear program?
Ritter: No damage would be done to it. Remember, the problem the Iranians face isn't the manufacture of this equipment. They've already mastered that. And if you think for a second machine tools that are used to manufacture enrichment equipment are going to be stored out in the open where we can bomb them, you're wrong. They've been dispersed. The Iraqis were masters of this. We spent a lot of money blowing up concrete, but we never got the machine tools, because they were always hidden. They were always evacuated the day before — they'd take it to palm groves or warehouses that we didn't know about, or hidden in narrow streets. And we never detected that, and we never got them. The Iranians are even better. They've been mastering the technology of deep-earth tunneling, so they can hide things underground that we can't reach with our conventional weapons. So I just think it is absurd to talk about bombing these sites, because all we'll do is blow up buildings that can be rebuilt.
A couple of sites are more sensitive; I think the uranium conversion
MT: So what do you think the
Ritter: I think that is the wrong question. That presumes
The Iranians want a normalization of relations with the
So what the
The same can be said in
MT: Even under
Ritter: You have to remember that Ahmadinejad doesn't make any policy. He is more than a figurehead, but constitutionally he's hampered by the reality that the power resides with the theocrats. It's the theocrats we need to be engaging, not Ahmadinejad. You engage the people who make the decisions. In the end we should be sending people to talk to the National Security Council, the Guardian Council, the representatives of the supreme leader. That's where the power is, that's where the decisions are made. Ahmadinejad is in reality just a minor inconvenience. The bottom line is, not only doesn't he account for much, his words haven't created a problem at all. Half the things we claim he said, he never said at all. And the other half we put out of context and exaggerate.
I'm not here to defend what the guy says. But the notion that just because a
man dared question a 100 percent interpretation of the history of the Holocaust
as put forward by Israel — and again, I'm not saying he's right to do that —
I'm just saying that because he dared do that, he's suddenly evil incarnate and
we need to go to war against this guy? No. At worst he's a joke. He's a guy whose words mean nothing, have no power, have no
relevance. It's the supreme leader that matters. And, yes, today the supreme
leader continues to want to seek to normalize relations with the
MT: You are getting ready to go to
Ritter: I've been trying to get there for some time now to talk with
Iranian government officials trying to ascertain firsthand what's going on in
Hopefully, I'll have an opportunity to meet with Iranian government officials, and have a chance to speak with some religious officials, and maybe even have a chance to talk about hypotheticals, not only what the current situation is, but how the Iranians would like to see this thing resolved and what mechanisms might need to be employed and maybe come back with some ideas that people in Congress might be interested in.
MT: You've been to
Ritter: Yes. And having been to
I always say the best way to stop a war with Iran would be to issue every
American a passport and roundtrip ticket and money for a two-week stay and let
them go there and when they came back they'd say there's no way we should bomb
this place. Once you've been to
MT: I think it is fair to say you are perceived as a champion of the
left at this point. But 10 years ago, when you were criticizing the
Ritter: What I make of it is my consistency and the inconsistency of those who seek to gain political advantage by manipulating the truth. When the right embraced what I was saying, they didn't embrace the totality of what I was saying. They only embraced that aspect that was convenient for their political purposes. I would say today that the left is guilty of the same thing. I'm only convenient to the left when that which I espouse mirrors what they are pursuing. It will be interesting to see, if Hillary Clinton wins the White House, how popular I will be in certain circles, because I can guarantee I will go after her with all the vengeance I go after the Bush administration.
It's not about being Republican, it's not about being Democrat, it's about
being American. It's about doing the right thing. And in the 1990s the right
thing was to implement the [United Nations] Security Council resolutions
calling for the disarmament of
By holding them to account, if that suddenly made me popular with the right, then so be it. It's not something that I sought; it wasn't the purpose of what I was doing. But when the complexity of my stance became inconvenient to the right, when they found out it wasn't just about taking down the Clinton administration, but rather criticizing an American political position that put unilateral policy objectives and regime change higher up in the chain of priorities than disarmament, suddenly it wasn't convenient anymore to be saying, "Hey, we like this guy."
One cannot be held accountable for the words and actions of those who seek to selectively embrace what you say.
MT: When Bush talks about World War III, how likely is the scenario that an attack by us would escalate into that?
Ritter: I don't know about likely, but what I say is that I can sit here and spin scenarios that have it going in that direction. And these aren't fantastic scenarios.
MT: Would that be having
Ritter: No, no, no. It would be something more like the