The former U.N. weapons inspector who said Iraq disarmed long before the U.S. invasion in 2003 is warning Americans to prepare for a war with Iran.
“We just don’t know when, but it’s going to happen,” Scott Ritter said to a crowd of about 150 at the James A. Little Theater on Sunday night.
Ritter described how the U.S. government might justify war with Iran in a scenario similar to the buildup to the Iraq invasion. He also argued that Iran wants a nuclear energy program, and not nuclear weapons. But the Bush administration, he said, refuses to believe Iran is telling the truth.
He predicted the matter will wind up before the U.N. Security Council, which will determine there is no evidence of a weapons program. Then, he said, John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “will deliver a speech that has already been written. It says America cannot allow Iran to threaten the United States and we must unilaterally defend ourselves.”
“How do I know this? I’ve talked to Bolton’s speechwriter,” Ritter said.
Ritter also predicted the military strategy for war with Iran. First, American forces will bomb Iran. If Iranians don’t overthrow the current government, as Bush hopes they will, Iran will probably attack Israel. Then, Ritter said, the United States will drop a nuclear bomb on Iran.
The only way to prevent a war with Iran is to elect a Democratically controlled Congress in November, said Ritter, a lifelong Republican. He later said he wasn’t worried his advice would be seen as partisan because, “It’s a partisan issue.” He said the problem is oneparty government and if Democrats controlled the presidency and Congress, he would advise people to elect Republicans.
Most of Ritter’s hour-long speech focused on Iraqi weapons programs from shortly before the Persian Gulf War in 1991 to 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq. He also discussed the weapons-inspections process during that time.
Ritter was in charge of U.N. weapons inspections until he resigned in 1998. Before the Iraq invasion, Ritter said, he told Congress that inspections needed to continue.
He also said he was a Marine in the Persian Gulf War and was part of an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s.
Throughout the 1990s, Ritter said, America’s real policy for Iraq was regime change — not forcing Iraq to disarm and destroy chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons programs. The U.S. insisted on regime change, he said, because it believes transforming the Middle East countries into democracies will help ensure American access to oil.
The policy, he said, was borne from a political problem, not a threat to national security.
Ritter blamed Americans’ apathy for allowing Bush to claim there was an intelligence failure. Presidents can lie to the public too easily about national security issues because Americans aren’t paying attention, he said.
“It’s a damn shame there’s so many more people interested in the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers,” he said in reference to the two teams that played in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
After his speech, Ritter took questions from the audience. The first questioner wondered whether the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were faked. Ritter, a fiery speaker, seemed irritated by the question and said the attacks were real.
Someone else asked if he was interested in running for Congress . While the question drew applause, Ritter responded, “I hate politics.”
Ritter, 44, was promoting his book Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein. The speech was sponsored by Peace Action New Mexico.
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