Scott Ritter Predicts War on Iraq

John Fitzsimmons

"War against Iraq is inevitable. There is a 40% chance the US will use nuclear weapons."

These provocative statements were made by Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, during his talk in Maxwell Auditorium on the Syracuse University campus on November 8. He said the resolution passed earlier that day by the UN Security Council would not deter President Bush from going to war against Iraq. The US will find an excuse to start the war, since the Bush administration believes the issue of Iraq is not whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but is of getting rid of Saddam Hussein by war. Nothing will stop it. If the US were serious about settling things peacefully, we would have diplomats in Iraq as we do in North Korea. He stated that the military invasion of Iraq might get bogged down short of Baghdad, and there is a 40% probability of the US using nuclear weapons by March of next year, especially if victory doesn't come quickly.

The talk was sponsored by Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. The moderator was Mark Rupert. Two faculty members responded to Ritter, followed by a discussion period which included the public.

Mr. Ritter is a ballistic missile technology expert who worked in military intelligence during his 12-year career. A former major in the US Marines, Ritter served in the Marine Central Command during the Gulf War. From 1991 to 1998 Mr. Ritter served as a weapons inspector with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). He took part in more than 30 inspections, 14 as chief. He is author of the book End Game and is producer of the video documentary In Shifting Sands.

Mr. Ritter said to understand the strategy of the US in Iraq and the Middle East, read the Administration's new National Security Document, which calls for American unilateralism, including preventive attacks on nations that might in the future challenge us. Ritter stated, "We will be in never-ending wars around the world forever. The Bush doctrine means the death of the United States as it is now."

Scott Ritter described his experiences as a weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991 to 1998. Even though Iraq lied and cheated regarding their WMD, the inspectors were able to account for 90-95% of the weapons and 100% of the factories and production equipment needed to make the weapons. By 1998 the weapons inspectors were led by Richard Butler. Ritter charges that Mr. Butler bypassed the UN and gave the US intelligence data obtained by the weapons inspectors. This data was used by the US and England to target sensitive Iraqi sites, including the presidential palaces, during the Desert Fox bombing campaign in 1998. Mr. Ritter stated the goal of the bombing was to kill Saddam. The inspectors were pulled out of Iraq just before the bombing started and never returned.

F. William Smullen III followed Scott Ritter to the podium, and strongly disagreed with his analysis. Mr. Smullen is former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is now deputy director of the Maxwell School's National Security Studies Program. Mr. Smullen said, "The UN resolution was a great diplomatic victory and means we will not go to war. Saddam will treasure survival more than humiliation. I am optimistic. Give inspections a chance."

The third speaker was Professor Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a member of the Maxwell School faculty, specializing in Middle East studies. He agreed with Scott Ritter that war is highly likely. The war will result in regional instability and violence against the US in the Islamic world. Professor Boroujerdi said a war will harm our fight against terrorism. Destroying Iraqi civilians and their economy will be a gift to Al Qaeda (Iraq has two sites holy to Shiites). It is more important for us to attempt to solve the Israel/Palestine conflict. Afghanistan needs more of our attention. He quoted figures showing that the cost of a war would be enormous. The cost of a one-month war plus a 5-year occupation, not including rebuilding, would be $293 billion. The cost of rebuilding Iraq would be $500 billion. Professor Boroujerdi asked the question, "Can we pay for the `War on Terrorism' plus Afghanistan plus a war on Iraq?"

During the discussion period Ritter said, "Ideology, not oil, is leading the drive to war." Boroujerdi said, "Islam doesn't hate our values, they hate our government's policies," and, "The link of the Israel/Palestine problem to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East is basic. President Bush doesn't want to believe it."

Only time will determine whether the views of Scott Ritter, Professor Boroujerdi, or F. William Smullen III come to be. In the meantime, we need to increase our efforts so that Mr. Ritter's forecast of the inevitability of war does not come true.

John is a member of the Syracuse Peace Council, Peace Action of CNY, and CNY/SOA Abolitionists.