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Iraq: the Logic of Withdrawal

Scott Ritter's Address to the Iraqi National Assembly

Ex-UN weapons inspector addresses Iraqi parliament, urges inspectors' returnFormer chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter has said that Iraq should allow the immediate and unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors. In an address to Iraq's National Assembly on 8 September, Ritter said the US was using the "rhetoric of fear" to justify an attack on Iraq although there were no hard facts to substantiate its allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or supported terrorism. He said Iraq should counter US threats by adopting a "more welcoming posture". He also proposed a confidence-building mechanism based on the use of an honest broker to oversee the work of the inspectors and Iraq's compliance with their work, since Iraq had legitimate reasons to distrust inspectors after previous teams had been used by US and UK intelligence services to gather information on Iraq outside their mandate. The following is the text of a report broadcast by Iraqi satellite TV on 8 September, including the "full recording" of Ritter's address; Ritter speaks in English with passage-by-passage translation to Arabic; processed from the English; a comparison of the Arabic and English versions found them to be substantively identical bar in one instance as detailed in editorial note in paragraph 10; subheadings inserted editorially:

Source: Iraqi Satellite Channel, Baghdad, in Arabic 1003 gmt 8 Sep 02/ BBC Monitoring/ © BBC/
BBCi at

The National Assembly's Arab and Foreign Relations Committee today hosted Scott Ritter, former head of the UN inspectors in Iraq. He gave a testimony in which he revealed facts regarding the subversive role that was played by the inspection teams during their work in Iraq. He also shed some light on the services these teams gave to foreign intelligence circles, particularly the CIA. National Assembly members attended the meeting. Following is the full recording of this meeting: [Head of the Iraqi National Assembly's Arab and Foreign Relations Committee, in Arabic, with sentence-by-sentence translation into English]

The National Assembly's Arab and Foreign Relations Committee wishes to welcome Mr Scott Ritter. We welcome him to speak to us today about an important subject that relates to his personal experience in Iraq as a prominent member in the inspection teams. He will today throw some light on the conduct and practices by the inspection teams during their work in Iraq. All these practices confirmed Iraq's position on these spy teams, which were operating under direct supervision and deliberate pressure by the US and British intelligence services to collect important and strategic information on Iraq. These actions constituted a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Once again, we welcome Scott Ritter as a living, sincere and genuine eyewitness to address us today. I give him the floor.

[Ritter] Thank you Mr President and the members of the Iraqi National Assembly for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. I understand that I appear before you today not only as the first American citizen to address your body, but also as the first non-governmental speaker as well. And I thank you for providing me with this historical opportunity.

As you are well aware, we live in dangerous times with the threat of war looming on the horizon and the harsh reality of life without normalcy stalking your nation and indeed the entire Middle East on a daily basis for well over a decade.

I am here today to discuss this situation with you and share with you my own personal insights and observations as to how this situation might be improved. Before I continue, I would like to offer a word or two about why I am here today and what motivates me to speak before you and the people of Iraq in this manner. For more than twelve years now, I have been involved with issues pertaining to Iraq. First as an officer of the United States Marine Corps participating in combat operations during the Gulf War of 1990-1991. And then, as a UN weapons inspector, a position which I served for nearly seven years from 1991 to 1998, and for the past five years as an advocate of truth in the search for a peaceful resolution to the problems that plague the relations between my country and yours. I appear to you as a private citizen of the United States of America. And while I have a great deal of respect and sympathy for the people of Iraq, I have a greater love for my own country and my people, which is why I am here.

US on verge of "historical mistake"

My country seems on the verge of making a historical mistake, one that will forever change the political dynamic which has governed the world since the end of the Second World War; namely, the foundation of international law as set forth in the United Nations Charter, which calls for the peaceful resolution of problems between nations. My government has set forth on a policy of unilateral intervention that runs contrary to the letter and intent of the United Nations Charter.

The consequences of such action are not only dire in terms of their near-term consequences as measured by death, destruction and lost opportunities, but also the long-term global destabilization that will result in the rejection of an international law by the world's most powerful nation. As someone who counts himself as a fervent patriot and a good citizen of the United States of America, I feel I cannot stand by idly while my country behaves in such a fashion.

Americans are a good people. No, Americans are a great people capable of doing great good. Never forget this. There has been a disturbing tendency among certain nations, Iraq included, to try and make a distinction between the people of the United States and the government of the United States. This is wrong. Ultimately, there is no difference, and indeed there can be no difference between the people of the United States and the government of the United States, because thanks to our constitution, we the people of the United States of America are the government. In America today, we take very seriously the concept of government of the people, by the people and for the people. This represents the very foundation of the democratic way of life we love and cherish. And you do us a great disservice if you think and say otherwise.
Because ours is a government of the people, we are not only capable of all the good that humans are capable of doing, but also to be afflicted by the flaws of human nature. While I love and cherish my country and our way of life, I am fully conscious of the reality that we are capable of making mistakes. I truly believe that in the case of our current policy in Iraq, we are fundamentally wrong.

In the past decade there have been many mistakes made regards the interaction between Iraq, the United States and the United Nations. There is more than enough blame to spread around regarding this situation, including among you the leaders of Iraq [translation into Arabic rendered previous sentence as: "There is more than enough blame to spread around regarding this situation, including you in Iraq."]. But the focus on the errors of the past will not help move the current situation forward in a useful manner. Instead, we must concentrate on the present situation and how to get ourselves out of the dire situation we collectively face.

"Rhetoric of fear"

My government is making a case for war against Iraq that is built upon the rhetoric of fear and ignorance as opposed to the reality of truth and fact.

We, the people of the United States, are told repeatedly that we face a grave and imminent risk to our national security from a combination of past irresponsible behaviour on the part of Iraq; ongoing efforts by Iraq to reacquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as long-range ballistic missiles to deliver these so-called weapons of mass destruction, which have been banned since 1991 by a Security Council resolution; and Iraq's status as a state sponsor of terror, specially alleged links between Iraq and the forces of terror that perpetrated the horrific attack against the United States on September 11 of last year.

Let me make myself perfectly clear, if Iraq acts in an aggressive manner against one of its neighbours, launching an unprovoked attack against the territory of a sovereign state and if Iraq continues to possess weapons of mass destruction more than 10 years after the international community banned these weapons or if Iraq was any way involved in the attacks against the United States on September 11 of last year, then I would fully concur with those who said that Iraq is a rogue nation that represents a clear and present risk to international peace and security that must be dealt with harshly. Indeed, I would volunteer my services in such a struggle.

Lack of "hard facts"

However, the rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government and others has not to date been backed up by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for attacking the United States. Void of such facts all we have is speculation and there is no basis under international law for a nation to go to war against another nation based on speculation alone.

We are facing a crisis in America, where the politics of fear have clouded the collective judgment of the people of the United States to the point where we, unfortunately, are willing to accept at face value almost any allegation of wrongdoing on the part of Iraq without first demanding to know the factual basis of such an allegation. While this is wrong, dangerously so, let me try to put into perspective why this is the case today.
In three days, the United States will mark the one-year anniversary of an event that scarred the psychological persona of my country, the terrorist attacks of September 11 that killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans in the span of 100 minutes. I know Iraqis suffered much greater losses and withstood equally horrific suffering over the past decade through the combined effects of economic sanctions and war. And I am not trying to put a greater worth on the value of an American life over that of an Iraqi civilian, or any other human being for that matter. But I am trying to help explain the phenomenon that is taking place today inside the United States that allows war fever to catch on in such a rampant manner. Because of September 11, we are a nation fearful of the unknown and more easily prone to exploitation by those with agendas other than legitimate self-defence who play upon these fears.

This is the fear of the ignorant, the ill-informed, those not empowered by the facts of a given situation. I've told you that the American people are a great people who ultimately want to do good. In order for this to happen, however, we must find a way to overcome the politics of fear and those who practise it. The best way to do this is to embrace the truth. In regards tothe current situation between Iraq and the United States, truth is on the side of Iraq.

Iraq "not a threat"

The truth of the matter is that Iraq today is not a threat to its neighbours and is not acting in a manner which threatens anyone outside of its own borders. When speaking of international law as set forth by the United Nations Charter it is impossible to come up with any scenario today that would justify military action against Iraq based upon its current behaviour.

The truth of the matter is that Iraq has not been shown to possess weapons of mass destruction, either in terms of having retained prohibited capability from the past or by seeking to re-acquire such capability today.

There remain concerns as to the final disposition of Iraq's past proscribed weapons programmes, but these concerns are almost exclusively technical in nature and do not overcome the reality that Iraq, during nearly seven years of continuous inspection activity by the United Nations, had been certified as being disarmed to a 90 to 95 per cent level, a figure which includes all of the factories used by Iraq to produce weapons of mass destruction, together with the associated production equipment, as well as the vast majority of the products produced by these factories.
The unaccounted-for material in itself does not constitute a viable weapons capability. And while the inability to achieve a final accounting is of concern and must be addressed, it is mitigated by the fact that for four years - from 1994 until 1998 - the United Nations weapons inspectors monitored Iraq's permitted industrial infrastructure with the most intrusive on-site inspections regime in the history of arms control and never once found any evidence of either retained prescribed capability or efforts by Iraq to reconstitute prohibited capability that had been eliminated by the inspectors. All of this was done with the full cooperation of Iraq.

Iraq needs "more welcoming posture"

The truth of the matter is that Iraq is not a sponsor of the kind of terror perpetrated against the United States on September 11, and in fact is active in suppressing the sort of fundamentalist extremism that characterizes those who attacked the United States on that horrible day.

This is the truth, and once the American people become familiar with and accept this truth, the politics of fear will be defeated and the prospect of war between our two countries greatly diminished.

Iraq needs to help the people of the United States, and indeed the world, become familiar with these truths. In order to do this, Iraq needs to adopt a more welcoming posture to invite the kind of scrutiny that would facilitate the discovery of these truths, for good reason. Iraq today finds itself in a defensive posture preparing itself for war. This is understandable. However, a defensive posture enables those who promote the politics of fear to distort reality in a way that turns Iraq's defensive characteristics into aggressive intent.
A welcoming posture, on the other hand, would have Iraq open its arms, not in a sign of surrender but rather in a sign of embrace; one that could dispel any efforts to cast Iraq as a threat worthy of war.

Embrace the American people, especially now in their time of sorrow and pain. Let the United States know that Iraq has the greatest sympathy for the suffering felt by those who lost their loved ones on September 11, and that Iraq condemns any and all who attack innocents in such a manner. Educate the people of the United States that while Iraqis are by and large a Muslim people, they do not support the cause of those who pervert Islam, and that Iraq is in fact a bulwark against the spread of this very sort of fundamentalist extremism which characterizes those who attacked the United States.

Inspectors unconditional return "only acceptable option"

Let America and the world know that Iraq, instead of being on the side of those who perpetrated the crimes of September 11, is in fact at one with the world community in condemning such actions and that Iraq is prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world in combating such persons and organizations.

Iraq must renounce violence and aggression against all of its neighbours. Iraq should let the American people and the world know that if there is a resolution to the Palestinian crisis that is acceptable to the people of Palestine, Iraq will accept this; that Iraq cannot be more Palestinian than the Palestinians. And that, in any case, Iraq rejects the threat or use of force in resolving this crisis.
Iraq must show the people of the United States that it will act in a manner respectful of international borders and agreements and that Iraq will strive to adhere to the internationally accepted standards of human rights. Educate the world as to the great good that Iraq has achieved in the past regarding health, education and an acceptable standard of living; and convince the world that Iraq will continue to pursue these achievements in a manner which does not oppress the rights of any individuals or groups of people inside Iraq. And, most importantly, show the world that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq must loudly reject any intention of possessing these weapons and then work within the framework of international law to demonstrate this as a reality. There is only one way that Iraq can achieve this; with the unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors, allowing such inspectors unfettered access to sites inside Iraq in order to complete the disarmament tasks as set forth in Security Council resolutions.

On this matter, Iraq has no choice. Any effort made by Iraq to block the return of inspectors and any conditions placed by Iraq on the work of the inspectors will only be used by those who seek to exploit the politics of fear by twisting these actions into the perception that Iraq somehow has something to hide and as such is a threat to international peace and security.

Let me be very clear. The only path towards peace that will be embraced by the international community is one that begins by Iraq agreeing to the immediate, unconditional return of UN weapons inspections, operating in full keeping with the mandate as set forth by existing UN Security Council Resolutions. Nothing else will be acceptable. Iraq cannot attempt to link the return of weapons inspectors with any other issues, regardless of justification. Unconditional return. Unfettered access. This is the only acceptable option.
Iraq has "legitimate grievances" over former inspectors

I know as well as any that the inspection regime of the past for which I served was in the end corrupted by those who chose to use the unique access granted to weapons inspectors for purposes other than that set forth by the Security Council mandate. And that those inspections were used to deliberately provoke a crisis that, in turn, was used to justify the continuation of economic sanctions that continued to plague Iraq as well as acts of military aggression.

I know that weapons inspectors were used to collect information pertaining to the security of Iraq and its leadership that had nothing to do with the mandate of disarmament and everything to do with facilitating the unilateral policy objectives of those who sought to interfere in the internal politics of Iraq in a matter totally inconsistent with international law and the mandate of the Security Council governing the work of inspectors.
I know that weapons inspectors are not at work in Iraq today, not because the Iraqis kicked them out, but rather that they were ordered out by former executive chairman of the weapons inspection regime Richard Butler under pressure from the United States and without the permission of the Security Council, in order to clear the way for a military aggression in December 1998, which was triggered by Mr Butler's inaccurate and misleading reporting concerning allegations of Iraqi non-cooperation with weapon inspectors, when it was in fact the weapons inspectors who were non-compliant by unilaterally throwing away agreements governing the conduct of inspections.

I know that the vast majority of the more than 100 targets bombed by the United States and Great Britain during Desert Fox had nothing to do with weapons production capability, but rather the leadership and security establishments of the government of Iraq and that the precision in which these targets were bombed was due in a large part due to the information gathered by weapons inspectors.

I know that Iraq has legitimate grievances regarding the past work of the weapons inspectors and for that reason has sought to keep inspectors from returning to Iraq. But I also know that there will be no peaceful resolution of this current crisis unless Iraq allows the unconditional return of weapons inspectors.

However, Iraq needs to know that it is not alone in understanding that the concept of weapons inspections has been marred by the abuses of the past. Many in the international community understand that Iraq suffered from the abuse of the Security Council's mandate regarding inspections in the past and that under the current situation in which Iraq finds itself threatened by attack, the Iraqi government would not readily accede to any situation that permitted such inspections to return to work inside Iraq only to have this mandate again abused.

"Confidence-building mechanism"

There are those who in the near future will be addressing the issue of unconditional return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. They will seek to establish deadlines and issue ultimatums and threaten to use force to compel Iraq to let the inspectors return. What those who will make such proposals need to know is that such demands are in and of themselves conditional and but only a few of the concerns inside Iraq over the abuses of the past. Such proposals are therefore doomed to fail, which in fact might be the very objective of those who would be making them, given that war is apparently their final objective, not disarmament or peace.

There needs to be a way to push the issue of the return of weapons inspectors forward in a manner that it once allows for their unconditional return and yet provides assurances to Iraq that unfettered access will only be applied to disarmament issues, and not used to infringe on Iraq's sovereignty, dignity and national security.

There needs to be a confidence-building mechanism that allows for the monitoring of the interaction between weapons inspectors and Iraq to ensure that there are no deviations from the mandate of disarmament by the inspectors, as well as no obstruction of the work of the inspectors by Iraq.

In the past few years, I've travelled extensively in the United States and around the world speaking about Iraq and the need for a resolution to the crisis over weapons inspectors. Based on these travels, I believe that there is a way to provide such a confidence-building mechanism.

"Honest broker"

I call such a mechanism that of the honest broker, an independent objective outside observer who monitors the work of the weapons inspectors and Iraq in fulfilment of the Security Council's disarmament mandate without interfering in the conduct of such work. In order to have credibility in Iraq, and to avoid any perceptions of pressure from the Security Council or its members, such an honest broker would have to come from outside the United Nations framework, composed of a nation or a group of nations who embrace the framework of international law as set forth in the United Nations Charter and who are willing to place the credibility of their nation on the line in the performance of this monitoring function.
I've spoken with the representatives of several countries about this concept and they have indicated a willingness to step forward and work with Iraq and the secretary-general of the United Nations to serve as such an honest broker. All that is needed is for Iraq to agree to the unconditional return of inspectors in accordance with Security Council resolutions. The honest broker mechanism is not a precondition for inspections but rather a condition that will facilitate inspections.

The honest broker mechanism allows for the rapid re-introduction of weapons inspectors into Iraq in a manner which would assure Iraq that the sins of the past would not be repeated.

The honest broker mechanism allows for the situation to be developed to facilitate a rapid finding of compliance on the part of Iraq regarding its disarmament obligations.

In short, the honest broker mechanism allows for the peaceful, non-violent resolution of the current stand-off between the United Nations and Iraq in full accordance with the letter of international law.

If allowed to work, the honest broker mechanism can stop a war.

If allowed to work, the honest broker mechanism can lead to the lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq, returning Iraq control of its economic resources so that it can proceed to re-constitute not weapons of mass destruction but rather its own economy and social fabric that has been torn asunder these many years. Once Iraq has been certified as being disarmed in accordance with the will of the Security Council, then the way could be cleared for the day in the near future when Iraq is once again welcome back into the fold of international community in control of its own airspace and sovereign territory, ruled by a government of its own choosing.

"Have confidence in the American people"

This will not be an easy task and indeed the road towards the fulfilment of this goal is fraught with danger and difficulty. There are those who wish Iraq harm regardless of the circumstances or costs, and many of these currently reside in the government of the United States. However, I ask of you to keep in mind what I have shared with you regarding the people of the United States and their relationship with the American government. Once the politics of fear can be defeated by the forces of truth then the current policies of the United States can be replaced by those that reject confrontation and embrace reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. Have confidence in the American people and the strength of American democracy. I know I do, which is the only reason why I am here before you today. Thank you Mr President and the members of the Iraqi National Assembly for allowing me this opportunity to speak before you today. I am prepared to answer any questions you or your members may wish to ask me about what I have said here today. Thank you.




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