Some have wondered why Scott Ritter, that American hero, was not prominent in news articles and commentaries about last week's release of the near-final findings of the Iraq Survey Group, now headed by Charles Duelfer. -- This piece in the Guardian (UK), revealing the sad truth that Iraq exhibited more good faith in the inspections process than the United States of America, suggests why Ritter is shunned by the mainstream media....
THE SOURCE DUELFER DIDN'T QUOTE
By Scott Ritter
** The head of the Iraq Survey Group knows regime change was the aim **
October 9, 2004
During this week of American election debates, Charles Duelfer, the former deputy executive chairman of the UN weapons inspectors and current head of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, delivered to Congress his much-anticipated report on Iraq's WMD capabilities. Among his controversial conclusions is that, contrary to pre-war assertions by both the George Bush administration and Tony Blair's government, Iraq had neither stockpiles of WMD nor dedicated programmes for the manufacture of WMD. Duelfer's report did note that Iraq maintained so-called "dual-use" facilities (those with legitimate civilian and/or military functions, but which could be configured for proscribed use), but his ISG has found no evidence that any such conversion had taken place.
One would expect the ISG's conclusions to take the wind out of the sails of those who repeat the mantra that Iraq was a grave and growing threat. But Duelfer has provided a convenient escape from such criticism, by concluding that Saddam Hussein in fact fully intended to convert his "dual use" factories into WMD production facilities once UN weapons inspectors left. In one fell swoop, Duelfer has provided the ideal cover for the justification of the war.
Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, was quick to note that Saddam was, according to the ISG report, "a gathering threat that needed to be taken seriously, that it was a matter of time before he was going to begin pursuing those weapons of mass destruction." The UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, commenting on the report from Baghdad, was likewise quick to jump on the notion of intent. "Where this report breaks new ground," Straw said, "is by producing extensive new evidence showing that Saddam did indeed pose a threat to the international community . . . The world is a safer place without him."
There are, however, several problems with this finding -- first and foremost the notion of legality, especially in light of UN secretary general Kofi Annan's comments that the US-led invasion of Iraq represented a violation of the UN charter and international law. Bush and Blair have argued that because the Iraqi government had failed to comply with previous security council resolutions regarding Iraq's obligation to disarm, the right of enforcing these resolutions is implicit.
Duelfer's report slams the door on that line of thinking, since it is now clear that Iraq had in fact disarmed in compliance with security council resolutions. One of the tragic ironies of the decision to invade Iraq is that the Iraqi WMD declaration required by security council resolution 1441, submitted by Iraq in December 2002, and summarily rejected by Bush and Blair as repackaged falsehoods, now stands as the most accurate compilation of data yet assembled regarding Iraq's WMD programs (more so than even Duelfer's ISG report, which contains much unsubstantiated speculation). Saddam Hussein has yet to be contradicted on a single point of substantive fact. Iraq had disarmed; no one wanted to accept that conclusion.
Charles Duelfer has to date provided no documentation to back up his assertion regarding Saddam's "intent." Nor has he produced any confession from Saddam Hussein or any senior Iraqi official regarding the same. What has been offered is a compilation of hearsay and conjecture linked to unnamed sources whose identities remain shrouded in secrecy.
There is one source I am certain will not be quoted in Duelfer's report -- a former officer in Saddam Hussein's intelligence service, who was interviewed by the ISG repeatedly in the summer of 2003. Given the ongoing violence in Iraq today, this officer, who is well known to me, has asked that his name not be published. From 1992 until 2003, he headed a branch of Iraqi intelligence responsible for monitoring the work of the UN weapons inspectors. His office intercepted their communications, and recruited spies among their ranks in Baghdad, Bahrain, New York and elsewhere.
The mission of this intelligence unit was to discern the true intent of the UN weapons inspectors. Conventional thinking would hold that this was being done so that Iraq might better hide its WMD stockpiles. The Iraqi officer has long denied this, stating that instead his job was to find out why the UN refused to accept the Iraqi version of events, and to determine if the UN weapons inspectors were operating inside Iraq for purposes other than the disarmament.
This officer claims to have intercepted conversations between Charles Duelfer, during the time he served as deputy executive chairman of the UN inspection teams, and senior US government officials, in New York and Baghdad, where a US agenda (supported by the British) for removing Saddam Hussein was discussed. I can confirm that such discussions frequently took place.
According to this officer, after 1995 UN weapons inspectors were blocked by Iraq only when their actions were determined by the Iraqi government to represent a direct threat to the president of Iraq, a reality the intercepted Duelfer conversations and ongoing CIA efforts to mount a coup d'état would seem to underscore.
Duelfer is not an unbiased observer in this matter. For this reason alone, his ISG report must not be allowed to hide its findings behind a wall of secrecy. Far from showing the intent of Saddam Hussein to keep WMD, I believe a full review of all material relevant to the ISG's report will instead portray a dictator whose only desire was to retain his hold on power in the face of a US government which intended to do anything, including violate international law, to prevent this.
The US Congress and British parliament should insist on a full declassification of the ISG report, as well as the sources used to compile it. During this critical time in both our nations' histories, with the war in Iraq playing such a central role in the selection of America's next president as well as the political future of Britain's prime minister, the American and British people deserve to know the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about the casus belli that collectively got us into the ongoing quagmire that is Iraq today.
--Scott Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998 and is the author of Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America.