Former Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector speaks

Sheep are followers. These cliquey animals are perfectly pleased tagging along behind whoever is ahead of them. They have no mind of their own and are unimaginative, meek, submissive, docile and easily swayed. Scott Ritter believes Americans are acting like sheep.

Ritter, formerly the chief weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in Iraq and currently one of the most enthusiastic anti-war crusaders in the United States, spoke at Castleton State College on Sept.(ember) 26.

“We call ourselves a democracy” the politically assertive Ritter said, “but imprisoned by our own ignorance, we don’t even know what democracy is – we’re a bunch of sheep.”

Ritter’s talk, titled “Targeting Iran,” was organized by Professor Sanjukta Ghosh.

More than 350 community member and students flocked to the event, which kicked of at 6:30 p.m. in the newly renovated Fine Arts Center.

“We got 385 people there,” professor Ghosh said after the event, “and I was going to be happy if 100 people showed up!”

Ritter’s animated speech touched upon 9/11, the war on Iraq, targeting Iran, American ignorance and searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Ritter is infuriated, and he has every reason to be.

As UNSCOM’s chief weapons inspector, before the invasion of Iraq, it was Ritter who insisted that Iraq did not posses any weapons of mass destruction. Being right all along, Ritter is now at liberty to say he warned us.

This he does brazenly, even stating that his background in military iIntelligence is a contradiction in terms.

Underlining the prelude to the war in Iraq, Ritter blames the president, Congress and the media, but he does not pardon the American people for their willful ignorance.

“What have we done?” he questioned. “We stand by silently; watch numbly but mutely as the numbers rise . Absolute derelict of duty for every American – history will condemn us.”

Ritter spoke at length about UNSCOM’s mission of disarming Iraq, laying out his account of what actually happened: how the U.S. sought to use the U.N. weapons inspections as facades, and when those efforts proved futile, how U.S. intelligence set out to hinder the U.N. program.

Ritter said weapons inspectors were able to account for 96 of 98 missiles in Iraq, but just because there was material unaccounted for did not mean that Iraq was hiding it.

“You watch that CSI Nevada show?” he asked the audience. “CSI doesn’t hold a candle to what we did .We knew everything. We were that good and I say that with the utmost confidence.”

“Our mission was disarmament,” Ritter explained. “They said we couldn’t do it, we said we did. You think they’d have been excited. No. Stone cold silence . The CIA director went to Congress and says there are still 200 missiles. And everyone in Congress went . ‘Ahhh, 200 missiles. Very dangerous …'”

Ritter went on to explain how he asked the CIA how they got that number and their response was that it was secret, and they couldn’t tell him, but they continued to insist that Iraq had missiles buried everywhere.

So Ritter described how he and his team built radar to find these buried missiles. They undertook treacherous tasks: divers doing what they referred to as “Braille diving,” the water so murky divers were unable to see and had to feel around with their hands.

“It wasn’t fun,” Ritter stressed. “It wasn’t fun and games. This is life and death and we did it.”

UNSCOM’s final report stated that there were no missiles in Iraq. Ritter said the CIA then stated that there were between 12 and 20 missiles in Iraq, and that would never change, no matter what Ritter did.

“Americans died because the CIA certified a lie,” Ritter claimed, to which the audience applauded ferociously, and Ritter, with as much ferocity countered: “Talk about willful ignorance – most of what I said was available for public record.”

Ritter’s statement is clear – Americans should have done more.

Janet Perron, a C.S.C. senior who introduced Ritter, feels the same.

“One thing from Mr. Ritter’s speech that will forever stay with me is how as citizens of this country we cannot just point the finger at the Bush administration in blame for all that has transpired since 9/11, we must take part of the blame for not challenging and questioning our government . Greater good is only the greater good if the majority of people are cognizant.”

According to Ritter, Americans are not against the war, they’re just against losing the war.

“Eighteen percent was against the war to begin with,” Ritter said, adding that that number is now at 65 percent. “They’re not against the war, they’re only against bad policy . the only people who care about the war are those who have family there.”

Ritter hates war, stating that it’s the worst thing mankind can do to mankind.

“You don’t get to hit pause in war. It’s not a video game. It’s not a computer game.”

Wars just don’t happen, Ritter said, sharing his belief that the November elections will determine when we go to war with Iran. He also believes there will be an air-strike in March 2007.

“If the U.S. uses nukes,” Ritter said, “I will make the following prediction: This game will result in an evaporating American city because if we let this genie out, it’s not going to go back in until it bites us.”

The majority of Ritter’s audience left enlightened, if not feeling inferior, as did C.S.C. junior Matthew Kimball.

“[Ritter’s] ideas are very thorough and analytical. And considering I’m extremely liberal and so is Castleton, it was very reassuring to have a speaker who was conservative, to speak out against the war. Ever since then, I’ve felt a lot more confident and comfortable speaking with people who are more on the right. I feel like we can all forget about our political parties and labels and find the things we can unite on. We need to stop dwelling on our differences and find what we agree on and go from there.”

Perron agrees.

“If the audience took anything from Mr. Ritter’s speech, I hope it is that we as citizens have the responsibility to vote and to keep this country a democracy, we must do as Mr. Ritter is, informing the public and demanding they take a stand and take control,” said Perron.

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