Scott Ritter Was Right
DONAHUE SHOW January 13, 2003
ANNOUNCER: Tonight: As the president continues to beat the war drum, tens of thousands of Americans are sent to the Persian Gulf. Is January 27 a deadline for war or a speed bump to a diplomatic solution?
DONAHUE goes inside the issues with two men on polar opposite sides:
former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who claims Iraq is not a threat; and his former boss, Ambassador Richard Butler, who says Iraq poses the greatest threat to global security.
Debating now, for the first time face to face, are two men once charged with the task of ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. That was then. And now, they are bitterly disagreeing on how much of a threat Saddam is to the world. Here are Ambassador Richard Butler, MSNBC analyst and former executive chairman of the United Nations special commission charged with the disarmament of Iraq; and Scott Ritter, former U.N. weapons inspector, under Butler. Scott Ritter is here and so is Ambassador Butler.
DONAHUE: Well, Scott, you wrote a book titled "Endgame." You once reported to Richard Butler. He was your boss. And now you disagree with him. Kindly make your case, Mr. Ritter, sir.
SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, I think the basic issue of disagreement is what exactly constitutes the threat that Iraq poses today.
I think, clearly, Richard and I understand that Iraq is obligated to disarm, that they possessed massive quantities of weapons of mass destruction and they have an obligation...
RICHARD BUTLER, FORMER CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: That's right.
So, you say massive quantities.
RITTER: They had massive quantities.
DONAHUE: You said had. Past tense?
BUTLER: I thought you said has. They had. Which one?
RITTER: Had. Possessed. Past tense.
And they were obligated, under international law, to be disarmed by weapons inspectors. I served seven years as a weapons inspector, from 1991 to 1998. And Ambassador Butler was my boss from the summer of 1997 until my resignation in August 1998. And, during that period of time, we did our job. We weren't able to complete our job.
We make it clear. To disarm, to do what you're obligated to do under international law, a couple things have to have happen. One, Iraq must fully cooperate with the inspectors. And I think we can be in agreement that, during our time in UNSCOM, Iraq never completely cooperated.
BUTLER: Phil, we're going to have a very dull debate, because, so far, I agree with everything he said.
RITTER: Two, the Security Council must enforce its law. If you're going to pass a law, you have got to enforce it. And, clearly, when Iraq is obligated to disarm and they don't cooperate with the inspectors, the Security Council needs to do something. If they don't, you don't have viable inspections. And, three, the integrity of the inspection process must be respected throughout. That means that, not only do we hold Iraq accountable to the rule of law, but we ourselves, in implementing the rule of law, must likewise.
And this is where I have a problem. You see, the United States government has a policy of regime removal, getting rid of Saddam Hussein. And, since 1991, my experience has been that that policy of regime removal, which has taken priority over disarmament, corrupted the integrity of the process.
And I think we have to identify that this corrupting influence does have an influence on what takes place and how we interpret what goes on vis-a-vis Iraq. Let there be no doubt. During the seven years that I was a weapons inspector, the United States took advantage of the unique access we enjoyed as inspectors in Iraq to seek information about the security of Saddam Hussein and attempt to eliminate Saddam Hussein. And this corrupted the integrity of the work of the weapons inspectors.
And, ultimately, this is why there are no weapons inspectors in Iraq today. Now, we have inspectors in Iraq today...
BUTLER: But there are weapons inspectors in Iraq.
RITTER: No, no. We don't have UNSCOM there today. Now, we have inspectors back, UNMOVIC. And they're doing their job. Iraq is not interfering, to date. And the Security Council said they will enforce the law.
But let there be no doubt. The United States has a policy of regime removal and the United States still intends on getting rid of Saddam Hussein, regardless of what international law says. And they will and are corrupting the integrity of the inspection process at this point in time. And that's my bone of contention.
Unfortunately, Richard, it was during your tenure as executive chairman, when you were captain of the UNSCOM ship, that we ran aground, that the United States did its worst in regards to abusing the inspection system. So, with all due respect, I hold you a little bit accountable for what occurred.
RITTER: What I'll say is this, is, I take strong disagreement with the contention that you know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
BUTLER: Oh, come on, Scott. That's on the public record.
RITTER: Of course it's not. The public record actually says, with all due respect...
BUTLER: You signed the papers to me, when you worked for me, advising me-with all of your intellect and knowledge, you signed pieces of paper to me saying that Iraq has hidden weapons of mass destruction.
I signed pieces of paper to you that said we have credible intelligence information that says Iraq has it. And I asked you permission to carry out an inspection. But, understand, it's an investigation. You just made a definitive statement that says you know Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. But, with all due respect, Richard, that is never reflected in any of the documents, even the one you just mentioned.
BUTLER: That's not true.
RITTER: It is true. I have it here tonight. Do you want to go through the document page by page and show the people?
DONAHUE: Well, probably not.
BUTLER: It's absolutely established that Iraq has not accounted for...
RITTER: Bingo. I agree with that, has not accounted for. But that's an accounting issue.
BUTLER: So, where are the 500 shells with mustard in them? Where is
the 400 tons of
RITTER: These are good questions, but do you have evidence that they have it?
BUTLER: Where are the missiles?
RITTER: Do you know they have it for a fact, that they possess it as we speak? Or is the problem that Iraq has provided an accounting that we don't have evidence to back it up, that we can't confirm the Iraqi version of disposition? My point is...
BUTLER: Why are you assuming such a degree of innocence on the part of the Iraqis?
RITTER: Because 200,000 Americans are going to war based upon a perception of a threat. You testified before the U.S. Senate that Iraq has these weapons. And people listened to you and they gave that credibility, when the fact is, you do not know with absolute certainty that Iraq has these weapons.
BUTLER: Scott, the United States...
RITTER: And I'm not going to stand by and let Americans die in combat because people like you mislead the American Congress. I just won't allow that to happen.
BUTLER: Oh, for God's sake, for God's sake, I mislead the American Congress?
RITTER: You said you know where the weapons are. Where are they?
RITTER: Well, again, what I would like to say is this. We're talking about going to war here. And this is a very serious issue, one that I think we both are in agreement with. This is not a game, no matter what the media does.
DONAHUE: No, no, no, we know that, Scott. We know that.
RITTER: It's not a game. It's real.
So, there has to be real justification. And the justification has to be a threat posed to international security or to the security of the United States by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I share your concern over the Iraqi declaration. I find them insufficient in terms of closing all the gaps.
However, the Iraqis have provided an accounting. And until which time we can demonstrate that this accounting is false, that they actually possess weapons, I'm in favor of pursuing weapons inspections until hell freezes over before we send any Americans across the line of departure into harm's way. And my big concern is that the United States government-and, unfortunately, I've heard you say things that echo this-have stated, without any doubt, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has chemical weapons. Iraq has biological weapons.
And the America public accepts this without debate. There must be a debate. There must be a dialogue, because, ladies and gentlemen, the United States government has lied about Iraq in the past. [see another example: Our government has lied to us before about Iraq! ] of the The United States government has a policy of regime removal, getting rid of Saddam Hussein, that has been in place since 1991 and has corrupted the moral character of the international community's effort to disarm Iraq.
Understand that, in December 1998, it wasn't Iraq that kicked the inspectors out. It was a phone call from Peter Burleigh to you that got the inspectors out, so the United States could initiate a bombing campaign, Desert Fox, which used U.N. intelligence to target Saddam Hussein. That destroyed the credibility of the inspection
DONAHUE: Yes. Kimberly from Maryland, are you there?
CALLER: Yes, I'm here.
DONAHUE: You wanted to say?
CALLER: I just want to say I totally support the war. I mean, I just wanted to ask each of the people who are speaking, you know, how much longer is this going to go on? We started this epidemic 10, what, years ago...
CALLER: ... and now we're still going on with it. Is it going to be my children that have to deal with it?
DONAHUE: I have an e-mail from Lloyd, who supports your point, Kimberly. "What is the debate about? Saddam Hussein is a mad dictator who used weapons of mass destruction against women and children, killing hundreds if not thousands of them and permanently altering their genetics in the process. He should have been killed years ago."
Somebody wanted the-Scott?
RITTER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right here. Hey, Kimberly, go to war, then. But I'm not going to support you. I won't stop from you going off and dying, but I'll tell you what. I took an oath when I went to war to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.
And what I will remind everybody, including the gentlemen around this table-Article 6 of the United States Constitution clearly states that when the United States enters an internationality agreement or treaty that is ratified by two thirds of the United States Senate, it is the law of the land here. We are signatories to the United Nations charter. The United Nations charter prohibits unilateral military action. It prohibits regime change.
Frankly speaking, President Bush is launching a frontal assault not only against the innocent people of Iraq, not only against the dictator Saddam, but against the Constitution that define us as a nation!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gentlemen, my question is, 12 years-I know of at least seven resolutions that Saddam has just flat-out denied from the U.N.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When is enough enough? Has September 11 not taught us that we need to be proactive...
DONAHUE: You want to go now, don't you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in defending our-I'm just saying that if that is what the intelligence points to, then we need to support our president and get behind him and support him going to war because those men and women we are sending over there need our support. And we have got to be proactive in defending this country!
RITTER: As somebody who was there in 1991, I'll tell you this. I will go to war to take care of any threat against this country. But you just made a remarkable link between September 11 and what's going on in Iraq right now. What link? You show me how what happened that horrible day here on September 11 - how that had anything to do with the situation in Iraq right now. There is no link. There is no reason for us to go to war against Iraq until you demonstrate that Saddam Hussein represents a threat to the United States of America. And 12 years of violating international law does not constitute justification for the death of a single American.
You know, we can contain Saddam. I'm a firefighter in Delmar (ph), New York. And when we have a building on fire, if there's people inside, we run inside. We put our lives at risk to get them out. But you know, if there ain't no one inside, we just surround and drown. Right now, Saddam doesn't pose a threat worthy of the sacrifice of life. Surround and drown. I'd rather be inconvenienced than attending the funerals of ...