Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Former UN weapons inspector claims June attack on Iran by US

If you know who former UN weapons Scott Ritter is, you either like him or you despise him. Back in the first Gulf War, Ritter was a US Marine. He then become a UN weapons inspector and in the months preceding the recent Iraq war, he was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and their plan to attack Iraq. At one point, he received $400,000 to make an anti-sanctions documentry by Detroit-area businessman named Shakir al-Khafaji. Now, he claims that President Bush has plans to bomb Iran in June of this year. Ritter's claims must be taken with a grain of salt. How would he have access to such secret information? Why would the US attack Iran when Bush is repeatedly saying that no attack is in the works? Scott Ritter is truly a curiosity.

Here's a profile on him from the BBC, Monday, 9 September, 2002.

Scott Ritter was born in 1960 to a military family. He joined the armed forces after university and worked as a military intelligence officer in the 1980s.

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

Scott Ritter, 2002
During the Gulf War he served as a ballistic missile expert under General Norman Schwarzkopf, and joined Unscom in late 1991.

He took part in more than 30 inspection missions and 14 as team leader.

Initially, his relationship with Iraq was bad. His unannounced visits were said to have surprised Iraqi officials, who in 1997 accused him of being a US spy.

In early 1998 an inspection by Mr Ritter's team led to the most serious confrontation between Baghdad and the UN since the Gulf War, and eventually to Unscom leaving Iraq.

In August 1998, Mr Ritter resigned from his job, accusing the Security Council and the United States of caving in to the Iraqis.

To compel Iraq into compliance, he told the BBC that year: "Iraq should be subjected to a major campaign that seeks to destroy the regime of Saddam Hussein."


Soon after his high-profile resignation, Mr Ritter was back in the headlines with further criticism of Washington and the UN.

Inspectors leave Iraq in 1998
UN inspectors in Iraq packed their bags in 1998
Only this time he accused Western powers of being too tough, rather than too soft, on the Iraqis.

In late 1998, Mr Ritter called US and British military strikes against Iraq a "horrible mistake".

He forced UN chief inspector Richard Butler to apologise to him after Mr Butler accused Mr Ritter of breaking the law by speaking publicly about his work in Iraq.

In 1999 he published a book, Endgame, where he argued that Unscom's mission had been compromised by Washington's use of inspections to spy on the Iraqis.

Last year he produced a documentary entitled Shifting Sands: The Truth about Unscom and the Disarming of Iraq.

He said that his team was satisfied that Iraq had destroyed 98% of its weapons by 1995.

'No threat'

Mr Ritter accused the US Government of deliberately setting new standards of disarmament criteria to maintain UN sanctions and justify continued bombing raids.

He also said Iraq "did co-operate to a very significant degree with the UN inspection process" and blamed the US and the UK for the breakdown.

Mr Ritter essentially repeated those views during his trip to Baghdad last year.

He said the US seemed "on the verge of an historic mistake".

"My government is making a case for war against Iraq that is built upon fear and ignorance," he added.

"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."

By Mark Jensen

United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
February 19, 2005

Scott Ritter, appearing with journalist Dahr Jamail yesterday in Washington State, dropped two shocking bombshells in a talk delivered to a packed house in Olympia’s Capitol Theater. The ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector said that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

Olympians like to call the Capitol Theater "historic," but it's doubtful whether the eighty-year-old edifice has ever been the scene of more portentous revelations.

The principal theme of Scott Ritter's talk was Americans’ duty to protect the U.S. Constitution by taking action to bring an end to the illegal war in Iraq. But in passing, the former UNSCOM weapons inspector stunned his listeners with two pronouncements. Ritter said plans for a June attack on Iran have been submitted to President George W. Bush, and that the president has approved them. He also asserted that knowledgeable sources say U.S. officials "cooked" the results of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million -- a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism.

The former Marine also said that the Jan. 30 elections, which George W. Bush has called "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom," were not so free after all. Ritter said that U.S. authorities in Iraq had manipulated the results in order to reduce the percentage of the vote received by the United Iraqi Alliance from 56% to 48%.

Asked by UFPPC's Ted Nation about this shocker, Ritter said an official involved in the manipulation was the source, and that this would soon be reported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist in a major metropolitan magazine -- an obvious allusion to New Yorker reporter Seymour M. Hersh.

On Jan. 17, the New Yorker posted an article by Hersh entitled The Coming Wars (New Yorker, January 24-31, 2005). In it, the well-known investigative journalist claimed that for the Bush administration, "The next strategic target [is] Iran." Hersh also reported that "The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer." According to Hersh, "Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile targets inside Iran. . . . Strategists at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the military’s war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran. . . . The hawks in the Administration believe that it will soon become clear that the Europeans’ negotiated approach [to Iran] cannot succeed, and that at that time the Administration will act."

Scott Ritter said that although the peace movement failed to stop the war in Iraq, it had a chance to stop the expansion of the war to other nations like Iran and Syria. He held up the specter of a day when the Iraq war might be remembered as a relatively minor event that preceded an even greater conflagration.

Scott Ritter's talk was the culmination of a long evening devoted to discussion of Iraq and U.S. foreign policy. Before Ritter spoke, Dahr Jamail narrated a slide show on Iraq focusing on Fallujah. He showed more than a hundred vivid photographs taken in Iraq, mostly by himself. Many of them showed the horrific slaughter of civilians.

Dahr Jamail argued that U.S. mainstream media sources are complicit in the war and help sustain support for it by deliberately downplaying the truth about the devastation and death it is causing.

Jamail was, until recently, one of the few unembedded journalists in Iraq and one of the only independent ones. His reports have gained a substantial following and are available online at

The Wallstreet Journal's article, Saddam's U.N. Payroll, from October 28, 2004, is quite interesting and shows why John Ritter credibility is called into question.

Out on the campaign trail, John Kerry continues to diminish our allies
in Iraq and decry President Bush for "rushing" to war without U.N.
Security Council approval. But we hope his would-be Secretaries of
State, Biden or Holbrooke, are paying attention in private to
revelations about the crumbling sanctions regime they would have had
us continue and the related corruption in the U.N.'s Oil for Food

These folks are in for a rude awakening if they really think Old
Europe will be rushing to help a President Kerry in Iraq, or that the
United Nations is competent and trustworthy enough to manage their
foreign policy projects.

* * *

The latest pieces of news are last week's data dump from Paul
Volcker's U.N.-blessed investigation of Oil for Food, and U.S. weapons
inspector Charles Duelfer's report to Congress earlier this month.
Everybody is still digesting these massive documents. But the most
important conclusion is already clear: Saddam Hussein exploited the
program to run the largest bribery scheme in the history of the world.

Yes, we mean that literally. Total turnover between 1996 and 2003 was
about $97 billion, or $64.2 billion in oil sales and $32.9 billion
worth of food and other "humanitarian" goods. Crucially, Saddam was
able to manipulate the program largely because U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan -- who was given more or less complete discretion to design
Oil for Food by the Security Council resolution that created it --
allowed him to pick and choose the buyers of his oil and the sellers
of the humanitarian goods.

This meant the Iraq dictator could reward his friends and political
allies with oil at below market prices and goods contracts at inflated
ones. In the middle of the program, he also started demanding
kickbacks on the contracts to add to the stream of unmonitored revenue
he was already getting from oil smuggling.

It can't be stressed enough that both the Duelfer and Volcker
investigations confirm that this global web of corruption is no mere
allegation trumped up by Ahmed Chalabi and "neoconservatives," as U.N.
officials tried to pretend in January when Iraq's al Mada newspaper
published a list of the oil voucher recipients.

Mr. Duelfer's list of recipients -- which more or less confirms al
Mada's -- was compiled based on information from current and former
Iraqi officials and lists maintained by former Iraqi Vice President
Taha Yasin Ramadan (now in U.S. custody) and the former Iraqi Oil
Minister. Mr. Volcker's lists -- which include the 248 companies that
bought Iraqi oil under the program and the 3,545 companies supplying
humanitarian goods -- are compiled from the U.N.'s own records and
cross-checked against Iraqi and other sources, including the French
bank BNP Paribas that administered program revenues.

High-level officials of Saddam's regime have told investigators that
oil and goods contracts were always awarded with an eye to helping
Saddam politically, particularly to promote the lifting of the
sanctions. The Volcker data bears this out. Iraq's top customer was
Russia, whose firms bought $19.2 billion worth of Iraq oil and
exported $3.3 billion in humanitarian goods. Fellow Security Council
member France was a distant but significant second, at $4.4 billion
and $2.9 billion respectively. China is also high on the list.

Oil voucher recipients are alleged to include the Russian presidential
office, former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, and even
former Oil for Food program director Benon Sevan of the U.N. Just this
week our news side colleagues reported that French authorities have
placed under formal investigation a top official of French oil giant
Total, for possible misuse of funds including payment of the Iraqi
kickbacks. Before the war Total was also openly courting Baghdad for
the rights to develop two large Iraqi oil fields.

Against this backdrop, it is impossible to take Secretary-General
Annan seriously when he calls it "inconceivable" that this could have
affected the Security Council's handling of Iraq. "I don't think the
Russian or the French or the Chinese government would allow
[themselves] to be bought," he said recently. But even in the unlikely
event that they weren't too worried about the possible financial
losses, they surely never wanted this information to see the light of

Mr. Annan would be on stronger ground pointing out that Saddam was
seeking agents of influence within the U.S. as well. The very first
oil voucher recipient under Oil for Food appears to have been Texas
tycoon Oscar Wyatt, who had tried to save Saddam from U.S. force
before the first Gulf War. The records allege that Mr. Wyatt and his
company took 71.8 million barrels of oil under Oil for Food for a
profit of $22.8 million. According to a weekend story in the Los
Angeles Times, since 1991 he and his wife have given more than
$700,000 to federal candidates and PACs (about 75% to Democrats) and
Saddam may have regarded him as a way to get to the Clinton

Another name appearing on the Duelfer and Volcker lists is a
politically connected Detroit-area businessman named Shakir
al-Khafaji. Our Robert L. Pollock reported on Mr. al-Khafaji's oil
vouchers back in March, based on the al Mada list and information from
an Iraqi intelligence source. Mr. al-Khafaji later conceded taking
such vouchers, so his appearance on the Duelfer list is not

More interesting is the appearance of his South African-based Falcon
Trading Group on the Volcker list of humanitarian goods suppliers. At
about $50 million, he did a serious amount of business. What's more, a
source on Representative Henry Hyde's House International Relations
Committee tells us Falcon was on the so-called "exempt" list, which
was meant for highly valued individuals and companies that were
allowed to circumvent normal Iraqi contract procedures.

Why might Mr. al-Khafaji have been highly valued? Could it be because
he financed an anti-sanctions documentary by former U.N. weapons
inspector Scott Ritter to the tune of $400,000? Or brought Mr. Ritter
to Baghdad to address Saddam's rubberstamp parliament? Or brought a
U.S. Congressional delegation including former House Minority Whip
David Bonior, and Democratic Representatives Jim McDermott and Mike
Thompson to Baghdad in late 2002 to denounce President Bush's Iraq
policy? Or because he did the same with South African politicians,
possibly influencing that country's pro-Saddam stance? Mr. al-Khafaji
did not return a call this week seeking comment.

Trading with Iraq under Oil for Food wasn't necessarily illegal (at
least if you weren't paying the kickbacks). And we're not suggesting
Mr. Ritter and the Congressmen were anything other than useful idiots.
But it is surely a matter of concern that Saddam may have been able to
use the Oil for Food scheme to advance his interests even within the
United States. We hope federal authorities have been looking into this
activity, as well as the other Iraqi-American (Samir Vincent) on these

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