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About the time President Bush birthed the “Axis of Evil,” Scott Ritter became a very hot property. He was still in the employ of Fox News channel than, as a consultant, and could read the writing on the wall: Iraq was the only Axis nation America could logically invade, and because he was a former United Nations weapons inspector, he possessed a more intimate knowledge of Iraq’s weapons capabilities, circa 1998, than just about any other civilian. So even though his was older knowledge, it was still relevant enough to form a general base of information for Fox News channel viewers, upon which they could build as time went on.
Fast forward seven months. Just days before the first anniversary of the Tragedies, Scott Ritter has made an appearance before the Iraqi National Assembly, suggesting that there is no evidence to bolster American claims of advanced Iraqi weapons programs, and therefore no justification for war. Which brings about interesting questions: if your average American would like to gain audience with the Iraqi National Assembly – say, as a vacation stop – how does he go about getting such a thing? Secondarily, upon what is Ritter basing his new knowledge?
In answering the first question, well, your average American just doesn’t get an audience with the Iraqi National Assembly, which only shines a brighter light as to why Ritter was there and who footed the bill. On this, every possible accusation has been made, starting with “Ritter is on the Iraqi payroll and should be investigated for income tax evasion” and often ending with “Ritter is a traitor and should be investigated for espionage.” Maybe, maybe not; but by this point, even Ritter should understand how odd this all looks. Those who undergo philosophical shifts tend to do so gradually; for one example, your author didn’t flip from liberalism to Republicanism in one grand movement, rather the change came gradually.
That cannot be said of Scott Ritter, whose turn has been positively Brockian in its brevity. Self-respecting news networks have gone back to 1998, retrieved and broadcast one hawkish comment after another uttered by none other than Ritter himself, who at the time was insisting not only that Iraq’s weapons capability was further along than we thought, but that the removal of inspectors simply shouldn’t be allowed to stand. So what has changed? The political affiliation of the administration? Would this be explained if Ritter was himself a liberal Democrat and was speaking out against a Republican administration in an election year, as Daschle and company have? Hard to say; even if it were true, Daschle and company haven’t taken flights to Iraq and so publicly denounced their own nation. Neither, for that matter, has any relevant administration dissenter.
To the second question, one assumes Ritter’s new basis of knowledge comes either from the Iraqis themselves, or is simply a visceral, contrary reaction to a power he doesn’t trust (that being the United States government). Should the former be true, there is quite a bit to be said for the intellectual acumen that trusts the Iraqi government over the United States government, no matter how he despises its universal size and intrusiveness. One can make whatever arguments against this government he wishes, from the founding forward – that those who insisted most heartily on the freedom of Man continued to own slaves, that later generations wiped out Indian populations in the name of expansion, et cetera – but you can also say the same government sent five of its own citizens to die for each slave it ultimately freed, and that it made more concessions to Indians, in more sober times, than any other nation in a similar position would have made.
What you cannot say is that the United States has, in this modern time, ever gassed and slaughtered a segment of its population because it thought the people impure or considered it the enemy. Nor has its leaders met with conspirators who ended up flying airliners into buildings and killing 3,050 people. Nor can it be said the United States manufacturers and maintains nuclear weapons so that it can one day drop them on another country as a matter of trivial comeuppance for a misdeed no one can identify. (Who in the world can say Kuwait was invaded as some sort of logical program?) All of these have been, and will be, Iraq unless something is done in the near term.
Mr. Irrelevant has always been the nickname given the college player picked last in the National Football League draft; now he is Scott Ritter, having been made so by senior members of the administration, who have roundly (and patiently) explained away his concerns. Even Brit Hume has added insult to Ritter’s injury, noting on Monday afternoon that he was indeed a paid Fox News channel consultant until his views became too, well, nutty. (Mr. Hume, of course, picked a more diplomatic term.)
One logically suspects that irrelevant is exactly what Scott Ritter doesn’t want to be, thus his outrage. Should this be the case, that he’s merely a man with an inferiority complex and a desire for the spotlight, perhaps he can be excused. If not, his true motivations should be known. There is no time for him to speak out like the present; dissent can be tolerated, pandering to the enemy cannot.
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