Weapons inspector criticizes policy towards Iraq

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(Host) The former chief weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq told Vermont audiences this week that the United States has no proof that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Scott Ritter says military action against Iraq should come only after inspection of the country’s weapons facilities and only if authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Ritter spoke before overflow crowds at Middlebury College Monday night and St. Michaels College Tuesday afternoon.

Since his resignation in 1998 as head of the weapons inspection team, Ritter has been an outspoken critic of both the Clinton and Bush administrations. He says neither president has been interested in fully backing weapons inspections in Iraq.

Ritter says he has grave concerns about Saddam Hussien’s weapons program. But Ritter says a new round of inspections is the only way to find out if Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. He says the government has provided no proof to Congress or to the American people. He dismissed the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq has dangerous weapons:

(Ritter) “I’m greatly concerned about what’s transpired in Iraq. I simply don’t know. And you know what? I’m honest enough to say it. Why can’t the government be honest enough to say that they don’t know either? The best way to attain certainty of knowledge about what Iraq has done is to send weapons inspectors back in. Instead, what we hear is that the government makes statements such as, ‘They know Iraq has chemical weapons, they know Iraq has biological weapons.’ And yet they do not provide the facts upon which they make these statements.”

(Zind) Ritter calls Iraq a case study for American unilateralism. He contends the Bush administration’s goal is not to rid Iraq of weapons but to replace a hostile government:

(Ritter) “Is it disarming Iraq? We have the means right now to seek the disarmament of Iraq. Or is it regime removal? I believe the policy is regime removal and that this concept of disarmament is merely a fa ade to justify regime removal. The bottom line is, regime removal is illegal. It’s against the law!”

(Zind) Despite his efforts, Ritter says he expects there will be a war with Iraq with devastating consequences.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Colchester.

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