“There is no smoking gun. There is no gun and there is no smoke, and Colin Powell knows it. The whole Bush administration’s case [for] war on Iraq is built around a lie. What weapons of mass destruction?”
Today, these words may not surprise you. But what if you had heard them a year ago, before the United States invaded Iraq? Many members of the USF community heard those words on Feb. 11, 2003 in the Special Events Center when former U.S. Marine and former chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, addressed a crowd of 800. Many more read Ritter’s quote in The Oracle the following day.
Unfortunately, no one in power was listening.
On Jan. 23, Bush-appointed lead weapons inspector David Kay had this to say of Saddam’s supposed WMD stockpiles: “I don’t think they existed.” In the weeks since, U.S. corporate media have acted as if this were a revelation.How can this be?
A year ago, Ritter treated USF students to a barrage of evidence that Saddam did not pose a threat and that the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq would be an unnecessary waste of effort, money and human lives. Ritter detailed flaws in Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. Security Council, including the fact that Israel knew Iraq was no threat, and evidence that the Bush administration was cherry-picking through intelligence to make a case for war. None of these statements seem surprising today, but wouldn’t it have been better for our country if more people knew these facts a year ago?
The very people who knew the most about Saddam’s WMD capabilities have been telling us for over a year that Iraq was disarmed during the 1990s, was effectively contained by U.N. inspections, was no longer a threat and that there was no reason for the United States to invade Iraq. On March 7, 2003, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the U.N. Security Council there “is no indication of resumed nuclear activities” in Iraq. Rolf Ekeus, the former head of the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, confirmed that Iraq had been “fundamentally disarmed” by 1996. The lead U.N. weapons inspector during the period immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, Hans Blix, said he never found evidence of WMD or programs related to WMD in Iraq.
The corporate media, as they commonly do, chose to ignore the facts in order to serve self-interest. Instead of giving air time to voices of reason and compassion like Scott Ritter, the media saw an impending war as an opportunity for enhanced ratings. Now, over 534 Americans are dead because of an illegal, unnecessary war for global hegemony, corporate and personal profits and selfish political and financial motives.
Had we listened to people like Ritter (or to millions of other Americans, not to mention 90 percent of the world, for that matter), these men and women, along with the roughly 10,000 innocent Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the start of the invasion, would still be alive today. More troops and civilians are dying every day. As Ritter said during the lecture, and as 500 American families know too well, “war is not a video game. When you die, you’re dead. You don’t get to hit ‘reset’ and come back to life.”
When will we stop the bloodshed and end the quagmire?
President George W. Bush inadvertently uttered one truth last Sunday when he told NBC’s Tim Russert that the Iraq invasion was due to “lack of intelligence.” Let’s hope that American voters demonstrate greater intelligence. Only one candidate for president had the wisdom to see through the lies of the Bush administration. When you cast your ballot on March 9, remember that Dennis Kucinich voted against unconstitutionally ceding the power to declare war to the president.
Ritter’s lecture is stillavailable at www.netcast.usf.edu/Announce/ULSeries/2003/SRitter/SRitter.htm
Sean Kinane is a Ph.D. candidate in biology and helped organize the Ritter lecture.