Scott Ritter on Obama/McCain’s bomb-Iran rhetoric: “Don’t stand tall; stand safe”

From: Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush praised Arizona Senator John McCain Tuesday for his commitment to the surge in Iraq and described him as a man who “would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war.”

In these last few months of the Bush administration, as we continue to discuss the war in Iraq and the possibility of an attack on Iran, we turn to a man who was a UN weapons inspector inside Iraq in the ’90s. I’m talking about Scott Ritter. He resigned as chief weapons inspector for the United Nations in 1998 and became an outspoken critic of sanctions in Iraq and US interference in weapons inspection programs.

Scott Ritter’s recent articles have focused on Iran. His latest piece on Iran, published earlier this summer on Truthdig.com, is called “Acts of War.” It begins with the lines: “The war between the United States and Iran is on. American taxpayer dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund activities that result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian property destroyed. This wanton violation of a nation’s sovereignty would not be tolerated if the tables were turned and Americans were being subjected to Iranian-funded covert actions that took the lives of Americans, on American soil, and destroyed American property and livelihood.” Those are his words.

[…]

AMY GOODMAN: Steve Ritter, I interviewed pro-war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell on Monday on Democracy Now! He founded the group Vets for Victory. He’s also on the board of Vets for Freedom. This is what he said about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    STEVE RUSSELL: If you look at the testimony of Dr. Ahmed Obeidi, who was Saddam’s nuclear physicist, he had a Zippe centrifuge in hand. This was a Western-manufactured centrifuge. Centrifuge, it refines uranium, in simple terms. Only a handful of nations have acquired this Western-made technology. Let me name a few of them: Israel, Pakistan, North Korea. You look at these nations, they have one thing in common: they all developed the bomb. They had this technology in hand. Now, what they didn’t have was the complete oversight or lack of oversight to develop their nuclear weapons program. We found yellowcake. We have a Zippe centrifuge there. No other nation left to themselves was not able to develop the bomb with the Zippe centrifuge in hand.

AMY GOODMAN: Retired Lieutenant Colonel Steve Russell.

SCOTT RITTER: Well, I respect Colonel Russell’s service to his country. What I don’t understand is why Steve Russell feels that he’s empowered to talk about weapons inspections in Iraq. I sort of was deeply involved in that program from ’91 to ’98. His name never appeared on any of the inspector rosters. He wasn’t there as an inspector, and because he wasn’t, he has gotten some of the issues wrong. I wouldn’t quote Mahdi Obeidi in a positive way. And anyway, that just shows how ideologically motivated this guy is.

The Zippe centrifuge, it’s Dutch-designed. So there’s another nation that has it that doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program. The same technology has been used by Germany to enrich uranium. They don’t have a nuclear weapons program. The Japanese use it; they don’t have a nuclear weapons program. The Canadian—my point is, many nations use centrifuges to enrich uranium. It is one of the most cost-effective means of enriching uranium for nuclear energy. Nations have used this technology in an illicit fashion: Israel, Pakistan, maybe North Korea—we’re not quite sure about that, because we don’t know if they have a uranium enrichment program or not. But we do know that Iraq acquired this technology. They never perfected it. The Iranians are using a derivative—the P1 centrifuge is a Zippe derivative—to enrich uranium.

But he misses the point, because he speaks of international law, operating outside the framework of international law. To say Israel and Pakistan, he’s right. North Korea is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and they only went forward on their nuclear program after they withdrew from it. Iran is a signatory. And the key aspect of Steve Russell’s comment is outside the framework of international monitoring. Iran is 100 percent monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and they have a complete understanding of the scale and scope of Iran’s centrifuge program, a complete accounting of the totality of Iran’s nuclear material. So I don’t know what Steve Russell is trying to do, to link Iraq, which he does so inaccurately, with the situation in Iran, but he’s off base.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott Ritter, you were in Naval intelligence. You served under—

SCOTT RITTER: Marine intelligence.

AMY GOODMAN: Marine intelligence. You served under General Schwarzkopf?

SCOTT RITTER: Yes, ma’am.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s the last fifteen seconds you want to leave our listeners and viewers with? What do you think is the most important thing to understand today on this eve if the 2008 election?

SCOTT RITTER: Fifteen seconds? Iran poses no threat to the United States of America worthy of military intervention, and we should ensure that our political leadership, before they send our troops to war, as Barack Obama says he may do, or take care of them when they come home, that we exhaust all means short of war before we go to war, that we make sure war is the last option. Right now we hear too much warlike rhetoric about standing tall. Don’t stand tall; stand safe.

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