SCOTT RITTERís testimony, taken by RAY McGOVERN
Ray McGovern: I know that you were a Marine officer, so I know that we donít have to swear you in. You took it oath, did you not? Can you tell us what that oath was?
Scott Ritter: To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.
RM: So it was to the Constitution of the United States that you swore an oath to protect and not the commander in chief of the United States?
RM: Let me simply remind everyone here that our witness was a UN inspector from 1991 to 1998. But we only have about 20-25 minutes to cut to the chase here, so questions will be brief and hopefully the answers will be succinct, because we have a lot to cover.
Our task, our subject is wars of aggression. I think we need to refer to what Nuremberg said about these wars. He defined it thusly: "To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole. Think torture. Our task tonight is to produce evidence as to whether or not the president of the United States, George W. Bush, in launching our armed forces into Iraq in March 1993 thereby authorized a war of aggression.
Now this war, as has been mentioned, was justified or explained by something called weapons of mass destruction-- a subject that you are an expert on, is that right, Mr. Ritter?
SR: I like to say specialist, I donít like to use the term expert, itís used too often.
RM: Iíd like to ask you right off the batóWhat kind of role did weapons of mass destruction play in this whole calculus?
SR: Weapons of mass destruction was the only foundation upon which this war was justified. I submit to you for your consideration the letter that was submitted by Ambassador John Negroponte of the United States of America to the Security Council of the United Nations on the eve of the decision by the president to invade Iraq in March 2003. In this letter, Ambassador Negroponte repeatedly refers to Iraqís refusal to disarm, the existence of weapons of mass destruction, and therefore the existence of a clear and present risk to international peace and security that warranted the use of military action on the part of the United States. Weapons of mass destruction was the only justification cited for the Bush administrationís invasion of Iraq.
RM: I think our citizens can be forgiven for being a little confused at this point. We have the Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell, saying to us in February 2001, "Saddam Hussein has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors." Condoleeza Rice, July 29, 2001: "We are able to keep his arms from him, his military forces have not been rebuilt."
Then all of a sudden, we have weapons of mass destruction galore in Iraq. Shortly after 911, we have the president telling us, 'There is no doubt that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." We have Secretary Rumsfeld saying, in his typically quotable way, "There is no debate in the world as to whether that they have those weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that." He even professed to know where they were, out there-- Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, southwest of there. How do you explain that, Mr. Ritter? How do you explain first of all, that there were none there before 911, then all of a sudden there were a plethora of same. What was going on?
SR: First of all, letís also refer to statements made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld when justifying the analysis put forward that there were weapons of mass destruction. He acknowledged that the United States suffered from a lack of current intelligence data about the status of Iraqís WMD program. That in fact the foundation of the analysis was based upon data that existed prior to 1998, that is data that existed when UN inspection teams, of which I was a part of, served in Iraq.
Now, this is the data that prompted Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice to make their statements in 2001 that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. This is data that was known to the Clinton administration. Since 1995, the United States intelligence community knew that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed in the field of ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons and biological weapons. What cause the Bush administration to change its stated assessment is the policy decision undertaken by the Bush administration to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein from power. Around this policy, the Bush administration fixed intelligence, including analysis that it claims was the result of a reexamination of the facts in light of the events of September 11, 2001-- namely that because of the terrorist attacks against the United States on that date, the United States could no longer tolerate an uncertain situation in Iraq. The reason why I highlight this is that the Bush administration in making these statements acknowledges the uncertainty that exists regarding WMD. This is a far cry from the statements made by the president and indeed members of his administration, under oath to the Congress of the United States, that they knew these weapons existed.
RM: Mr. Ritter, the administration even now repeats one of Mr. Rumsfeldís dictas here, not only trained apes, but all our allies, all intelligence services, everyone in the whole world including Mr. Rumsfeldís trained apes, knew, believed that there were weapons of mass destruction there. Would you comment on how everyone could have been so disastrously wrong?
SR: First of all, we need to differentiate between the concept of knowledge and the concept of belief. I canít vouch for anybodyís belief. There are many beliefs out there, some of which are valid, some of which arenít. But the administration has said that the French, the Germans, the Russians, indeed the entire world, felt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I can tell you as the person who was responsible for some of the most sensitive intelligence operations run by the United Nations vis a vis Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction program, the person who had total access to every shred of intelligence data provided by the international community of the United Nations regarding Iraqís weapons of mass destruction that while there may have been uncertainty about the final disposition of the totality of Iraqís WMD programs, the entire world including the CIA acknowledged that the United Nationsí weapons inspectors had, by 1998, accounted for 95-98% of Iraqís declared stockpiles. That there was uncertainty regarding the final disposition of this 5-2% that could not be absolutely verified, but there was no nation, and I will say that again, no nation including the United States, that had any hard factual data to sustain the argument that Iraq a) retained weapons of mass destruction, or b) was actively reconstituting weapons of mass destruction.
So I will contradict the Bush administration by stating NO nation supported the Bush administrationís contention that Iraq maintained viable massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction at any time from 1998 up until the eve of the invasion in March of 2003.
RM: Are you saying, Mr. Ritter, that the president marched us off to war in the subjective mood? Are you saying that his rhetoric was incredibly declarative-- "There can be no doubt." Quote- end quote. And the intelligence analysts themselves were betwixt and between to come up with the proof that he needed.
SR: I will say this, that as early as 1992 the CIA was in possession of enough data to sustain the notion that Iraq had been disarmed in the field of ballistic missiles. By 1993 the CIA had enough data to sustain the notion that Iraq had been disarmed in the field of biological weapons. By 1994, the CIA had enough data to sustain the finding that Iraq was disarmed in the field of chemical weapons. And by 1995, the CIA was in possession enough data to sustain the finding that Iraq was disarmed in the field of biological weapons. This knowledge, this certainty of data, was passed over from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration. Therefore, I would say that the presidentís rhetoric was not only baseless, but deliberately misleading.
RM: Mr. Ritter, you mention 1995, and I am aware that Saddam Husseinís son-in-law, Hussein Kamel defected to us, to the UN, at that time. The President and Vice President Cheney and other high officials, have praised him very highly for being the quintessential defector source. As a matter of fact, if I recall correctly, the Vice President used information he said that came from Kamel in his major war speech in August 26, 2002, saying that Kamel had said that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Later, it came out that Kamel had said something quite different. Would you comment on that firsthand evidence, and tell us a little bit about who this source was.
SR: Hussein Kamel was the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, he was the former director general of the military-industrial commission during the mid to late 1980s. As such, he was the man responsible for the development and implementation of Iraqís weapons of mass destruction programs. He was a gentleman who was in possession of the totality of knowledge necessary to make one capable of speaking authoritatively on Iraqís WMD programs. He defected in August of 1995. I need to point out that I led the investigation into Hussein Kamalís defection, and therefore I am singularly qualified to talk about not only his defection, but also the results of his defection.
Hussein Kamal provided testimony, debriefings, to the United Nations Special Commission, to the CIA, and to British MI6 or the Secret Intelligence Service, in August 1995. These three debriefings contain almost identical information. Hussein Kamal did not change or alter the basic characterization of his testimony. We know from the documents that were directly related to the United Nations debriefing of Hussein Kamal, that he testified to the United Nations, and indeed to the CIA and British intelligence, that all weapons of mass destructionóchemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic missiles, were destroyed unilaterally by the Iraqi government in the summer of 1991. This is a finding, by the way, that has been certified by the Central Intelligence Agency, in specific the Iraq Survey Group, after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The CIA today states that the Iraqi government and indeed Hussein Kamal was telling the truth. All weapons were in fact destroyed in the summer of 1991.
However, this is not what Vice President Dick Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in August of 2002. He referred to Hussein Kamal, and he said that it is because of Hussein Kamalís defection that the United Nations was able to acquire knowledge about the existence of Iraqís biological weapons program. Furthermore, Dick Cheney said that because of Hussein Kamalís defection, the United Nations and the United States received evidence that Iraq was actively reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. This of course served as the foundation of the case that the Bush administration was articulating to Congress, the United States and indeed to the rest of the world, that Iraq had a viable ongoing WMD capability. Dick Cheney was lying. Dick Cheney knew he was lying, and this is one of the harshest indictments one can make against a government official of the United States of America. This is a civil crime, not necessarily a war crime. To lie in the conduct of your official duties is a felony, and I believe that Dick Cheney and others should be held accountable to this. But it also evidence that the Bush administration willfully exaggerated the case about the threat posed by the Iraq WMD, thereby negating any case they might make about the existence of a clear and present threat that warranted pre-emptive attack.
RM: Besides the documentary evidence, firsthand observation, we in the intelligence business would call Hussein Kamal an excellent source with excellent access. Obviously, he was running the program. If Iím not mistaken, Mr. Ritter, the rest of what he told us was also borne out, the little things he told us about some biological weapons that were hidden and that kind of thing. Is that correct? In other words, he was a proven source.
SR: Well, actually he didnít make any reference to biological weapons being hidden because there werenít any biological weapons being hidden. He did speak about a concealment program that took place in the summer of 1991 which was run by Saddam Husseinís personal security force, the Special Security Organization. And that he believed there was a possibility that documents continued to be hidden as well as minor components relating to manufacturing processes. This did turn out to be the case.
In the weeks following Kamalís debriefing, the United Nations Special Commission brought under its control an archive of several hundred thousand documents, including the material that Hussein Kamal said was being hidden by the Iraqi government. These were not weapons of mass destruction. They were not evidence of ongoing weapons of mass destruction programs. They were part of past-described programs that the Iraqi government had failed to completely turn over the weapons inspectors.
RM: Mr. Ritter, I can just imagine how you reacted to the strange pronouncements coming out from some of our leaders. You also had pointed out that this information, though depressedósuppressed in our, depressed as welló suppressed in our main media, that there was a report on the Hussein Kamal information in Newsweek a month before the war. How do you account for the fact that it remained in the Periscope section of Newsweek, and that neither the Times or the Post nor anyone else took any note of itóhere, a report from the fellow in charge of the weapons program--missile, biological, chemical, nuclear. Heís saying that theyíd all been destroyed in 1991. How could it be that our media would have ignored that, Mr. Ritter?
SR: Thatís a question that only the media can answer. I can say that the information was provided by myself to CNN executives. Indeed, CNN taped a one-hour interview with myself where these documents played a central part. This interview was taped and never aired because of an executive decision made by CNN. CNN can only answer why they chose not to air this information. I believe the other outlets are again the only ones who can answer this question. Itís information that was very relevant, itís information that directly contradicted the statements made by the Bush administration, and itís information that would have undermined severely the case the administration was making regarding Iraq and the threat and justification for the war.
RM: One last question, Mr. Ritter. I was in London a few years ago when you had a press conference and you talked about Operation Rockingham and about Operation Mass Appeal. This too had to do with massaging of information made available to the public in Britain and here. Would you tell us what that involved?
SR: Well thing to note is that both Operation Rockingham and Operation Mass Appeal were British operations. Itís also important to note that they were not conducted by the United States government, as far as I was concerned or aware of, during the time of Bill Clinton. So the relevance of these operations to the discussion about George W. Bush is that they represented a trend on the part of both the United States and the United Kingdom to create systems that were designed not to disarm Iraq or to seek out hidden weapons of mass destruction capabilities, but rather to maintain a public perception of a non-compliant Iraq, so that economic sanctions could be sustained--sanctions which served as the cornerstone of a policy of regime change. Disarmament was only useful insofar as it facilitated regime change by providing a basis for continuing sanctions that destabilized Saddam Hussein and undermined Iraqís economic welfare.
This is a policy that was continued over into the time of George W. Bush. I canít say that Operation Rockingham or Mass Appeal were directly carried over. But I can say again the policy of regime change was the dominant policy of the United States of America from 1991 to 2003. The United States government never intended to disarm Iraq because a disarmed Iraq was counterproductive to a policy of regime change because if Iraq was disarmed sanctions would have to be lifted. The United States needed to maintain the even though it possessed the definitive data that proved that Iraq was complying with its obligations to disarm.
Although this took place during the Clinton administration, this data set was transferred in its entirety to the Bush administration, and the Bush administration knew that Iraq provided no threat to the United States of America that warranted any form of military action.
RM: Thank you Mr. Ritter. Let me just make one more comment here. On regime change, you keep coming back to regime change, and the Downing Street Memoranda, which are going to be addressed shortly by David Swanson, they throw a lot of weight on the British reaction to regime change, because time and time again the British Attorney General and the Foreign Secretary kept saying regime change is not a justification for launching a war. Launching a war for regime change just wonít work. And thatís why, as you know that famous sentence in the Downing Street Memo-- you know it better than Ióabout the fixing. Would you repeat that sentence?
SR: I canít repeat it verbatim, but I believe that intelligence is being fixed around the policy. And the policy of regime change has been decided upon by the Bush administration, and it is in the process of fixing intelligence around that policy. Which means that what passes for intelligence is nothing more than politically motivated propaganda.
RM: A brief last comment. The president and his advisors were badly misled by the Central Intelligence Agency, that it was a terrible mistake. And at the same time, when the president is asked if he would do it again, he says yes I would certainly do it again. How does that parse in your mind?
SR: First of all, I think we need to make it clear that there was no intelligence failure. You canít have an intelligence failure regarding the disarming of Iraq unless of course you have a policy of disarming Iraq, in which case you can say, oops, we got it wrong. The policy was regime change. The intelligence failure was actually an intelligence success, because it was the job of the CIA to put forward a misrepresentation of the facts. The CIA actively suppressed data which sustained Iraqís contention that it had unilaterally disarmed in the summer of 1991. The Bush administrationís contention that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction posed a threat that warranted military action is not only inconsistent with the data in possession of not only the CIA but also the Bush administration, it is in itself a violation of the principals, standards, and indeed the legal foundation upon which I not only took an oath to uphold and defend, but what the entire international community has embraced as the rule of law since the end of the Second World War. And that is of course the Charter of the United Nations. Article 6 of the Constitution clearly states that when we enter into an international agreement or treaty that has been ratified by two-thirds of the United States Senate, that is the law of the land. We have signed the Charter of the United Nations. We have ratified it, and the Charter gives only two cases in which military force is authorized under international law. Article 51, self-defense. And then Chapter 7 of the Charter that states if the Security Council finds that a situation exists that threatens international peace and security, it can authorize the use of military force to rectify that. When it comes to Iraq, neither condition existed.
RM: Thanks, Mr. Ritter. We have a question from one of the judges.
Dennis Brutus: We do have three questions. Iíd like to take the opportunity to start with Ajamu Sankofa.
AJ: When the president of the United States says today that he and his administration relied on faulty "intelligence." Can you describe specifically what he is referring to, if you know?
SR: Thereís two data sets that the Bush administration relied on. One is a data set that Iím intimately familiar with. That is, information or intelligence data that was collected by or on behalf of the inspectors from 1991 to 1998 pertaining to Iraqís disarmament.
The Bush administration contends that after September 11, 2001, it had to reevaluate these findings that said Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed but not totally disarmed. And that it had to put a weight on the fact that there was unaccountable material. This fact that there was unaccountable material was then combined with new data which was not the sort of data that we would call actionable intelligence or viable intelligence. It was intelligence information, or I should say information, that comes from sources such as Akmed Chalabiís Iraq National Congress, where you have defectors who have failed CIA quality control standards, they failed polygraphs. In fact this was information that was rejected by the CIA but again was reinserted into the mix because this is not about genuine intelligence analysis, this about political motivation to find any data to sustain the notion of a non-compliant Iraq.
DB: We have a second question from Mr. Abdeen Jabarra.
AJ: Thank you very much for that testimony, Mr. Ritter. This will certainly help the jury here to evaluate in terms of the counts of the indictment. My question is since you indicated the United States had a policy of regime change that began in 1991, and the economic sanctions that were imposed on Iraq was part and parcel of that policy-- and there have been some statements now about the number of civilian casualties in Iraq since the beginning of the "shock and awe" campaign against Iraq, and the invasion of Iraq by American military and coalition forces. But can you tell us something about the number of casualties and deaths in Iraq under the sanctions regime, before the beginning of actual invasion?
SR: No sir, sadly, I canít. I was a weapons inspector. My job in Iraq was focused solely on disarming of Iraq. There were other United Nations officials who were there to oversee the economic sanctions program, and it would be irresponsible speculation for me to put a number to that. There are people who can answer that question definitively. Unfortunately I am not one of them.
DB: The third question is from Ann Wright.
AW: The US Congress did pass a piece of legislation called The Iraq Liberation Act, and it did call for regime change, if I understand. Did the Bush administrationís attack on Iraq, did it comply with what Congress had said in that act?
SR: Itís curious, when we talk about the Iraq Liberation Act which was passed by the Congress in a bilateral fashion, Democrats and Republicans alike in the fall of 1998, the genesis of that was a letter written by an organization called the Project for a New American Century sent to Bill Clinton in August 1998 that held Clinton to task for failing to deal with Saddam Husseinís regime. An outgrowth of that is the legislation that came forward in the fall of 1998, the Iraq Liberation Act, which put down as public law an American policy of regime change.
However, this regime change was based on financial support on the part of the United States of America, to Iraqi opposition groups, in particular Akmed Chalabiís Iraqi National Congress. $98 million in of US taxpayersí money was set aside for this. Whatís important about the Iraqi Liberation Act, however, is that it specifically prohibited the use of United States military force to achieve this objective. So while George W. Bush did inherit from the Clinton administration, a policy of regime change, it was a policy of regime change that had a specific caveat that said US military force will not be used. And the reason why this is important is that when one draws a chronological link between the Clinton administrationís policies on Iraq and the Bush administrationís policy on Iraq, itís not simple enough to say regime change was the policy of both. The Bush administration made a decision at some point in time, that it would step away from the Iraq Liberation Act, and engage in a policy of regime change that had as its heart the utilization of US military force. And this is where we get into the notion of planning and executing of a war of aggression as opposed to simple regime change.
AW: So indeed the Bush administrationís going to war was a violation of the 1998 legislation which said you cannot use military force.
SR: The Bush administration will contend that the Congress gave them a new mandate in the aftermath of September 11, and specifically a vote by both houses of Congress to authorize the president to use military force to rectify the situation in Iraq.
Larry Everest: I realize that your service with the United Nations ended in 1998. One of the arguments weíve heard from the Bush administration is that Saddam forced the inspectors out in 1998. Therefore, for the next 5 years, Saddam Husseinís government could have, might have, and of course they were saying that it did in fact reconstitute banned weapons programs. What can you tell us about that argument?
SR: I can tell you that in May 1998 that the Clinton administration, particularly Sandy Berger, Madeleine Albright articulated a policy that had the US stepping away from full support of UN weapons inspectors, that UN weapons inspections had become a difficulty for the United States, and they were desperate to find a solution for terminating these inspections in a manner that maintained a perception of a non-compliant Iraq. In December 1998, the Clinton administration was successful in putting an inspection team on the ground in Iraq that deliberately confronted the Iraqis over access to sensitive sites, namely political parties, presidential sites. One such site was the ______ of Baath Party headquarters. The inspection team went up to the site, demanding access. The Iraqis granted access in accordance with modalities that had been in place since 1996. But under orders from the Clinton administration, the chief inspector unilaterally revoked these modalities without referring it to Security Council. The Iraqis said youíre welcome to come in if the modalities apply. But because the modalities didnít apply the Iraqis you cannot come in.
Now letís be clear, 8 inspectors actually gained access to the site, and the Iraqis were willing to allow an additional 16 inspectors to gain access to the site. The inspectors were withdrawn, not by the Iraqi government but on orders of the US government. And once the inspectors were withdrawn, the United States government, the Clinton administration said that the Iraqi government is unwilling to cooperate with the UN weapons inspectors, therefore thereís no reason to continue these inspections. They began a 72-hour bombing called Operation Desert Fox. The Iraqi government said that the inspection process had been corrupted, they refused to allow the inspectors back in. But they did not kick the inspectors out, the US government ordered them out.
Abdeen Jabara: The regime hereóthere may be regime change here as well Ė but the current regime charges, and the president himself has said, that Saddam Hussein kicked out the inspectors that went into Iraq at the turn of the year 2002-2003. Did Saddam Hussein throw them out, what happened?
SR: My understanding again is based on second hand information because I was not a participant in this particular phase of the inspection process. But I can say based on talking with inspectors who were there, that the inspectors were on the ground, doing their job with the full cooperation of the Iraqi government. In fact, they had not been interfered with in any way, shape or form by the Iraqi government.
In the week prior to the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, in fact the weapons inspectors were actively engaged in the process of dismantling Iraqi ballistic missiles that had been declared in violation of the Security Council resolution. Because the United States ordered the inspectors out-- they were not kicked out by Saddam-- many of these missiles remained in place and in operational status and were in fact used by Iraq against US forces during that war. So some could make the argument that the Bush administration, by failing to allow the inspections process to be seen through actually placed US forces at additional risk.
LE: Weíre really out of time but this is very very vital testimony. There was no additional intelligence stream, to your knowledge, between 1998 and 2003 that would have justified the intelligence estimates that were being publicly made by US Officials in the run-up to the war. Is that correct?
SR: Correct. The only information that was new was the so-called intelligence data derived from defectors provided by Akmed Chalabiís Iraq National Congress. Akmed Chalabi and his defectors have been shown since then to be complete fabricators. The other thing that existed was a national intelligence estimate put forward by the Central Intelligence Agency in October 2002 that was based upon a reassessment of the data that existed up until 1998. But this was a politically motivated document that was passed by the CIA after the president had made his decision regarding the threat posed by Iraq. It was dropped into being because the United States Senate said, "Excuse me, Mr. President, you said a threat exists in the form of WMD. What is the national intelligence estimate that states this?" There was none, so the president quickly had the CIA gin up a document, which only reinforces the Downing Street Memoís contention that intelligence was fixed around policy.
LE: Thank you very much.