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A Farewell to Arms Control

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Posted on Jul 5, 2007
Indian nuke
AP Photo / Ajit Kumar, File

Indian officers show off a nuclear-capable missile. With nuclear proliferation running amok in recent years, from India and Pakistan to Iran and North Korea, Scott Ritter argues that highly trained U.N. disarmament experts should be cultivated and deployed.

By Scott Ritter

The organization that was at the center of the maelstrom of the Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco, responsible for bringing the world to the brink of war on no fewer than a half-dozen occasions during the 1990s, and then unable to prevent a war in March 2003, has departed the global scene.  It left not with a dramatic flair befitting its former status, but rather with barely a whimper, reduced to nothing more than a historical footnote in the grand tragedy that has become Iraq.  The United Nations Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), successor to its more accomplished parent, the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), was found to be redundant by an act of the United Nations Security Council, which created its disarmament mandate over 16 years ago when it passed Security Council Resolution 1687 in April 1991.  The United States and Great Britain had been trying to close down the weapons inspection operation since the invasion of Iraq, citing the demise of Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq by coalition forces as evidence that the U.N.-mandated inspection process was now moot.

In a way, the U.S.-British position has merits, as I for one, having led numerous inspections inside Iraq from 1991 to 1998, would have a hard time imagining the inspection teams operating in a safe and effective manner inside the insurgent-ridden Iraq of today.  But the issue of the ongoing relevance of U.N. weapons inspections goes far beyond a simple matter of inspector security.  What really galled the U.S. and British officials were the inconvenient truths about Iraq’s disarmed status, something a continued viable inspection operation would officially register in politically damaging fashion.  The lies and distortions concerning the threat posed by Iraqi WMD promulgated by the governments of George W. Bush and Tony Blair have been blasted into the background of domestic discourse in both the United States and Britain by the ongoing cacophony of violence exploding from occupied Iraq today, more than four years after the invasion.

While the ongoing violence is widely seen by most rational humans as a tragedy of enormous proportions, for those who lied their way into this illegitimate war by fabricating a nonexistent threat the continued surge of violence in Iraq provides a welcome buffer from any probing into the corrupt foundation of fabrication and deceit upon which the precarious structure of this pre-emptive war of aggression continues to be constructed.  With the U.S. Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, growing increasingly discontent with the status quo in Iraq, anything that prompted a renewed examination of why America and its few remaining allies are trapped in the quagmire would be most unwelcome.  This is the true reason behind the demise of UNMOVIC—politics, nothing more or less.

The reality was, and is, that nothing could have been done to save UNMOVIC once Bush decided to activate his unilateral dream of regional conquest in the Middle East.  Having made international law, and by extension the Security Council of the United Nations, irrelevant to U.S. foreign policy objectives, there was no chance that an organ of the Security Council—the weapons inspection process—could continue to be seen as relevant.  Truth be told, UNMOVIC was always a red-headed stepchild in the world of disarmament affairs.  It was born of illegitimacy, derived from a political need on the part of the United States to be seen as promoting U.N.-mandated disarmament in Iraq even after orchestrating the demise of UNMOVIC’s predecessor, UNSCOM.  When a major candidate for national office in the United States, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, can claim that the reason the United States found itself in Iraq in 2003 was that the government of Saddam Hussein had barred the UNMOVIC inspectors from entering Iraq, and not be held accountable for his ignorance—willful or otherwise—it only underscores the continued denigration of the U.N. inspectors that has occurred throughout their long and labored tenure.

Republicans are not the only ones guilty of misrepresenting the truth regarding Iraq and weapons inspections; President Bill Clinton had the gall to claim that Saddam Hussein had refused to cooperate with weapons inspectors in December 1998, evicting the WMD sleuths from Iraq on the eve of the 72-hour bombing campaign known as Desert Fox.  Clinton knew full well that his administration had deliberately created a provocation against the Iraqis, seeking to inspect a Baath Party headquarters, and once it became clear the Iraqis would accede to this outrageous demand, it was Clinton, not Saddam, who ordered the inspectors out of Iraq, seeking to cover his tracks with a bombing campaign that ostensibly targeted “WMD sites,” but which in reality was a thinly disguised assassination attempt against the Iraqi president.  A leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton, continues to uphold the fiction of her husband’s policy in Iraq, much to the detriment of truth.

Weapons inspectors have always found themselves aware of an all too inconvenient reality, one that postulated the possibility of a compliant Iraq, disarmed in accordance with the mandate set forth by the Security Council, and as such ready to rejoin the family of nations as intended by all Security Council resolutions passed on the subject.  It was the unilateral policy objectives of the United States, centered as they were on regime change in Baghdad, which made the realization of Iraq’s disarmed status undesirable.  Truth, in the form of a verifiable report regarding the ultimate disposition of Iraqi WMD, was the enemy of a policy that hinged on the maintenance of the perception of Iraqi noncompliance regarding its disarmament obligations.  UNSCOM was in a position to issue such a report by 1996, but American intransigence prevented that from happening.  UNMOVIC could have pushed for a similar closure in early 2003, but it too found that the truth of Iraq’s WMD was not a message anyone, least of all the United States, was prepared to receive.

In true, the weapons inspectors were more often than not their own worst enemy when it came to making a clear presentation of the facts.  The successful infiltration of the weapons inspection process by American and British officials tasked with shaping a picture of Iraqi WMD that dovetailed with the notion of a recalcitrant and dangerous Saddam meant that even while UNSCOM inspectors on the ground were collecting and certifying the data that pointed toward the truth, the inspectors’ leadership in New York was successful in navigating the inspection vehicle in a completely different direction: The establishment of fact would have little bearing on a process in which proving the negative had become the standard for any final judgment.  It was all fine and dandy for the inspectors to document what they knew about Iraq’s WMD programs; the problem came when they were called upon to bring to closure that which they did not know, and given the timely insertion of fabricated intelligence into the system by the United States and others, there was a considerable body of unknowns from which to draw upon when making the case that the inspectors’ work had not yet run its course.  “Proving the negative” became a disease which infected the entire process, casting doubt where once there existed certainty and clouding over any logical interpretation of the available facts with shadows and whispers of conspiracy and subterfuge.


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By pac plyer, August 11, 2007 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

American History is repleat with fabricated invasion.  We are merely repeating convieniently forgotten history; so we shoudn’t be suprised when the military/industrial/big-corp puppets decide to put a cork in any country who threatens to unleash cheap oil on the world.  After all, these are all texas oil men in the white house; you have to understand their motivations for commiting such crimes against humanity.  Iran is next, it is surrounded by the US army on both sides, and it is easy to evacuate poor Bagdad by mobilizing out of there to stop Iran’s cheap oil/natural gas from hitting the market without passing through US oil pipelines and companies.  In ten years, this admin will be all but forgotton. But the nuclear mistakes made by them will curse your children and their children.  The Nuclear menace demands we endanger our own personal safety and remove this administration by whatever means we can. They have proven to be incompetent custodians of not only our gov, but of the planet and of public safety in general.  They (The Cheney Admin) are more dangerous than any boogieman terrorist real or imagined.  Men like Scot Ritter are our only hope, imho.  Let’s hope he condenses his prose for the reality-TV majority who he is trying to reach, and runs for opposition leadership before it is too late for us all.


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By Chaseme, July 9, 2007 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When will we learn to love as though our lives depend on it…because it does.

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By jmndodge, July 9, 2007 at 8:38 am Link to this comment

A friend used that old expression, “figures never lie, but lairs figure”.  The context a board meeting of clergy and layment administrating a youth camp.  The topic giving.  This layman (an accountant) went on tell us he believed in tithing,  but it’s not easy.  He talked personally, “I don’t know how much I’ve made, until year end, when I adjust figures to report income.” It is very possible to adjust investment, accounts paid vs recievable and the popular “investment credit” as well as simiple business expenses.  A smile on his face, he said, for my giving I need to determine what kind of accountant I am,  $10,000 a year or $40,000.  It was a while ago, and he continued, “I live well”.  The tragic situation today is our perception and spin on actual numbers, and meaning we assign them.  Our nation needs to wake up and decide what kind of people (accountant) we are, and shape our policy based on that reality.  I for one am tired of attempting to shape our policy by who we picture the enemy to be.  Torture, restriction of constitutional rights, a war born by a small percentagae of our population, cut backs in education and health care, racism and our growing prison population would be impossible if we set policy based our our ideals, and identity.  Time to wake up, and look in the mirror.  Let us no longer see reflected the face of the one we most fear.

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By weather, July 7, 2007 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment

We need a room full of Ritters and battalions of patriots to dislodge this incumbency of deceit we face from all sides save but a few.

Deceit is a disease that tells us we don’t have one and this Im afraid is systemic.

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By ardee, July 7, 2007 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

#84835 by Lefty on 7/07 at 11:54 am
(424 comments total)


Errr, Lefty(?), you are aware, are you not, that Pakistan is a Muslim nation and has the Bomb? Or is it just some followers of Islam that you object to obtaining such weaponry? As the current members of that religion number about 1.4 billion you got a lot of them to choose from.

Nelson Mandela once called our policy regarding Nuclear Weaponry , “nuclear apartheid”, and I gotta agree with him.

I havent a clue as to what point you are trying to make, but perhaps neither do you…....The article is about the UN weapons inspection teams and their demise, no mention of Exxon Mobil is necesary to that discussion.

Your tarring of Scott Ritter is just plain unecesary and way beyond any point made in that fine article, perhaps youneed a Prozac?

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By SamSnedegar, July 7, 2007 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Ritter has book contracts to keep him lying—-or failing to deal with the reality of the mideast. As long as he keeps making money from the big time publishers, he won’t be talking about oil, but neither will any of the other sorry specimens you find hereabouts. Since Scheer got fired from the LA Times for telling the truth, the others obviously got the word, and they, (and he), have taken the word “oil” out of their vocabularies. Indeed, they all very likely order only bleu or ranch dressing for their salads to keep from having to say the word oil.

They don’t outright lie; they just refuse to tell the truth, and thus I call them pimps instead of whores, because the whores take money for lying; the pimps just make money by using the whores and dealing in the same process where you never really see their denial of our coveting, lying, stealing, and murdering.

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By PatrickHenry, July 7, 2007 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

#84487 by lilmamzer on 7/06 at 7:57 am

“Scott Ritter is in the pocket of vast Saudi (Religion Of Peace©) money and influence. What a disgraceful place for a former Marine to end up in”.

The U.S. Congress, Senate and executive branches of government are in the pocket of of vast Israeli (AIPAC, JDL, ADL, and a host of others) money and influence.  What a discraceful place for elected officials to end up in.

Fellow Marine Scott Ritter is not a media whore as the others most obviously are.  He means for the well being of my children and those of others in a world ruled by nut cases.

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By ardee, July 6, 2007 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment

#84487 by lilmamzer on 7/06 at 7:57 am
(369 comments total)

Scott Ritter is in the pocket of vast Saudi (Religion Of Peace©) money and influence. What a disgraceful place for a former Marine to end up in.

Speaking of pockets, do they have any in your straight jacket? Oh and how on earth do you type while wearing one?

You know, with friends like you Israel could do with less friends…oy gevalt epis…...

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By felicity, July 6, 2007 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

For those who think Ritter is talking out of something other than his mouth, “The establishment of fact would have little bearing on a process in which proving the negative had become the standard for any final judgement,” (to quote him) should remind you of Rumsfeld’s “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” 

In fact, proving the negative, always an impossibility, was the final justification for the invasion - other than Rice’s ‘mushroom cloud.’  Saddam couldn’t prove he didn’t have something he didn’t have - try it some time - so WE had to look for the non-existent something to prove he indeed had something that he didn’t have. Confused yet?

The demise of that inspection team is, I’m afraid, the final nail in the coffin of a stable world.

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By lilmamzer, July 6, 2007 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

Scott Ritter is in the pocket of vast Saudi (Religion Of Peace©) money and influence. What a disgraceful place for a former Marine to end up in.

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By Enemy of State, July 5, 2007 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment

Wow! This is the first I’ve heard that it was US policy not only under Bush the second, but also under Clinton to deliberatetely paint the reqime as hopelessly recalcitrant. I’m always skeptical of any extraordinary claim from a single source. I hope Scott can come of with some supporting information.

  Then if it turns out to be provable, the question naturally arises: “Why would Clinton have gone along with this sinister plan?” Was there some sort of political calculus that made an intractable conflict with Iraq politically attractive to the Democrats? If so that is highly disturbing, as the sanctions regime was costing ordinary Iraqis greatly in terms of their health. I’d like to believe my government wouldn’t be willing to make millions of innocent foreigners pay such a high price for political convenience.

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By weather, July 5, 2007 at 6:30 pm Link to this comment

Instead of moving forward into a new and very challenged century w/esteemable hope, we are being dragged down into a dark, draconian hole w/out a flashlight - and the Media monster wants to be the tour guide w/Mitt Romney as just another deceitful mouthpiece.
Very lovely too that the Clinton’s took the brown bag as well.

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By Nick, July 5, 2007 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Only an idiot would compare INDIA with Pakistan, N.Korea and Iran when it comes to proliferation issues.  India is surrounded by hostile countries.  It has the right to deter any threats by any means that it can afford.  India also has NO FIRST USE treaties with even these hostile countries. 

Furthermore, its disgusting that a person from the only country that has used atomic weapons on civilian populations would venture out with this hypocrisy.

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By PatrickHenry, July 5, 2007 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment

It is by the American example that these other nations arm.

The 30 year legacy of administrations, both Republican and Democratic, within a small sphere of people, have effectively changed the American dream into the American nightmare.

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