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Two Who Got It Right: Scott Ritter in Conversation With Robert Scheer
Posted on Mar 20, 2007
Scheer: Thinking about nuclear weapons and reading your book, and the whole idea that we scare people with these things—and they are very scary. ... There’s a certain assumption that some people can be trusted with them but others cannot, and your book sort of deals with that issue. Because it’s very disturbing for instance in the Mideast—well, why should Israel have it? And how are you going to tell these Iranians that they can’t have it? India, for example. The majority of people in India think they need one. Majority of people in Pakistan think they need one. And when you talk about this sort of ethnocentric view, it’s actually startling that most Americans seem to be unaware or don’t care that we are actually the only ... that the one nation we think can be most trusted with these weapons is the one nation in the world that actually used these weapons to kill large numbers of people. [Audience member: That’s right.]
Ritter: And more importantly, it’s not that we used them: We’re the only nation out there right now that has embraced a policy of pre-emptively using nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear environment, the current nuclear posture of the Bush administration. We’re the only nation that doesn’t view our nuclear weapons as a deterrence but rather as a viable tool of problem solving. Hence the renaming of certain categories of weapons as usable nuclear weapons that are fully integrated into the initial strike plans of many of our military contingencies that exist today. And what does this say? That old saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely is absolutely true. Nuclear weapons give you a false sense of security. It’s an argument I’ve made over and over again with the Israelis, that the nuclear weapon possessed by Israel only hastens the guarantee of Israel’s demise. That if Israel wants to live long-term and enjoy the fruits of peace and prosperity, they not only need to figure out how to live as co-equals with their Arab partners in the region but they need to get rid of their nuclear weapons. Because if you own a nuclear weapon, those who oppose you will always seek to have the equivalent of it. Iraq, when they were trying to acquire their nuclear weapon, realized it would take many years to get a nuclear weapon, and that’s why they went very rapidly forward with chemical and biological weapons, strategic weapons that gave them equivalency of the Israeli nuclear weapon in terms of deterrence. Look at the tracing. We started with a nuclear bomb; the Russians got it. The Russians got it; the Chinese got it to counter the Russians. The Chinese got it; the Indians got it. The Indians got it; the Pakistanis got it. Where’s it going to stop? It’s never going to stop. The only way to deal with nuclear weapons is to walk that dog all the way backwards to the very beginning, and it ends with nobody having nuclear weapons. That’s it. [Audience applauds.]
Scheer: And just so we understand what these weapons do, if that had been a primitive nuclear weapon of, say, the kind we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in Manhattan, there would not be a Manhattan and we wouldn’t be having this discussion because we wouldn’t be having civil liberty. So we shouldn’t underestimate the power of these weapons
Ritter: Both the physical power, but also the psychological power of these weapons.
Scheer: Yes, the psychological power is very real. I remember visiting Chernobyl after that disaster and the absolute fear that gripped the scientists and the military people around there. But going along with that line—. So, we’re concerned about the proliferation of weapons. You mentioned Pakistan. We had sanctions against Pakistan when they developed their weapon. Those sanctions were lifted because Pakistan was needed to be an ally in the war on terror, and then it turns out, of course, as you mention in your book, the case of Khan, and you have a very lively discussion that it was the “father of the Pakistan bomb” who was actually the major person involved in this proliferation of this technology. And then just yesterday, I believe, George W. Bush, President Bush, chided Pakistan for actually abandoning the war on terror in Pakistan. The Taliban is growing, the al-Qaida, the leaders of course have not been captured. So how do you connect this with the war on terror? Do you think that this president has made us any safer? That he’s dealing with this in any serious way?
Ritter: The global war on terror is a misnomer. You can’t have a global war on terror; it’s just impossible to do that. The mistake we made on September 12th, one of many, was invoking war as a response to a criminal act. I’m not here to debate conspiracy theories on 9/11. I’m going to go with my working premise, which is, we were attacked by terrorist criminals who committed a crime by hijacking four airplanes, and then committed mass murder with these weapons. That’s where I start: A crime was committed against America. A crime was committed against the world. And the appropriate response—.
Scheer: Using very primitive weapons, though.
Ritter: In a very sophisticated way.
Ritter: It wasn’t nuclear bombs; it was airplanes.
Scheer: But there were $3 knives.
Ritter: Yeah, using the box cutters and all that.
Scheer: Which now has justified this enormous buildup of sophisticated weaponry. But go on.
Ritter: And also, TSA getting me to take my shoes off tonight at the airport. The bottom line is: A crime was committed. The appropriate response was we turn to the world as the world was willing to receive us and we say, “We must unite in defense of the rule of law.” [Audience applauds.] That lawless elements cannot be tolerated in global society. Instead we declared a war on terror, and what did we do? We became terrorists ourselves. How do you differentiate between somebody flying an airplane into a building, killing 3,000 people, and an American bomber flying at 30,000 feet and dropping a 2,000-pound bomb on an Afghan wedding party because we misidentify the target? Who’s the terrorist? How do we condemn the al-Qaida operatives for sneaking across the border and blowing things up?
Scheer: To play devil’s advocate here, the one was done deliberately, the other was not.
Ritter: Terrorism is terrorism. OK, what about the MEK? What about the CIA funding of Baluchi operatives in Pakistan who crossed the border into Iran, blowing up a car bomb, killing Iranian revolutionary guards? Is that not an act of terror? Or is that an act of freedom fighters expressing their natural desire to do the right thing? The point is, the global war on terrorism is a misnomer. We have created more harm than good. Again, you don’t solve a problem without defining the problem. And what we’ve done by reacting the way we have in Afghanistan is, we have not defeated the Taliban. NATO is getting ready to receive a major spring offensive by the Taliban. Al-Qaida not only was not defeated, al-Qaida has grown larger. When we attacked al-Qaida in 2001 when we responded on their attack on us, they numbered around 8,000 operatives. Today we’re talking 30-40,000 al-Qaida operatives. They have greater bases. We’ve turned Iraq into a recruiting ground of Wahhabist Islamic fundamentalism of a virulent, anti-American nature. The world we live in is a much more dangerous place than you can possibly imagine because of George W. Bush’s global war on terror. The smartest thing we could do is declare victory and say it’s over. “The global war on terror is over. Done. We win. Now let’s talk about bringing to justice criminals who violate the law on a massive scale.” And then we get the world to join us. But by declaring a global war on terror, we’ve empowered ourselves because this is an American, unipolar world, to do things such as the expansion of NATO. ... What does the expansion of NATO have to do with the global war on terror? The Russians want to know that question, because as a response to the global war on terror we’ve not only expanded NATO, but we’re now putting missile defense facilities in Poland and Czechoslovakia, prompting Russia to threaten to pull out of the INF treaty and build a whole new family of short-range and intermediate-range nuclear weapons armed against Europe. So ask the Europeans how safe they feel now, threatened by Soviet nuclear missiles we were supposed to have terminated in 1987. No, the world is a much more dangerous place thanks to George W. Bush.
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