Q&A: William Scott Ritter, 

former United Nations weapons inspector

More than five years after the war in Iraq began, opponents of the war are plentiful, but most have never set foot in the Middle East. As a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, William Scott Ritter has. And he's been opposed to the U.S. occupation since the beginning.

As an intelligence officer in the Marine Corps for more than a decade, Ritter was trained in weapons inspection. Beginning in 1991, he worked as a U.N. weapons inspector and says he saw firsthand how the United States government was more concerned with getting rid of Saddam Hussein than disarming Iraq.

Ritter eventually resigned from the U.N. in 1998 and evolved into a popular anti-war figure and talk-show commentator. Ritter will address the current situation in Iraq and in Iran at Christian Brothers University on Thursday, May 1st, at 7 p.m. — by Bianca Phillips

Flyer: Did you find evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Ritter: There's never been a debate whether Iraq had WMD. They did have it. Some of it, they declared to us and we destroyed. Some of it, they tried to hide.

When we were close [to] finding what they tried to hide, the Iraqis panicked and destroyed it. That was done in a similar fashion to how a drug dealer would flush drugs down the toilet before the cops came in on a drug raid. And then they would deny there were any drugs.

Through our forensic investigations, we were able to compel them to acknowledge that they had these secret WMD.

what role did the U.S. play in U.N. weapons inspections?

The U.S. used the inspection process and the unique access the inspectors had to gather intelligence on Saddam Hussein's security. That process exposed a link between U.S. intelligence-gathering activities and the work of the inspectors. That made the Iraqis very distrustful of the inspection process.

In 1998, I protested to the United States that their interference was destroying the credibility of this operation. In the last year of my work, 14 of my inspections were stopped, not by the Iraqis but by the United States government. That's why I resigned.

Why did you choose to go public with these concerns?

I wasn't just an academic or somebody with a chip on my shoulder. I was somebody who worked on the inside at a very high level and had firsthand experience.

What should the United States have done after 9/11?

The first thing to recognize is that there was no link whatsoever between Iraq and the events of 9/11. So right off the bat, we chose to make Iraq part of the problem.

I think one of the biggest mistakes was to treat [the events of 9/11] as an act of war. The last time I checked U.S. laws, hijacking was a crime. Murder is a crime. Nineteen criminals hijacked four airplanes and committed horrific crimes.

The international community rallied behind us. We should have taken full advantage of this, not to pursue a global war on terror, which is a horrific title, but rather a global struggle for justice. If we had taken that path, I have high confidence that the entire al-Qaeda organization would have been plucked from the vine and destroyed.

What should we do about Iraq?

As a former Marine, I'd say get [the troops] out now. Some people use the Pottery Barn rule: We broke it, we own it. That's fine if you're a law-abiding citizen in a store and you accidentally bump into a shelf and break something. What we did in Iraq was no accident.

The better analogy is the elephant in the china shop. Is the appropriate policy simply to keep buying new china for the elephant to break? Maybe we should be talking about getting the elephant out of the china shop.

What are your thoughts on the situation in Iran?

Iran poses no threat whatsoever to the United States. We have policy differences with Iran, and these can be resolved peacefully. We need to take the military option off the table and speak solely about a diplomatic solution.

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