Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ritter was right, gets smeared. Right was wrong, gets rewarded

Scott Ritter has long been one of the most informed and prescient voices on the American invasion of Iraq. He had the credentials and argued convincingly against the war at the time and, to use Judith Miller's phrasing, he "was proved fucking right". Yet, he was smeared and scorned when he received any attention at all in the MSM. This is something that has irked me no end and I've blogged about it here, here and here.

Glenn Greenwald has long been a critic of the perverse way that those who got it so wrong have been rewarded and those, like Ritter, who got it so right, continue to be marginalized. He's posted a treat today:
[I]n writing the book, I spent much time reading through the television and newspaper "debates" which our country had in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. That is a very dark period in American political discourse, and reading through it requires a strong constitution in order to endure it. I offer here but a small sampling of what I found. A brief unedited excerpt from the manuscript, which I offer in order to expunge this from my system as much as for any other reason:
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In exactly the way that few people were as consistently wrong as Krauthammer, few people were as right about the Iraq war as Scott Ritter was. Back in September, 2002, Ritter was trying to tell anyone who would listen that Iraq had no WMD's. Ritter is a former U.S. Marine officer, was a top aide to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War against Iraq, and built a reputation as a tenacious weapons inspector working inside Iraq for the U.N. It is difficult to imagine someone with greater credentials and credibility who ought to have been listened to on those issues.

As George Bush, Charles Krauthammer, and the national political establishment were assuring Americans that Saddam unquestionably had WMDs and that an invasion of Iraq was urgent, Ritter was desperately warning his fellow citizens of the dangers of Bush's war plans.

In the Fall of 2002, Ritter went to Iraq in an effort to forge an agreement that would save his country from making a horrendous mistake, and during his trip, he addressed the Iraqi Parliament and warned:
My country seems on the verge of making an historic mistake…. My government is making a case for war against Iraq that is built upon fear and ignorance, as opposed to the reality of truth and fact.

As someone who counts himself as a fervent patriot and a good citizen of the United States of America, I feel I cannot stand by idly, while my country behaves in such a fashion...

We, the people of the United States, are told repeatedly that we face a grave and imminent risk to our national security from a combination of past irresponsible behaviour on the part of Iraq and ongoing efforts by Iraq to re-acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic weapons ... which have been banned since 1991 by a Security Council resolution.

The truth of the matter is that Iraq is not a sponsor of the kind of terror perpetrated against the United States on 11 September, and in fact is active in suppressing the sort of fundamentalist extremism that characterises those who attacked the United States on that horrible day.

This is the truth, and once the American people become familiar with and accept this truth, the politics of fear will be defeated and the prospect of war between our two countries greatly diminished...

The truth of the matter is that Iraq has not been shown to possess weapons of mass destruction, either in terms of having retained prohibited capability from the past, or by seeking to re-acquire such capability today...

Iraq must loudly reject any intention of possessing these weapons and then work within the framework of international law to demonstrate this a reality.

The only way that Iraq can achieve this is with the unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors, allowing such inspectors unfettered access to sites inside Iraq in order to complete the disarmament tasks as set forth in Security Council resolutions...

Ritter’s extremely prescient warnings were all but ignored in the mainstream American press, except when television panels were convened to smear his character and attack his credibility.

[...]

Ritter’s arguments were never engaged by this harmonious panel of war advocates. His arguments did not need to be engaged because these panelists -- intoxicated by war rhetoric and Manichean imperatives and the smug sense of their own Rightness -- had, in unison, pronounced the ex-Marine so lacking in credibility that he could merely be swatted away, ignored, just as Peter Beinert said he had been doing with Ritter for some time.

Literally in a matter of minutes on CNN, Ritter – one of the nation’s preeminent experts on the subject of the Iraqi weapons program and one of the most vocal and knowledgeable critics of Bush's war plans (who was aggressively questioning the WMD orthodoxy) -- was quickly transformed by a panel of no-knowing war cheerleaders posing as experts into a grotesque cartoon – a pro-Saddam propagandist, a liar, a child molester and a know-nothing, integrity-free subversive whose loyalty was very much in question.

Moments earlier, though, Beinert gave a stirring explanation of how the war on Iraq was not only necessary for our security but morally right as well, and we therefore must not wait for the inspection process to be complete before invading. Moments later, Goldberg urged that the “president needs to make a forceful case for a regime change in Paris,” and when Blitzer and the jovial, war-crazed panel laughed heartily and good-naturedly at Goldberg’s war-on-France joke, Goldberg struggled to assure them that he was serious.

That Ritter was right about everything he said, and Beinert, Goldberg and company profoundly wrong and misguided -- and that the latter helped lead the country into the worst strategic disaster in its history -- means nothing. To this day, it is almost impossible to avoid hearing from Peter Beinert and Jonah Goldberg in the nation’s most influential media outlets (Beinert was recently given a column in The Washington Post, and Goldberg went on to become a twice-weekly columnist for The Los Angeles Times). But if one wants to know what Ritter thinks about anything -- say, whether the nation should wage war on Iran, or about anything else -- one would have to search for obscure websites or alternative weekly newspapers.
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That was how our country debated whether to go to war against Iraq and how it was established that Saddam had WMDs (a belief which, even today, the establishment pundits and journalists attempting to excuse themselves for their war advocacy will insist was one which "everyone" accepted -- from Krauthammer in The Washington Post, June, 2003: "Everyone thought Hussein had weapons because we knew for sure he had them five years ago and there was no evidence that he had disposed of them."

And, as I have noted before, this is what Dean said following Secretary Powell's slide show to the U.N.: "Secretary Powell's recent presentation at the UN showed the extent to which we have Iraq under an audio and visual microscope. Given that, I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by the Secretary, but rather by its sketchiness."

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