The United States Government got us into this mess when it thought it could control and use a maniacal, murdering, megalomaniac agianst Khomeini's Iran. Our government knew exactly what kind of a record Saddam had and chose to ignore it because we wanted to believe he was a man we could do business with (a half billion dollars in 1989 and expected to double the next year but for the unfortunate invasion of Kuwait). This country chose to climb in bed with Saddam and now every morning is the morning after.
Scott Ritter appears to be the old fashioned kind of hero I was brought up to believe defined an American. A man who's courage effectiveness and loyalty go beyond nationalism to embrace humanity. When the U.S. Government can no longer recognize and value the sevices of such a man it is because it's own hypocracy, arrogance (ie:Senator Biden's comments on the show), and short sighted self interest have blinded it to the genuine, horrific and immanent threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
Thanks for the nice program. I wish you had asked Ritter the obvious question, however: was it worth undermining UNSCOM to settle these squabbles between you and the CIA? Was this more important than keeping the pressure on Saddam?
Why didn't FRONTLINE confront Ritter on this?
I watched your program on UNSCOM with great interest. I'm also reading Scott Ritter's book. Both sources lead me to believe that the Iraqi WMD situation is serious.
However, having visited Iraq twice in the last three months I can tell you that the average citizen is suffering terribly. Yes, Saddam may be preparing WMD. However, access to WMDs hasn't stopped the Americans or the British from supporting India, Pakistan, or China. And their human rights record is not much better than Iraq's.
So when is the world community going to quit being so hypocritical and allow the vital flow of equipment and supplies to the Iraqis who are suffering so terribly? All things considered, I cannot imagine that the Iraqis are any worse than the Chileans under Pinochet or the El Salvadorans with their death squads. And they were both supported by the US.
My enthusiasm for 'Spying on Saddam' is tempered by two glaring omissions:
(1) You neglect to mention that intelligence obtained by the CIA under cover of UNSCOM was used to target Saddam Hussein during Desert Fox (noted in Seymour Hersh's recent piece in the New Yorker, Apr-5-99). Communication intercepts were used to track Saddam's movements through Baghdad, and the houses of two of his mistresses were destroyed as a consequence. Saddam - per usual - was untouched.
(2) I, too, am taken aback that the horrific effects of sanctions on Iraq weren't mentioned. (Perhaps this was due to time constraints, and I sincerely hope a future Frontline explores this topic.) I note that -- when your interviewees discuss sanctions (in the unedited transcripts) -- only Haass and Wright (who have never visited sanctioned Iraq) seem oblivious to the damage.
By the way, Ritter, Kay, and Ekeus have all spoken strongly against sanctions.
Haass' unedited comments are particularly ill-informed and, frankly, sinister. His argument that "from day one ... any amount of food and medicine could go in through Iraq" is especially weak, and can be rebutted by simply noting that - similarly - the destitute have never been prohibited from renting a suite at the Waldorf or from dining at Tavern on the Green.
golden valley, mn
I think that we should have rolled up Sadam at Desert Storm. But for some reason beyond my comprehension, we want to fight wars without casualties which unfortunately is pure fantasy I know.
And guess what? it is hapening again in Yugoslavia.
ft. pierce, fl
I thought your program on UNSCOM was excellent. While I believe Scott Ritter means well, he is clearly misguided by his overinflated ego. He may call himself the "alpha dog", but I would use other, less flattering words to describe him.
While I don't disagree that U.S. policy was (and is) laughable regarding Iraq, Mr. Ritter's dissatisfaction does not give him the right to spill national secrets. It appeared to me that he did a good job, but ultimately contributed to destroying UNSCOM simply because it did not meet HIS standards. My greatest worry is that years from now we will still be discussing the Iraqi crisis in present tense.
san diego, ca
Thanks for providing the public with a chronology of the issues and problems confronting UNSCOM and the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 687. Your story was more insightful than anything I have seen on the major TV stations.
It appears to me that UNSCOM was just a pawn in the chess game between the US (and the FBI and CIA), the UN Security Council and the Iraqis.
It wouldn't have mattered who the inspectors were, UNSCOM was destined for failure. Even if Iraq had fully cooperated with Mr. Ritter, and his team, once the team had left Iraq the Iraqis would immediately begin developing weapons again.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ritter, and his team, would need to be permanent residents of Iraq to successfully implement Resolution 687.
santa fe, nm
Ritter was obviously a CIA operative from day one.
It it truly amazing that the US allows military intelligence operatives to create their own policies, freely circumventing the laws of the United States, International Law, and the diplomatic processes favored by the United Nations Charter.
Even more amazing is that a program like frontline, which often exposes the fallacies and abuses of our governments policies would allow themselves to be used as a soapbox for a scandalous example of blatant, unrepentant plausable deniability, and NOT EVEN POSE THE QUESTION of Ritters true allegiance!
Is there an Oliver North School of government @ Quantico?
Our military and intelligence agencies are subservient to the President and Congress, and the US (recent domestic events notwithstanding) is not a nation of killers.
I was stunned by the patronizing and arrogant remarks made by Sen. Biden to Mr. Ritter in the Senate hearings. Accusing Mr. Ritter of trying to push the U.S. into a war was absolutely ludicrous. Someone needs to remind the Senator that there was already a war, and we won it! As a representative of the victors, Mr. Ritter was carrying out his assigned mission, (and executing it superbly, I might add).
The notion that Mr. Ritter was operating above his paygrade was an unnecessary and humiliating remark made by an elected civil servant who was speaking on a level well below his own paygrade. One would assume that the people Sen. Biden was referring to who "make the big bucks and ride in limousines" are allegedly in those positions because they have demonstrated the ability to make difficult decisions.
In this case I would contend that Mr. Ritter's chain of command abandoned him, the soldier in the field, and turned their backs on their obligation to make the tough decisions.
As a soldier and leader of soldiers myself, I abhor the thought of "foot soldiers" being abandoned by their leaders and unsupported behind enemy lines. This is, in essence, what UNSCOM, the U.N., and our Government did to Mr. Ritter and his team.
I challenge the Senator to step out of his limousine and step into a Land Rover in the Iraqi desert. If there is anything to be learned here it's that the paygrades of Senator Biden and Mr. Ritter should have been swapped with one another.
Richard Singer, Major, US Army
Excellent documentary. One thing that amazes me is that as a Marine, Scott Ritter was the property of the United States government, and the United States government (Marines) taught him to live, breath, fight and die Semper Fidelis. So being Semper Fidelis ("always faithful") to his country and UN, he risks his life to find the answers. And because of politics and an administration that doesn't know squat about national security (I mind you that all wars we have been involved we had a Democrat president and Congress), Mr. Ritter searches for answers and of course, bureaucracy prevails, frustration sets in, and a caring American soldier walks.
I think it appalling the Clinton Administration continues to try to schmooze a government like Iraq who thinks nothing of taking human life by building weapons of mass destruction. They need to be stopped and I trust someone like Scott Ritter more than our own president to see that the job gets done.
delaware county,, pennsylvania
Although Frontline is to be commended for an interesting and informative program, there is one war the show didn't touch upon - the turf war between the CIA and the National Security Agency.
It seems possible to me that the CIA could have successfully helped UNSCOM complete its mission had not the NSA stepped in to muddy the political and operational waters. Although I think it was folly to use people who had worked or were working for the CIA, it was absurdly stupid to let the NSA meddle in this matter which lead to using Scott Ritter as a pawn.
This is just one more example of how dumb an idea Ronald Reagan had during Iran-Contra when he decided to use the NSA as an actively covert intelligence agency rather than as an advisory body for which it was originally chartered.
Excellent and eye opening piece on the real situation in Iraq. Before this program I was starting to believe that as long as the economy is good, it might not matter who the administration is. My God, what a chilling wake up call this documentary was.
Giving Bill Clinton the responsibility of being "Commander in Chief", is like handing a 16 year old a top fuel dragster for his first car. Senator Joe Biden in his attempt to discredit Scott Ritter at the senate conference, backfired in irony. He told Ritter that he was making decisions above his pay grade. That the guys making those decisions got paid big bucks and rode around in limos, unlike Ritter. Right on Mr. Biden--while idiots like you are riding around in limos, guys like Ritter are looking down the barrel of some half cocked Iraqi commanders gun. While you're drinking Martini's at a fundraiser, these guys are out literally putting their life on the line trying their best to enforce a US backed policy . Or so Ritter thought.
Is foreign policy important? Well, no I guess if you don't mind that in 6 months a nuclear warhead might land in downtown Tel-Aviv. I'm sure the Clinton Administration is already planning a counter attack. "If you launch another one, We will be forced to act, maybe" Saddam has got to love what's going on. We are bombing his north and south "no fly" zones. (Read: desert) and he is publicly demanding that we stop. Privately though, he knows exactly what we are doing and is rebuilding right now.
Foreign policy is a chess game, and people like Bill Clinton and Joe Biden are clearly being out maneuvered here. Unfortunately when this "game" is over, it's over. I want to thank Mr. Ritter for putting his life on the line to try to enforce the policies we were soppose to back him up on. As for Senator Biden and Bill Clinton, I think your shiny black ride is here.
This program is just another example of the total empty leadership the U.S. has. We have no true Americans in public office in this country. There is not one public official that has what it takes to make go sound decisions anymore.
President Clinton is a coward and a traitor, to treaten any country and not have the backbone to stand up against someone like Saddam Hussan. The world is laughing at our policies because they know this country will not back them up with true decisions and stick to them to the end. I challenge this administration to answer the questions i would like of them.
Scott Ritter was right on! Its the UN that was/is screwed up! I make the analogy to a roller coaster ride. Hold on everyone! In case you haven't noticed, we're on a roller coaster ride and the roller coaster is going down at a high rate of speed. I don't think its coming back up either. This analogy could be very prophetic.
Your program provided an extraordinary viewpoint of the internal workings of large bureaucracies. The Security Council ineptness and the US Foreign Policy arrogance killed UNSCOM.
I disliked Ritter before the program. I am now prepared to nominate him for Sainthood to the Catholic Church. But that would bring a third bureaucracy into the equation. The Security Council has to have the courage of its convictions. Reinstate UNSCOM,Ritter and Butler and send them back in with increased powers over and above their superiors.
As a member of UNSCOM from Mar 98-July 98, it's hard to understand one's position unless you were actually there.
I agree and disagree with Mr. Ritter on certain issues, but I can also say that Mr. Ritter was a true professional and was only trying to achieve the UN's goals and that was to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass distruction.
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