Ritter dismisses Powell report

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Posted by andreas from dtm2-t7-1.mcbone.net ( on Sunday, February 09, 2003 at 2:46PM :

In Reply to: Dodgy tapes, grainy videos, great rhetoric... posted by Esperanza from 66-42-118-155.lsan.dial.netzero.com ( on Sunday, February 09, 2003 at 2:42PM :

Japan Today
February 7, 2003

Ritter dismisses Powell report

TOKYO ? Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter on
Thursday dismissed U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell's allegation before the U.N. Security Council
that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction as
"unsubstantiated" and based only on "circumstantial

"There's nothing here that's conclusive proof that
Iraq has weapons of mass destruction," Ritter, a
former U.S. Marine and outspoken critic of
Washington's policy on Iraq who participated in U.N.
weapons inspections there from 1991 to 1998, told
Kyodo News in an interview.

"Everything in here is circumstantial, everything in
here mirrors the kind of allegations the U.S. has made
in the past in regard to Iraq's weapons program," he

Powell on Wednesday presented what he described as
"irrefutable and undeniable" evidence that Iraq has
been deceiving U.N. arms inspectors and hiding banned
weapons. He played intercepted telephone conversations
between Iraqi officials and showed satellite photos as
part of the U.S. drive to convince the world of the
need to disarm Iraq, by military force if necessary.

"He just hits you, hits you, hits you with
circumstantial evidence, and he confuses people ? and
he lied, he lied to people, he misled people," Ritter
said of Powell.

Ritter argued that the United States is giving weapons
inspectors too little time to do their job.

He said many things in Powell's presentation should be
properly investigated, such as a Nov 26 communications
intercept in which two senior Iraqi military officers
were overheard talking about the need to hide from
U.N. weapons inspectors a "modified vehicle" made by
an Iraqi company that Powell said is "well known to
have been involved in prohibited weapons systems

"What vehicle? I mean, obviously Colin Powell's
concerned, he presented it, so let's find out what the
vehicle is ? but let's not bomb Iraq based upon that,"
Ritter said.

Ritter also questioned the veracity of Powell's
allegation that Iraq still possesses vast amounts of
anthrax and described as irrelevant his repeated
references to dry powder anthrax contained in
envelopes and sent through the U.S. postal system in
the fall of 2001, which killed two people and created
a national panic.

"What anthrax is he talking about?" he said, adding
that Iraq is only known to have produced liquid bulk
anthrax, which has a shelf life of only three years.

He said the last known batch of liquid bulk anthrax
was produced in 1991 at a state-owned factory blown up
in 1996.

"Colin Powell holds up a vial of dry powder anthrax
and he makes allusions to the attack in the United
States through the letters. That was U.S. government
anthrax! It had nothing to do with Iraq," Ritter said.

Ritter accused Powell of engaging in "classic
bait-and-switch" in his U.N. presentation, catching
his listeners' attention with one piece of information
and then putting up an irrelevant photograph "to make
them think the two are the same when they're not."

"I mean, the photographs are real but what do the
photographs show," he said. "The Powell presentation
is not evidence...It's a very confusing presentation.
What does it mean? What does it represent? How does it
all link up? It doesn't link up."

"Iraq, anthrax, vial, dry powder ? what connection do
they have? None," he said.

Ritter termed a "fabrication" Powell's assertion that
Iraq may have 18 trucks from which it can produce
biological agents such as anthrax or botulinum toxin,
and noted that U.N. inspectors who followed up on such
U.S. intelligence based on defectors' testimony were
only able to find two trucks used for testing food.

"They had nothing to do with biological laboratories.
That's what (U.N. chief inspector) Hans Blix says. He
says, 'There's no mobile lab."'

"You know who came up with the idea of mobile trucks?
The inspectors...We sat back one day and said, 'If we
were the Iraqis, how would we hide biological
production? We'd put them on trucks,"' Ritter said.

"So we designed it and we went out looking for them.
But the problem is, you look for something that you
have no evidence exists, but by postulating the
existence you create the perception of existence. Now
we look for trucks...and we don't find them," he said.

In his presentation, Powell spoke of the futility of
trying to find the trucks in question among the
thousands that travel Iraqi roads daily without
Baghdad voluntarily surrendering the information.

Ritter, however, said Powell was merely trying to
create an impression that U.N. inspections could never

"You can never expect the inspectors to find these 18
trucks," he said, because "these trucks don't exist."

Defectors' reports, he said, could be misleading,
especially those coming from people associated with
the opposition Iraqi National Congress, who he said
could have been "pre-briefed in advance to tell lies."

"Are these legitimate defectors or are they
deliberately out there falsifying testimony? I don't
know. What I do know is I'm not willing to put
American lives on the line based on the testimony from
an Iraqi defector. I want something a little bit more
solid than that," Ritter said.

But he stressed he is not arguing that Iraq does not
possess weapons of mass destruction ? merely that the
U.N. inspectors should be given sufficient time to do
their job in Iraq and make a final determination based
on solid evidence. (Kyodo News)

-- andreas
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