Scott Ritter: Behind 'Plot' on Hussein, a Secret Agenda

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 21 Jun 2002 10:05:52 +0100

President Bush has reportedly authorized the CIA to use all of the means at
its disposal--including U.S. military special operations forces and CIA
paramilitary teams--to eliminate Iraq's Saddam Hussein. According to
reports, the CIA is to view any such plan as "preparatory" for a larger
military strike. 

Congressional leaders from both parties have greeted these reports with
enthusiasm. In their rush to be seen as embracing the president's hard-line
stance on Iraq, however, almost no one in Congress has questioned why a
supposedly covert operation would be made public, thus undermining the very
mission it was intended to accomplish. 

It is high time that Congress start questioning the hype and rhetoric
emanating from the White House regarding Baghdad, because the leaked CIA
plan is well timed to undermine the efforts underway in the United Nations
to get weapons inspectors back to work in Iraq. In early July, the U.N.
secretary-general will meet with Iraq's foreign minister for a third round
of talks on the return of the weapons monitors. A major sticking point is
Iraqi concern over the use--or abuse--of such inspections by the U.S. for
intelligence collection. 

I recall during my time as a chief inspector in Iraq the dozens of extremely
fit "missile experts" and "logistics specialists" who frequented my
inspection teams and others. Drawn from U.S. units such as Delta Force or
from CIA paramilitary teams such as the Special Activities Staff (both of
which have an ongoing role in the conflict in Afghanistan), these
specialists had a legitimate part to play in the difficult cat-and-mouse
effort to disarm Iraq. So did the teams of British radio intercept operators
I ran in Iraq from 1996 to 1998--which listened in on the conversations of
Hussein's inner circle--and the various other intelligence specialists who
were part of the inspection effort. 

The presence of such personnel on inspection teams was, and is, viewed by
the Iraqi government as an unacceptable risk to its nation's security. 

As early as 1992, the Iraqis viewed the teams I led inside Iraq as a threat
to the safety of their president. They were concerned that my inspections
were nothing more than a front for a larger effort to eliminate their

Those concerns were largely baseless while I was in Iraq. Now that Bush has
specifically authorized American covert-operations forces to remove Hussein,
however, the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime that has already
shown itself susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence
services hostile to Iraq, regardless of any assurances the U.N.
secretary-general might give. 

The leaked CIA covert operations plan effectively kills any chance of
inspectors returning to Iraq, and it closes the door on the last opportunity
for shedding light on the true state of affairs regarding any threat in the
form of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. 

Absent any return of weapons inspectors, no one seems willing to challenge
the Bush administration's assertions of an Iraqi threat. If Bush has a
factual case against Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction, he hasn't
made it yet. 

Can the Bush administration substantiate any of its claims that Iraq
continues to pursue efforts to reacquire its capability to produce chemical
and biological weapons, which was dismantled and destroyed by U.N. weapons
inspectors from 1991 to 1998? The same question applies to nuclear weapons.
What facts show that Iraq continues to pursue nuclear weapons aspirations? 

Bush spoke ominously of an Iraqi ballistic missile threat to Europe. What
missile threat is the president talking about? These questions are valid,
and if the case for war is to be made, they must be answered with more than
speculative rhetoric. 

Congress has seemed unwilling to challenge the Bush administration's pursuit
of war against Iraq. The one roadblock to an all-out U.S. assault would be
weapons inspectors reporting on the facts inside Iraq. Yet without any
meaningful discussion and debate by Congress concerning the nature of the
threat posed by Baghdad, war seems all but inevitable. 

The true target of the supposed CIA plan may not be Hussein but rather the
weapons inspection program itself. The real casualty is the last chance to
avoid bloody conflict. 

Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, is author of
"Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem, Once and for All" (Simon & Schuster,

Source:  Los Angeles Times

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