Scott Ritter's Congressional Testimony
Iraq News, SEPTEMBER 7, 1998By Laurie Mylroie
The central focus of Iraq News is the tension between the considerable, proscribed WMD capabilities that Iraq is holding on to and its increasing stridency that it has complied with UNSCR 687 and it is time to lift sanctions. If you wish to receive Iraq News by email, a service which includes full-text of news reports not archived here, send your request to Laurie Mylroie .
I. NEWSWEEK PERISCOPE, MORE UNSCOM RESIGNATIONS?, SEPT 14 II. IRAQ THREATENS ACTION OVER PROPOSED UNSC RESOLUTION, AP, SEPT 6 III. STATEMENT OF SCOTT RITTER BEFORE SENATE, SEPT 3 IV. UNOFFICIAL, INFORMAL REPORT ON RITTER'S TESTIMONY TO SENATE, SEPT 3 V. RITTER TESTIMONY CONFIRMS NCI WARNINGS ON NUCLEAR PROGRAM, SEPT 3 VI. CLINTON'S LETTER TO CONGRESS ON IRAQ, APR 6 VII. REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP LETTER TO CLINTON ON UNSCOM, JUN 22 VIII. CLINTON REPLY TO SEN. LOTT, JUL 8 This is the 33rd day without weapons inspections in Iraq. "Newsweek Periscope" reported that there may be more UNSCOM resignations. On Sept 4, the NYT reported that Amb. Butler had told the UNSC that three times since Aug. 5, Iraq had blocked UNSCOM monitoring. Yesterday, AP reported a front page al Thawra editorial that said Iraq would take "necessary action" if the Security Council did not lift sanctions. Regarding the US/UK draft UNSC resolution that would suspend sanctions reviews until Iraq renewed cooperation with UNSCOM, al Thawra warned, "If the Security Council succumbs again to the American blackmail . . . the leadership and the people have no choice but to take the necessary action conferred by its legal rights, national interests, independence and national pride." "Iraq News" has been watching for comment from official Israeli sources about Iraq's defiance of UNSCOM and the lack of a US response. Save for Labor Party chairman, Ehud Barak's recent remarks to the Nat'l Press Club stressing the importance of UNSCOM and the danger of Iraq's acquiring a nuclear bomb, "Iraq News" has seen nothing. If readers see any such official Israeli remarks, "Iraq News" would be grateful if they could send them in or inform "Iraq News" about them, as "Iraq News" is suspecting that something is wrong in Israel, but reserves judgment until more information can be acquired. During Scott Ritter's testimony, Sept 3, to the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, Sen. John McCain [R Az] asked Ritter whether UNSCOM had intelligence suggesting that Iraq had assembled the components for three nuclear weapons and all that it lacked was the fissile material. Ritter replied that that was so. He said that if Iraq were to reconstruct its old program for producing fissile material, Iraq could have a bomb in several years. Ritter did not address the question of what if Iraq managed to acquire fissile material on the black market. But the implication seemed pretty clear. As Paul Leventhal, head of the Nuclear Control Institute, remarked in response to Ritter's statement, "Iraq could be only days or weeks away from having nuclear weapons." Ritter also said that, absent UNSCOM, Iraq could reconstruct its chemical and biological weapons programs in six months, as well as its missile program. He said that Iraq had a plan for achieving a missile breakout within six months of receiving the signal from Saddam. Ritter also explained that when his Jan 98 inspection was blocked by Iraq, he was pursuing information relevant to Iraq's suspected testing of bw agents on human beings in the summer of 1995. As another informed source explained to "Iraq News," UNSCOM was concerned that that was done to test whether Iraq's bw stockpile had retained its lethality. Ritter also said that Iraq was using UNSCR 986 ["oil for food"] to import proscribed and dual use material. He said that the matter was "serious" and that he was aware of one instance where the dollar amount involved was over $800,000. As a Congressional source told "Iraq News," the administration was aware of the problem, before the UNSC doubled the amount of oil that Iraq was allowed to sell last Feb. Nonetheless, the administration went along with that. Ritter also explained what a disaster the Feb 23 Annan accord had been. In mid-Jan, Baghdad said that UNSCOM could not enter "presidential sites," even as UNSCOM had not sought to enter any such sites. But the US/UNSC took the bait, asserting that UNSCOM had a right to visit any site in Iraq, including "presidential sites." And, as a result of the confrontation that ensued and the way it was resolved, an entirely new category of sites was created, with a special, cumbersome structure for inspections, even as some of the areas that were defined as presidential sites are places known to conceal weapons. As Sen McCain explained during the hearing, Senate Democrats had objected to its being held, the only hearing to which they objected. Consequently, Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R Miss) recessed the Senate in order to hold the hearing. Also, he personally escorted Ritter into the hearing room. As Sen. Charles Robb [D Va] noted by way of courtesy to Ritter, that was the first time he had seen the Senate Majority Leader do that. Also, as the Wash Post, Sept 4, reported, Sec State Albright called Chairman Benjamin Gilman [R NY] of the House Int'l Relations Committee to urge him to cancel plans for Ritter to testify there later his month. The State Dep't claimed that open discussion of US consultations with UNSCOM might give ammunition to Iraqi claims that the inspectors were tools of Washington. But the administration is quite inconsistent. The US Gov't was responsible for leaking to the press that Ritter was being investigated for passing on information to Israel and the Iraqis made a very great deal of that, as one might imagine. Sen. Sam Brownback [R Ka] said that he was concerned about the administration's duplicity, emphasizing how important it was that there not be duplicity in national security matters. Sen. McCain emphasized that as well. He said that the administration was articulating one policy and doing the opposite and "that was what was disturbing so many of us." Sen. Paul Coverdell [R Ga] said that the situation was very dangerous and could not be dealt with by obscuring it. It had to be explained to the American people. Indeed, the Senators made frequent reference to Clinton's Apr 6 letter to Congress, in which he reviewed the status of US efforts to obtain Iraq's compliance with UNSC resolutions since Feb 3. In his letter, Clinton referred to the Mar 2 passage of UNSCR 1154, which reiterated the demand that Iraq provide UNSCOM unconditional access and threatened "the severest consequences" if it did not. As Clinton explained, "This resolution is one of the strongest and clearest statements the Council has made in 7 years with regard to what Iraq must do . . . This strong language of UNSCR 1154 is critical to ensuring that UNSCOM and IAEA can do their job . . . Iraq's compliance with the agreement is now being tested. Since the beginning of March, UNSCOM has pursued an intensive agenda of inspections, including inspections of so-called 'sensitive' sites and Iraq has not significantly obstructed access to any sites UNSCOM and the IAEA wished to visit . . . . We have consistently stressed that full, unconditional, repeated access by UNSCOM to all sites, personnel, equipment, documents, and means of transportation provides the only means by which the world can make certain Iraq does not maintain or develop WMD. We have full faith and confidence in UNSCOM and its Executive Chairman." But as the Wash Post, Aug 27, reported, since Nov 97, the administration had been blocking UNSCOM inspections and, in Mar 98, interfered with UNSCOM inspections, including with Ritter's role in them. There was no relationship between what Clinton wrote in that letter and what had actually happened. Similarly, on Jun 22, the senior Republican leadership-Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, Newt Gingrich and Benjamin Gilman-wrote Clinton expressing their concern that the administration was not giving sufficient support to UNSCOM. Clinton replied to Sen. Lott, Jul 8, saying "My Administration will continue to support UNSCOM's right, as authorized by United Nations Security Council resolutions, to use the means of its own choosing to pursue any evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. . . You can be certain UNSCOM will have my full support." Early on, Ritter was subject to a savage attack from Joseph Biden, [D, De], ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as described in the Wash Post, Sept 4, and about which several readers very strongly objected. But Iraq policy is seriously flawed; the administration has been duplicitous in explaining the situation; and it is clear that many things could go very seriously wrong. Thus, as the hearing progressed, Ritter's message was ever more clearly heard and even the Democratic Senators became ever more friendly to him. Sen. Barbara Feinstein [D Ca] began by explaining that the case that Ritter had presented had not been made to the US public or even to the Congress. She questioned him in a friendly manner, so as to elicit more information on how the administration had blocked UNSCOM's work. For Sen. Robb, this was the third Iraq-related hearing he has attended this year. In the first, he was a strong administration partisan. During the second, he held an extended and sympathetic exchange with Richard Perle, former Reagan Asst Sec Def. And in the third, he concluded his remarks by noting that history was replete with many cases in which, if we had responded sooner rather than later, the consequences would have been much easier. That is precisely the point. There are no good options regarding Iraq. The Clinton administration/political leadership of this country has to grasp and define the problem clearly and pursue and work through the least bad option. Yet the more time passes with the US doing nothing, the stronger Saddam gets, the worse the least bad option will be. Indeed, Sen. John Kerry [D Ma] seemed to understand that. He explained that Saddam's aim was not to lift sanctions, but to build weapons of mass destruction. That is the point which the Clinton administration stubbornly refuses to acknowledge. Kerry took issue with Biden, saying that the matter was much bigger than whether Scott Ritter or his team could get into a site or not. Kerry said, as he had before, that the US should be prepared to use force to achieve its goals, even as it would be necessary to prepare the public. He also suggested that any US military strike on Iraq should involve sustained targeting of the regime. Finally, Sen. Charles Hagel [R Ne] dealt with an administration claim that it had achieved a major breakthrough after the Annan accord in securing UNSCOM access to Iraq's Ministry of Defense. Ritter explained to Sen. Hagel that UNSCOM had not wanted to inspect the MoD and it did so only under pressure from the Clinton administration. The inspection was rushed, ill-prepared, and not useful. Also, Ritter told Sen. Olympia Snowe [R Me] that the reason the administration gave for blocking inspections in Nov and Dec 97 was that it needed time to prepare militarily and diplomatically. But by Jan 98, that was supposed to be in place. Sen. Snowe observed that the administration did not seem to have done its work in advance. IV. UNOFFICIAL, INFORMAL REPORT ON RITTER'S TESTIMONY TO SENATE Hearing before US Senate Committees on Armed Service and Foreign Affairs September 3, 1998 The hearing began with the senior senators' remarks, starting with comments by Armed Services Committee Chairman, Strom Thurmond [R SC], who explained that Saddam Hussein wanted to retain his chemical and biological weapons so he could use them to attack and threaten his neighbors and use them against his own citizens. Thurmond described Saddam as a "pathological killer." Sen. Thurmond also asked about the impact of the extended US deployment in the Gulf on the readiness and morale of US forces. He explained that the US still maintained over 20,000 military personnel in the region. He understood that it was US policy to support UNSCOM and back it up with force and that that was critical to US leadership. He also cited the report Clinton sent Congress April 6, in which the president said that Iraq's failure to provide full access to UNSCOM would provoke the "severest consequences." He asked why the US had decided to act against Osama bin Laden and not against Iraq, which represented a direct threat to US interests and US allies, while he observed that the US is again in the odd position of bargaining with a tyrant and a war criminal. Sen. Richard Lugar, [R In] acting head of the Foreign Relations Committee, stressed the importance of the outcome of the confrontation over Iraq's unconventional weapons. He said the Annan agreement had become "unglued" over the last month, even as US policy and behavior toward Iraq "must be unwavering." Sen. Carl Levin [D Mi], ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee, recalled that Amb. Butler had briefed the Senate in a classified session in early March. Levin affirmed that the goal must be the elimination of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. "I don't know how anyone can disagree with that goal." But the question was one of tactics. If we threaten the use of force, are we prepared to follow through with military strikes? Would military strikes achieve the objective? Would the Senate support the use of force? He alluded to the Senate's failure to pass a measure supporting the use of force during the previous crises. And Levin asked would there be international support for the use of force? Sen. Joseph Biden [D De], ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Ritter that he was providing a valuable service to the country. He had forced Americans to confront a policy decision. He cited Ritter's oft-quoted statement, "The illusion of arms control is more dangerous than no arms control at all." He also cited Ritter's observation that the administration had made the decision to seek a diplomatic option instead of pursuing confrontation-driven inspections. Biden then suggested that the alternative policy was to maintain sanctions, which deny income to Saddam. He said that the only way the US would be able to get rid of Saddam was to send US troops to Iraq. Ritter read his statement and Sen. Thurmond began the questioning. In reply to the Senator's questions, Ritter explained that UNSCOM should not be part of the portfolio of the UN Secretary General, because Kofi Annan didn't understand UNSCOM's work and therefore should not be in charge of managing it. Ritter then explained the confrontation over access to so-called presidential sites, saying that the inspection of presidential sites had been a "farce from the beginning." He said that UNSCOM had not sought to enter presidential sites, but Iraq had succeeded in defining access to presidential sites as the issue. When Iraq announced that it was denying UNSCOM access to so-called presidential sites, the US/UNSC embraced that point as the defining issue. As a result of the confrontation that ensued over "presidential sites," a new category of sites had been created with a special, cumbersome structure for inspections, even as some of the areas that are defined as presidential sites are places known to conceal weapons. Sen. Lugar continued that line of questioning and Ritter explained how paragraph 4 of the Feb 23 Memorandum of Understanding had established a new category of sites to which restrictions on inspections applied. In fact, the February agreement was part of a cycle going back to the summer of 1996. Iraq would provoke a crisis and because there was no UNSC consensus on how to respond, Iraq received concessions from the UNSC in order to resolve the crisis. Lugar suggested that perhaps this was the best the US could do, but Ritter explained that UNSCOM had an important task. Moreover, UNSCOM believed that after the Feb 23 Annan agreement and Clinton's April 6 letter to Congress, it had support for challenge inspections. But by mid-April, UNSCOM got a red light. The US would not support inspections that were confrontational. Lugar suggested that there may not be domestic US support for backing UNSCOM in a confrontation with Baghdad. Ritter replied that UNSCOM's concern was not domestic politics. The US Government had told UNSCOM that it supported challenge inspections. Sen. Levin then read a quote from Amb. Butler, intending to suggest that Butler did not agree with Ritter about the lack of US support for UNSCOM. Ritter advised the quote should be read "between the lines." Sen Biden asked, "Do you think you should be the one to pull the strings" on when the US uses military force? Ritter replied that he had a job to do and that UNSCOM coordinated with the US. Biden suggested that the question of taking the nation to war was a responsibility "slightly beyond your pay grade. That's why they [who make such decisions] get paid big bucks. That's why they get their limos and you don't." Biden advised that Albright had more to consider than "whether old Scotty-boy didn't get in" to a suspected weapons site. He said that the question of the use of force was the kind of decision that people like Colin Powell and George Bush made, saying that it was a very complicated decision, repeating, "It's above your pay grade." Sen. John Warner [R Va] told Ritter that he had presented "one of the most serious indictments against the top-level national security team of this country that has ever been done in contemporary times." In Warner's questioning, Ritter explained that Amb. Butler did agree with him about the lack of US support for UNSCOM. Also, the disclosure about Iraq's weaponization of VX [in late June] caused the administration to turn a green light back on for challenge inspections. Ritter explained that, even now, UNSCOM did not know the totality of Iraq's proscribed weapons programs, although it did know that Iraq's declarations were false. Sen. Charles Robb [D Va] began by observing that the Senate Majority leader had adjourned the Senate for the hearing and escorted the witness into the hearing room. Robb said that that was the first time he had seen that and he welcomed Ritter as a fellow former Marine. Robb suggested that Ritter didn't have the full picture, that he was like the commander of a smaller unit, whose mission might compromise the larger mission. Ritter asked which inspection would you like us to stop--bw, VX, missiles? It was like saving the marine battalion by doing away with the rifle company. Sen. Dan Coats [R In] began by saying to Ritter that you are not calling on the Secretary of State to use force. You are only saying that you want the US Government to fulfill its commitment to do inspections, the policy as stated by the President in his April 6 letter. What you called for is different than what the senator from Delaware called for? Ritter replied, "Yes." Coats then read a July 8 letter from Clinton to Sen. Lott in which Clinton said that my administration will continue to support UNSCOM's right to pursue weapons inspections through "means of its own choosing." Coats also cited Clinton's April 6 letter to Congress and suggested to Ritter that any reasonable person would conclude on the basis of those statements that you had the right to do these inspections. Sen. Barbara Feinstein [D Ca] began by explaining that the case that Ritter had presented had not been made to the US public or even to Congress. She asked about Ritter's Wall Street Journal article, which described, among other things, how the administration had blocked a mid-July inspection. Ritter explained that as a result of the US intervention, he was told that he would not be traveling to Baghdad for that inspection, as planned, while the inspection team already in Iraq was to disperse within 48 hours. Ritter explained that although UNSCOM had assembled the team in coordination with the US and UK, the two countries said that the timing was not right. Feinstein then asked about the next aborted inspection, in early August. Ritter explained that Butler had said that the original mission had been worth doing and Butler planned to go ahead with it after he visited Baghdad. But Butler also felt he had to coordinate with the UNSC. So after his visit to Baghdad, while in Bahrain, Aug 5, Butler called the Russians in New York, who responded by attacking UNSCOM as provocative. The French advised that UNSCOM should not create a crisis. And the US and UK both opposed the inspection going forward. Still, Butler hoped to persuade them to okay the inspection, when he returned to New York. He failed and the mission was scrubbed. Ritter further explained that if Iraq had allowed unrestricted access, he expected UNSCOM would have found components of ballistic missiles and documentation on the details of its concealment mechanism. Feinberg asked, "It was a very important inspection?" Ritter replied, "Yes." Sen. Sam Brownback [R Ks] welcomed Ritter as "a true American hero," before explaining that he wanted to focus on the administration's "apparent duplicity," while emphasizing the need to speak clearly and not with duplicity on foreign policy issues. Brownback charged that the administration was saying one thing and doing another. During Brownback's questioning, Ritter explained that Iraq could restart its proscribed weapons programs within six months. Iraq had positioned itself to do so, once an effective inspection regime was ended. He explained that the present Iraqi ban on inspections degraded the effectiveness of monitoring and the next logical step would be for Iraq to expel UNSCOM. Sen. Max Cleland [D Ga] began by asking Ritter whether the US should have taken out Saddam in 1991. Ritter explained that Saddam was the problem, that all decisions regarding Iraq's proscribed weapons were made by him. Cleland asked what the US should do now. Ritter replied that that was not his job, he was only an inspector. Cleland asked who was responsible for the situation. Ritter replied that it was the UN Security Council and the US. It was a "failure of leadership" on the part of the US. Sen. McCain [R Az] began by explaining that the Democrats had objected to the hearing taking place. It was the only hearing that they had objected to. Addressing Ritter, McCain also said that he wished someone had listened to someone of your pay grade during the Viet Nam war and perhaps there would not be so many names on the wall. McCain explained that the US was articulating one policy and doing the opposite and that was "what was disturbing so many of us." He asked whether UNSCOM had information that Iraq had components for three nuclear devices and all that was lacking was the fissile material. Ritter replied that that was so. McCain asked how long would it take Iraq to have a nuclear bomb. Ritter replied that if Iraq were to reconstruct its old program for making fissile material it would be several years. It would be six months for chemical and biological weapons and six months for missiles. Ritter explained that Iraq had a plan for achieving a missile breakout within six months of receiving the signal from Saddam. Sen John Kerry [D Ma] said that Saddam's aim was not to lift the sanctions, but to build weapons of mass destruction. He said that he disagreed with Sen. Biden. The issue was much bigger than whether Scott Ritter or his team could get into a site or not. Kerry said that the US should be prepared to use force to achieve its goals, although it would be ill-advised to do so without mobilizing public support. But sliding into a policy of containment was disastrous. He suggested that any US military strike on Iraq should involve sustained targeting of the regime. Sen. James Inhofe [R Ok] welcomed Ritter saying that it was rare to see his kind of courage. Inhofe noted that the President had told Congress April 6 that a diplomatic solution had been exhausted and that the US had encouraged UNSCOM to proceed. He suggested that the scenario that had been raised during the hearing-the US' backing down or going to war-was a false dilemma. It was really a question of whether the US would defend its national interests. He asked whether Iraq would use its proscribed weapons against the US, if it acquired the means to do so. Ritter replied that Iraq had a "ruthless" government and people would, if they were told to. Sen. Pat Roberts [R Ka] explained that the issue was not whether the US would go to war, but it was the credibility of its national security policy. He explained that he had questioned Clinton's earlier request for authorization from Congress for military strikes. He had not opposed the use of force, but questioned the utility of what the administration proposed doing. It wasn't planned well. Those who suggested that Congress opposed the use of force in principle were inaccurate and sending the wrong message. Sen. Charles Hagel [R Ne] began by welcoming Ritter as a person who did not have a limousine or big bucks, but someone whom might have a perspective that those with big bucks did not. Ritter explained that the inspections that he was trying to carry out were closing in on Iraq's proscribed weapons. Within the US administration there was concern that his presence on the inspections created friction. The administration said that the issue should be about the inspections not the inspectors. Ritter explained that in March 98, Sandy Berger and Madeleine Albright intervened on numerous occasions to keep him out of Iraq. Sen. Paul Coverdell [R Ga] said that the situation was very dangerous and could not be dealt with by obscuring it. The policy had to be on the table so that the American people could understand it. Ritter explained what had happened in January 1998, when he led an inspection team for one day, before the team was blocked. He had been pursuing information on the Iraqi testing of biological agents in the summer of 1995 on human beings. Senator Olympia Snowe [R Me] asked whether, under the Bush administration, the US had interfered with UNSCOM inspections. Ritter explained that UNSCOM had always coordinated closely with the UN Security Council, but it was only since November, 1997 that UNSCOM had had specific inspections stopped. The US blocking of UNSCOM inspections in November and December 1997 had been for the purpose of mobilizing political and military support. By January that was in place. Sen. Snowe observed that the administration had not done its work in advance. In a final round of questioning, Ritter told Sen. Thurmond that the monitoring program requires UNSCOM to do a full range of inspections. The present denial of inspections meant that there was no effective monitoring. Sen. Lugar asked whether Iraq was using money from the "oil for food" program for proscribed activities. Ritter said yes. There was specific intelligence that Iraq was using it to acquire dual use and proscribed material. Lugar asked for some estimate in dollar amounts. Ritter said that it was definitely a "serious" issue. He was aware of an instance where the dollar amount was over $800,000. Sen. Levin told Ritter that you have confronted the world and Congress that Saddam Hussein is thwarting the will of the international community and that he is getting away with it. He again asked whether the problem could be resolved through the use of force and whether the US was willing to do that. In questioning by Sen. Robb, Ritter explained that if the Security Council had backed up UNSCOM in June, 1996, when the problem first began, and threatened the use of force, it would have been much easier to force Saddam to comply than it is now. Robb replied that history was replete with examples of many cases in which if we had responded sooner rather than later, the consequences would have been much easier. Sen. Hagel asked whether UNSCOM had ever asked to inspect the Ministry of Defense. Ritter replied no. Since 1991, the US had urged UNSCOM to inspect the MoD, but two successive UNSCOM chairmen had felt there was no compelling reason to do so. Nonetheless, after the Annan accord, the administration pressed for UNSCOM to inspect the MoD and UNSCOM reluctantly acceded. But to properly carry out such an inspection would have been a major undertaking. The building would have had to have been secured so that the Iraqis couldn't get in and out to hide or destroy documents. To prepare such an inspection would have taken three weeks and required 150 inspectors, but UNSCOM did not have that kind of time to prepare. Its inspection of the Ministry of Defense was not a credible inspection. Still, UNSCOM was told to do it, so it did.
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