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Active citizenship: Interview With Scott Ritter


Tuesday, 20 May 2003, 9:00 am
Article: Share International

Active citizenship: Interview With Scott Ritter

An interview with Scott Ritter, former UN Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, who calls for renewed activism in the cause of American ideals. Interview courtesy of www.simedia.org

Scott Ritter, a former UN Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, is much in the news. Although a Republican he is also a vociferous critic of the Bush administration. Invited to the Netherlands by the Dutch Socialist Party, he gave a series of lectures and interviews: Felicity Eliot interviewed him in Amsterdam for Share International.

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Share International: Just for the record: Youre a patriotic man, I believe? I think, too, that you are not a pacifist and you would say that some wars may be justified?

Scott Ritter: Yes, I certainly am patriotic and no, Im not a pacifist, in that I believe some wars wars that are in self-defence and are within the framework of the law may be justified, if all else has failed.

SI: But youre a vociferous critic of the Bush Administration: why?

SR: Well, I think they've disgraced America. I cant find any redeeming quality in what theyve done. Im not Machiavellian: the end does not justify the means. Don't get me wrong, Im not an apologist for Saddam Hussein, but I believe in the due process of law.

We need the law to be able to co-exist as a global community. The rule of law thats how we define civilization. How else can we live and function together? I think Bush has deviated from the rule of law.

SI: What is your reaction to the pre-emptive strike doctrine?

SR: It is complex. You cant just jump out and pre-emptively strike anything that you deem to be a threat. This is where I have a problem with the American/Bush idea of pre-emption because its part of an overriding strategy, the national security strategy of unilateralism. The Bush doctrine of pre-emption says that we alone, that is, America, has the right to define a problem, and we alone have the right to solve it. I dont believe in the pre-eminence of America, but America is a very powerful country. The world has to learn how to deal with it; we, Americans, have to learn how to deal with it. You can do good things with power, but absolute power corrupts absolutely and the best way to constrain American power is the rule of law, universally applied.

SI: You have been giving numerous lectures lately; what do you think the public needs to know?

SR: I would say more than needs to know. It needs to start to act and thats citizenship! To be honest, Im fed up with everybody sitting there passively saying well, what do we do?

We have to wake up. Start being a good citizen. A good citizen is someone who commits themselves to, and invests in, their community. Once you invest yourself you acquire knowledge. You suddenly realize what it is youre part of, and what youre doing. I think the answer is clear: its not what I should tell people. Its the knowledge youre seeking. Dont come to me to give you knowledge! Go out and find out. Ask questions. Be a good citizen hold your elected representative accountable for what theyre doing in your name. Get involved in the process. Define the moment, dont let the moment define you.

SI: So youre saying people dont take part enough in democratic processes?

SR: This is lacking right across the board in most countries. Weve forgotten what citizenship and democracy is about. Weve wrapped ourselves in a blanket of consumerism weve become consumers and wrapped ourselves in a cocoon of comfort. As long as we keep waddling down the path of relative prosperity we tune out, but consumerism and the American dream shouldnt define us.

SI: As youre talking Im thinking about how the United Nations, which should represent us all, has suffered lately.

SR: You know the Constitution and the United Nations are not perfect theyre open to amendment. They can be changed to suit the needs of the times. You know, its an evolving process, this thing we call democracy. If we have a problem in the United Nations lets not walk away from it, lets fix it.

But what Bush has done, and whats scary about this situation, is that Bush has rushed to deviate from the rule of law both abroad and domestically. Im very concerned that the Bush administration will seek to exploit the events of 9/11 homeland security, the patriot act this is a frontal attack on the Constitution.

SI: Coming back to the present circumstances lets just clear away some misconceptions: the attack on Iraq is not just about oil, is it? And, at the same time, can I ask you to comment on the cabal of grey men around and behind Bush? And would you say something about the Project for the New American Century?

SR: Yes! I think people have to start focusing on this. Is it just about oil? Absolutely not. Does oil play a part? Youre darn right it does its part of power.

SI: Would you say this war is not about weapons of mass destruction, its not about regime change and liberation those were all used as a pretext?

SR: Thats right! Those are all smokescreens. Its about naked aggression. This is about a grab for power, global power. Hegemony; you see it reflected in the National Security Strategy published last year and which has its roots in a doctrine which was promulgated by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), back in 1997. It goes back to an original strategy drafted by two members of the PNAC, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, in 1992 when Cheney was the Defense Secretary. Basically this all grew out of the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the desire on the part of the USA never to be in a position again where it would have a strong adversary. So we need to ensure that we remain the only superpower so we will exercise our overwhelming economic and military power to guarantee this.

SI: So corporate America comes into the picture?

SR: Well, what is power? Power is economic power. We talked about oil, but its more than oil; its corporations the power elite through corporate forces those that control the media, those who have an overwhelming leverage on government, those who fund presidential elections so thats part of the cabal. As someone who believes in democracy, I find it disturbing; what youre seeing is a transfer of power away from the individual into a handful of corporate elites. As long as the Americans go on in their consumer identity and wrap themselves up in the comfort of prosperity, then the corporate elites and those associated with them have the power. We need to break free of this consumer identity. We need to regain control of our citizenship, our democracy.

Theres also the unspoken aspect of this cabal and I think its got to be spoken about. I say this as someone who believes in Israels right to exist but, having said that, there is an aspect of this project, the PNAC, which has Zionist elements to it. Its hard to speak of this, because the second you say anything youre accused of being anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli. But I believe in an Israel, not a greater Israel, but one defined by the United Nations, and by the rule of law. Among the members of the PNAC are people who believe that aspects of US power have to be connected to the security of the state of Israel. Thats why Im concerned.

SI: Do you mean whos next? and that it wont stop at Iraqs borders?

SR: Right. Iraq is simply the case study for the implementation of this new doctrine of global hegemony. And now the same people who were saying We needed to get rid of Saddam Hussein are saying: Well, now that we have all these troops here we need to turn left and go into Syria. And what for? To secure Israels northern border. So there are US soldiers going to fight and die to secure Israels border, without Israel being attacked. Its a travesty and needs to be looked at very carefully.

SI: And the repercussions in the region?

SR: Well, we risk, as we do now, alienating and angering Arab and Muslim public opinion right across the Middle East.

SI: Can America go it alone?

SR: Yes, for some time, as a reflection of our empire status. But history shows that empires die of indigestion they consume too much and perish.

SI: Finally, would you say something about the peace movement?

SR: The only way to stop the US is for the American people to stop it. America has to regain its status as a democracy and reinstate the rule of law. The people of the United States must redefine themselves as citizens of a republic, of a democracy not of an empire.

What can the peace movement do? It can hold up that standard to the American people. The Americans probably need a jolt to wake them up. Rather than demonstrate against America, demonstrate on behalf of American democracy, on the principles espoused by the Constitution. Hold a mirror up to the United States and say: You are not living up to that which you preach. Maybe that will help shock the American people into taking action and becoming good citizens.

From the May 2003 issue of Share International

 


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