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News ::
5/21: Vigil for Iraq; Former Weapons Inspector Argues Iraq is Not a Threat
22 May 2002
From 5:30 to 6:30 on 5/21/02, about fifty people held a vigil in solidarity with the people of Iraq, opposing the sanctions on the possibility of a wider war against Iraq. After the vigil, Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the UN, argued that a war is unnecessary as there is no evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction any more.
5/21: Vigil in Solidarity With the People of Iraq;
Former Weapons Inspector Argues War With Iraq in Unnecessary
by Matthew Williams

Tuesday, May 21, 2002; Boston, MA--From 5:30 to 6:30 today in Copley Square, about fifty people held a vigil in solidarity with the people of Iraq, opposing the sanctions on and on-going bombing of Iraq and the possibility of a wider war against the country. People held signs such as “Another war will spare Saddam but not the people” and “500,000 children dead from sanctions”. After the vigil, Scott Ritter, a major in the US Marines and former chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the UN, spoke; he argued that war with Iraq was unnecessary as there is no evidence that Hussein’s regime has weapons of mass destruction any more and that Iraq poses no threat to the US’s national security.

Members of United for Justice with Peace (UJP), the main Boston-area peace coalition, have been holding vigils on Tuesday evenings in Copley since September in opposition to the Bush administration’s so-called “war on terror”. They chose to hold a vigil focusing on solidarity with the people of Iraq because of the high probability that there will soon be a second full-scale war with Iraq.

People at the vigil emphasized that they did not support Saddam Hussein’s regime. Instead, they pointed to the way US policy hurts ordinary Iraqi civilians. John McLeod of the Community Church of Boston and the Committee for Peace and Human Rights said, “I think our government’s policies are immoral simply because of the immense civilian consequences of the sanctions that have been going on for 11 years and have resulted in the deaths of so many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.” Although it is impossible to calculate exact figures, responsible estimates for the number of civilian dead run from 200,000 to one million.

McLeod, who traveled to Iraq a year ago with Conscience International, continued, “The main impression I had was that the sanctions have been devastating to the society. It isn’t just a matter of the number of people killed. It’s an entire generation deskilled. The social fabric has been very badly hit by these sanctions. And now we’re going to launch a bloody war.”

In his talk after the vigil, Ritter (a self-described “card-carrying Republican”) argued that there was no evidence that Hussein’s regime posed any sort of threat to the United States and that therefore was no reason to go to war. He was chief weapons inspector in Iraq for seven years as part of UNSCOM, the United Nations Special Commission. Based on his experiences, he said, “Iraq *had* weapons of mass destruction. We destroyed them, the factories that produced them, and the means of production. I won’t say we destroyed 100% of them, but we destroyed 90-95%of them. From 1994 to 1998, we monitored Iraq’s infrastructure. We never detected any evidence that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction program.” He argued that this filled the UN Security Council’s requirements for Iraq. “We could make a case that we had qualitatively disarmed Iraq. Not 100%, but we had fulfilled the intention of the Security Council.”

Ritter also took care to refute the myth that Iraq kicked the weapons inspectors out in December 1998. “The weapons inspectors were ordered out by the US deputy ambassador to the Security Council. This was not done with the Security Council’s authorization.” By the time the Security Council found out the next day, the US government was already bombing Iraq.

Ritter, an expert in military intelligence, said that based on the evidence gathered by satellites and military planes flying over Iraq, “It is highly unlikely Iraq has rebuilt its weapons of mass destruction capability. This is not something you can do in a laboratory or underground. There is no evidence that Iraq has rebuilt factories capable of producing weapons of mass destruction.”

People at the vigil argued that a war would not help the people of Iraq any more than the current sanctions do. Elizabeth Leonard of the UJP and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said, “We’ve been bombing Iraq every single day for years now, but we’re talking about a full-scale invasion. That country, like Afghanistan, is already in a state of stone-age inhabitation and we would be killing mostly civilians. [ . . .] They say that their smart bombs are so well guided, but they really aren’t. It’s impossible when bombing a city not to kill civilians.” The daily US and UK flights in the “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq drop bombs regularly; although they are supposed to be responding to military threats, they frequently hit civilian targets.

Ritter, who fought in the Gulf War, said that while he believes that there is such a thing as a “just war”, there is no such thing as a “good war”: “In modern warfare, the civilian dies more often than the soldier.”

Asked why the US government would attack Iraq if not because of weapons of mass destruction, Leonard said, “The number one reason the US government has so much interest in going into Iraq is that they have so much oil. That was the reason we started this war in the first place. And I think we just want the power over all the Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. We’re going into every country that has any access to oil at all.” As a result of the war in Afghanistan, the US government has been able to set up military bases in the oil-rich former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan in Central Asia. The interim president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is a former consultant to Unocal, a US oil company that has long sought to build a pipeline from Central Asia through Afghanistan.

McLeod said, “Iraq is actually a third-rate, rinky-dink military power. I think this [threat of weapons of mass destruction] is fabrication to enable the United States to put together a client regime in Iraq.”

Any invasion of Iraq would be an undertaking of massive proportions. Ritter noted that while only 7,000 US troops were deployed in Afghanistan, invading Iraq would require 70,000-250,000 troops. Leonard predicted the US would simply get hopelessly bogged down in Iraq: “We went into Afghanistan and we still haven’t gotten Osama bin Laden. We’re still in fighting there, trying to get the terrorists out of there. The same thing is going to happen in Iraq.”


For more information on United for Justice with Peace, see For more information on Iraq, see the Iraq Action Coalition’s website: For more information of the “war on terror” in general, see ZNet’s Terror-War page:
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