A Call to Arms By an Enemy of War Against Iraq
By Courtland Milloy
(The Washington Post) - Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine and former U.N. arms inspector, peppered
his Veterans Day talk at the University of Maryland with the kinds of
questions and challenges that are known to fire up an audience.
"The average age of a lance corporal is 20," Ritter said. "The average
age of a college student is 20." Calling the students in the audience
"just kids," he asked who among them could wake up the next morning, look
in the mirror and honestly say that "what's going on in Iraq is worthy of my
At the same time, did the students really know enough about Iraq to
sit back silently while others go off to die for them? And did they
really understand that war is not the Nintendo game that we see on
television, that it is, in fact, about "terminating life" and nothing more?
Hundreds of people had filled a ballroom inside the Stamp Student
Union to hear Ritter, a military man turned anti-war advocate who has been
denounced by hawks as unpatriotic for his views. He was invited to speak by
campus organization, and his appearance drew a wide range of students from
dozens of countries.
Ritter contended that it was ridiculous for an uninformed Congress to
give President Bush sole power to wage war: "It's like going to a doctor
who says you have a brain tumor and that he needs to chop off your head
so he can dig it out. You say, 'Wait, that's kind of extreme. May I see the
X-rays?' And the doctor says, 'Don't worry about X-rays. Just trust
me on this.'"
The students laughed, but Ritter cut them off, saying: "Don't blame
Congress or Bush. You are the government. They just represent you.
What they are doing is happening in your name."
Drawing on his experience as an intelligence officer during the
Persian Gulf War and on his seven years as a U.N weapons inspector in Iraq,
Ritter painted a disturbing picture of wat has been happening in that
country since the Gulf War and the imposition of economic sanctions.
He talked about babies drinking water contaminated by sewage because
purification plants have been bombed. Mothers carry them to doctors
and are told that nothing can be done. Medicines have gone bad because
refrigerators don't work; bombs have knocked out electric power
plants as well.
"Keep this in the back of your head: About 3,000 Iraqi children are
starving to death each month -- outside the view of American
heartstrings," Ritter said. "Suppose every month 3,000 Iraqi children were
and we threatened to shoot them if Saddam Hussein didn't do what we wanted.
Suppose we gave orders for the Marines to shoot them. Well, nothing
would happen because Marines don't shoot kids. But that doesn't mean
America doesn't kill children. We just starve them to death.
"But we're only talking about dead brown people," Ritter added
sarcastically. "Don't let that little fact get in the way. If 250,000
white babies were going to starve to death, this sanctions policy wouldn't
last long at all. But somehow a child's death doesn't hurt brown mothers
as much as it hurts white mothers."
Ritter made the case that America is hellbent on war with Iraq no
matter what U.N. arms inspectors find if readmitted to that country. Why?
want to control Mideast oil.
"We see the world as one big grocery store," he said. When the United
States needs another country's natural resource, he said, we will
make friends with oppressive regimes to get it, steal it or take it by
Ritter said we obtain copper "by propping up African dictators who
send their people into copper mines where they die by the thousands just
so our lives can be made more comfortable."
Instead of hunting down terrorists with Predator drones, only to see
them replaced by more terrorists, better to ask why and how people become
terrorists in the first place, Ritter said.
"The anti-American sentiment is out there, and it's not because
people are jealous of us," he said. "People don't like us because we're a
of obnoxious, ignorant lies."
He closed by asking the students whether they really wanted such
oppressive, undemocratic practices carried out in their names.
"Hell no!" came the response.
"Then it's not too late to send a message that this is not a war that
we will stand for," he said, bringing many students to their feet in