Inspection or Invasion?
U.S. House of Representatives, June 24, 2002
Mr. Speaker, I call my colleagues' attention to a recent article by Scott Ritter, former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, published in the Los Angeles Times. In this article, Mr. Ritter makes a salient point that deserves careful and serious consideration in this body: how will it be possible to achieve the stated administration goal of getting weapons inspectors back into Iraq when the administration has made it known that it intends to assassinate the Iraqi leader?
If nothing else, Saddam Hussein has proven himself a survivor. Does anyone believe that he will allow inspectors back into his country knowing that any one of them might kill him? Is it the intention of the administration to get inspectors back into Iraq and thus answers to lingering and critical questions regarding Iraq's military capabilities, or is the intent to invade that country regardless of the near total absence of information and actually make it impossible for Saddam Hussein to accept the inspectors?
Mr. Ritter, who as former chief UN inspector in Iraq probably knows that country better than any of us here, made some excellent points in a recent meeting with Republican members of Congress. According to Mr. Ritter, no American-installed regime could survive in Iraq. Interestingly, Mr. Ritter noted that though his rule is no doubt despotic, Saddam Hussein has been harsher toward Islamic fundamentalism than any other Arab regime. He added that any U.S. invasion to remove Saddam from power would likely open the door to an anti-American fundamentalist Islamic regime in Iraq. That can hardly be viewed in a positive light here in the United States. Is a policy that replaces a bad regime with a worse regime the wisest course to follow?
Much is made of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, as a potential post-invasion leader of Iraq. Mr. Ritter told me that in his many dealings with Chalabi, he found him to be completely unreliable and untrustworthy. He added that neither he nor the approximately 100 Iraqi generals that the US is courting have any credibility inside Iraq, and any attempt to place them in power would be rejected in the strongest manner by the Iraqi people. Hundreds, if not thousands, of American military personnel would be required to occupy Iraq indefinitely if any American-installed regime is to remain in power. Again, it appears we are creating a larger problem than we are attempting to solve.
Similarly, proponents of a US invasion of Iraq often cite the Kurds in the northern part of that country as a Northern Alliance—like ally, who will do much of our fighting on the ground and unseat Saddam. But just last week the Washington Times reported that neither of the two rival Kurdish groups in northern Iraq want anything to do with an invasion of Iraq.
In the meeting last month, Scott Ritter reminded members of Congress that a nation cannot go to war based on assumptions and guesses, that a lack of knowledge is no basis on which to initiate military action. Mr. Ritter warned those present that remaining quiescent in the face of the administration's seeming determination to exceed the authority granted to go after those who attacked us, will actually hurt the president and will hurt Congress. He concluded by stating that going into Iraq without Congressionally granted authority would be a "failure of American democracy.'' Those pounding the war drums loudest for an invasion of Iraq should pause for a moment and ponder what Scott Ritter is saying. Thousands of lives are at stake.