SCOTT RITTER: Powell & Iraq—Regime Change, Not Disarmament: The Fundamental Lie

Regime change, not disarmament, was always the driving factor behind U.S. policy towards Saddam Hussein. Powell knew this because he helped craft the original policy.

By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News

The New York Times Magazine has published a puff piece soft-peddling former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s role in selling a war on Iraq to the UN Security Council using what turned out to be bad intelligence. “Colin Powell Still Wants Answers” is the title of the article, written by Robert Draper. “The analysts who provided the intelligence,” a sub-header to the article declares, “now say it was doubted inside the CIA at the time.”

Draper’s article is an extract from a book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, scheduled for publication later this month. In the interest of full disclosure, I was approached by Draper in 2018 about his interest in writing this book, and I agreed to be interviewed as part of his research. I have not yet read the book, but can note that, based upon the tone and content of his New York Times Magazine article, my words apparently carried little weight.

Regime Change, Not WMD

I spent some time articulating to Draper my contention that the issue with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but rather regime change, and that everything had to be viewed in the light of this reality—including Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 presentation before the UN Security Council. Based upon the content of his article, I might as well have been talking to a brick wall.

Powell’s 2003 presentation before the council did not take place in a policy vacuum. In many ways, the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was a continuation of the 1991 Gulf War, which Powell helped orchestrate. Its fumbled aftermath was again, something that transpired on Powell’s watch as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the administration of George H. W. Bush.

Powell at UN Security Council. (UN Photo)

Powell was part of the policy team that crafted the post-Gulf War response to the fact that Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, survived a conflict he was not meant to. After being labeled the Middle East equivalent of Adolf Hitler whose crimes required Nuremburg-like retribution in a speech delivered by President Bush in October 1990, the Iraqi President’s post-conflict hold on power had become a political problem for Bush 41.

Powell was aware of the CIA’s post-war assessment on the vulnerability of Saddam’s rule to continued economic sanctions, and helped craft the policy that led to the passage of Security Council resolution 687 in April 1991. That linked Iraq’s obligation to be disarmed of its WMD prior to any lifting of sanctions and the reality that it was U.S. policy not to lift these sanctions, regardless of Iraq’s disarmament status, until which time Saddam was removed from power.

Regime change, not disarmament, was always the driving factor behind U.S. policy towards Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Powell knew this because he helped craft the original policy.

I bore witness to the reality of this policy as a weapons inspector working for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), created under the mandate of resolution 687 to oversee the disarming of Iraq’s WMD. Brought in to create an intelligence capability for the inspection team, my remit soon expanded to operations and, more specifically, how Iraq was hiding retained weapons and capability from the inspectors.

SCUDS

UN weapons inspectors in central Iraq, June 1, 1991. (UN Photo)

One of my first tasks was addressing discrepancies in Iraq’s accounting of its modified SCUD missile arsenal; in December 1991 I wrote an assessment that Iraq was likely retaining approximately 100 missiles. By March 1992 Iraq, under pressure, admitted it had retained a force of 89 missiles (that number later grew to 97).

After extensive investigations, I was able to corroborate the Iraqi declarations, and in November 1992 issued an assessment that UNSCOM could account for the totality of Iraq’s SCUD missile force. This, of course, was an unacceptable conclusion, given that a compliant Iraq meant sanctions would need to be lifted and Saddam would survive.

The U.S. intelligence community rejected my findings without providing any fact-based evidence to refute it, and the CIA later briefed the Senate that it assessed Iraq to be retaining a force of some 200 covert SCUD missiles. This all took place under Powell’s watch as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

I challenged the CIA’s assessment, and organized the largest, most complex inspection in UNSCOM’s history to investigate the intelligence behind the 200-missile assessment. In the end, the intelligence was shown to be wrong, and in November 1993 I briefed the CIA Director’s senior staff on UNSCOM’s conclusion that all SCUD missiles were accounted for. 

Moving the Goalposts

The CIA’s response was to assert that Iraq had a force of 12-20 covert SCUD missiles, and that this number would never change, regardless of what UNSCOM did. This same assessment was in play at the time of Powell’s Security Council presentation, a blatant lie born of the willful manufacture of lies by an entity—the CIA—whose task was regime change, not disarmament.

Powell knew all of this, and yet he still delivered his speech to the UN Security Council.

In October 2002, in a briefing designed to undermine the credibility of UN inspectors preparing to return to Iraq, the Defense Intelligence Agency trotted out Dr. John Yurechko, the defense intelligence officer for information operations and denial and deception, to provide a briefing detailing U.S. claims that Iraq was engaged in a systematic process of concealment regarding its WMD programs.

John Yurechko, of the Defense Intelligence Agency, briefs reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 8, 2002 (U.S. Defense Dept.)

According to Yurechko, the briefing was compiled from several sources, including “inspector memoirs” and Iraqi defectors. The briefing was farcical, a deliberate effort to propagate misinformation by the administration of Bush 43. I know—starting in 1994, I led a concerted UNSCOM effort involving the intelligence services of eight nations to get to the bottom of Iraq’s so-called “concealment mechanism.”

Using innovative imagery intelligence techniques, defector debriefs, agent networks and communications intercepts, combined with extremely aggressive on-site inspections, I was able, by March 1998, to conclude that Iraqi concealment efforts were largely centered on protecting Saddam Hussein from assassination, and had nothing to do with hiding WMD. This, too, was an inconvenient finding, and led to the U.S. dismantling the apparatus of investigation I had so carefully assembled over the course of four years.

It was never about the WMD—Powell knew this. It was always about regime change.

Using UN as Cover for Coup Attempt

In 1991, Powell signed off on the incorporation of elite U.S. military commandos into the CIA’s Special Activities Staff for the purpose of using UNSCOM as a front to collect intelligence that could facilitate the removal of Saddam Hussein. I worked with this special cell from 1991 until 1996, on the mistaken opinion that the unique intelligence, logistics and communications capability they provided were useful to planning and executing the complex inspections I was helping lead in Iraq.

This program resulted in the failed coup attempt in June 1996 that used UNSCOM as its operational cover—the coup failed, the Special Activities Staff ceased all cooperation with UNSCOM, and we inspectors were left holding the bag. The Iraqis had every right to be concerned that UNSCOM inspections were being used to target their president because, the truth be told, they were.

Nowhere in Powell’s presentation to the Security Council, or in any of his efforts to recast that presentation as a good intention led astray by bad intelligence, does the reality of regime change factor in. Regime change was the only policy objective of three successive U.S. presidential administrations—Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43.

Powell was a key player in two of these. He knew. He knew about the existence of the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group. He knew of the successive string of covert “findings” issued by U.S. presidents authorizing the CIA to remove Saddam Hussein from power using lethal force. He knew that the die had been cast for war long before Bush 43 decided to engage the United Nations in the fall of 2002. 

Powell Knew

Powell knew all of this, and yet he still allowed himself to be used as a front to sell this conflict to the international community, and by extension the American people, using intelligence that was demonstrably false. If, simply by drawing on my experience as an UNSCOM inspector, I knew every word he uttered before the Security Council was a lie the moment he spoke, Powell should have as well, because every aspect of my work as an UNSCOM inspector was known to, and documented by, the CIA.

It is not that I was unknown to Powell in the context of the WMD narrative. Indeed, my name came up during an interview Powell gave to Fox News on Sept. 8, 2002, when he was asked to comment on a quote from my speech to the Iraqi Parliament earlier that month in which I stated:

“The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government and others has not to date been backed up by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in possession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for attacking the United States. Void of such facts, all we have is speculation.”

Powell responded by declaring,

“We have facts, not speculation. Scott is certainly entitled to his opinion but I’m afraid that I would not place the security of my nation and the security of our friends in the region on that kind of an assertion by somebody who’s not in the intelligence chain any longer… If Scott is right, then why are they keeping the inspectors out? If Scott is right, why don’t they say, ‘Anytime, any place, anywhere, bring ‘em in, everybody come in—we are clean?’ The reason is they are not clean. And we have to find out what they have and what we’re going to do about it. And that’s why it’s been the policy of this government to insist that Iraq be disarmed in accordance with the terms of the relevant UN resolutions.”

UN inspectors in Iraq. (UN Photo)

Of course, in November 2002, Iraq did just what Powell said they would never do—they let the UN inspectors return without preconditions. The inspectors quickly exposed the fact that the “high quality” U.S. intelligence they had been tasked with investigating was pure bunk. Left to their own devices, the new round of UN weapons inspections would soon be able to give Iraq a clean bill of health, paving the way for the lifting of sanctions and the continued survival of Saddam Hussein.

Powell knew this was not an option. And thus he allowed himself to be used as a vehicle for disseminating more lies—lies that would take the U.S. to war, cost thousands of U.S. service members their lives, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, all in the name of regime change.

Back to Robert Draper. I spent a considerable amount of time impressing upon him the reality of regime change as a policy, and the fact that the WMD disarmament issue existed for the sole purpose of facilitating regime change. Apparently, my words had little impact, as all Draper has done in his article is continue the false narrative that America went to war on the weight of false and misleading intelligence.

Draper is wrong—America went to war because it was our policy as a nation, sustained over three successive presidential administrations, to remove Saddam Hussein from power. By 2002 the WMD narrative that had been used to support and sustain this regime change policy was weakening.

Powell’s speech was a last-gasp effort to use the story of Iraqi WMD for the purpose it was always intended—to facilitate the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. In this light, Colin Powell’s speech was one of the greatest successes in CIA history. That is not the story, however, Draper chose to tell, and the world is worse off for that failed opportunity.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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48 comments for “SCOTT RITTER: Powell & Iraq—Regime Change, Not Disarmament: The Fundamental Lie

  1. July 21, 2020 at 14:51

    We watched it all, reading what Scott Ritter, McGovern and others had to say. assessing everything we knew. We were among the millions in Americans and many, many millions around the world who knew that what the true seekers said to be true. We marched, confident that what would happen could not happen. The evidence was overwhelming and yet we the American nation continued to destroy Iraq through the first Bush Years, the Clinton Years and then a Bush again.

    Who will pay? Nurenberg is for losers.

  2. July 21, 2020 at 05:49

    This is an EXCELLENT piece of journalism! I applaud Scott Ridder’s account of what actually happened, and his take-down of Robert Draper’s portrayal of Colin Powell in the NYT.

    What does it take in our country now to actually tell the truth from an evidenced-based, factual point of view?

  3. Maxine
    July 20, 2020 at 16:54

    Something I’ve never understood….Yes, it was a rotten lie that Iraq possessed WMD….But given that the US and others possessed them (Indeed, the US already USED them) why SHOULDN’T Iraq been equally entitled to have them?….Who decided that it was legal for certain nations to have WMD and others not?

    • Piotr Berman
      July 22, 2020 at 11:52

      There are two somewhat separate issues. One is the right or the lack of it to make or to produce certain types of weaponry. One can recall a ban on selling firearms to the native people, or more current ban on selling gasoline to Syria and Venezuela, perhaps they could threaten the West with Molotov cocktails?

      The second issue is the right or the lack of it to foment wars and other actions spreading misery among many nations by constructing lies, and to organize repressions on those who object those lies. As this issue remains “controversial”, and yet it has huge consequences, it is worth to focus on that in a dedicated discussion.

  4. Nathan Mulcahy
    July 20, 2020 at 15:31

    My hats off to Scott Ritter for his principled stance on truth and for his continued service to peace.

    As for Powell, what an excuse of a human being. How should I describe him? A coward? A liar? A war criminal? Actually all of them.

  5. David Otness
    July 20, 2020 at 15:25

    Thanks again, Scott. Your voice is needed, heard, and well-regarded.

  6. Tommy
    July 20, 2020 at 13:25

    Powell admitted the intelligence accusing Saddam Hussein of having stockpiles of WMD’s and having a nuclear weapons program was wrong in this speech:

    see: CHANGE QUESTIONS POWELL. youtube.com/watch?v=fAwVasj3o68

    Relevant part starts around the 5 minute mark.

  7. Guy
    July 20, 2020 at 09:44

    It did not matter what the facts were ,it did not then and it does not matter today with what is going on in other parts of the world .The well oiled propaganda machine has been perfected and on and on it goes.It was Iraq then , today it is the Russians , the Chinese etc .
    Many lives lost but they simply don’t care .The bogey man must always exist because wall street profits from war .That is the bottom line.
    Good article.Those of us that are old enough to have lived through it with open eyes have heard it all already but this needs to be repeated until it sinks in .History will not be denied and for this I thank you .

  8. Tuyzentfloot
    July 20, 2020 at 06:17

    Powell understood that he was selling an invasion with a pretext. You look at your interests , decide on the invasion and decide how to sell it. You find a pretext. The pretext is not the reason for the invasion but you do like the pretext to be solid. Then afterwards you can still claim that the reason for the invasion was valid.

    The part where he was being deceived was that the pretext did not hold up. Then the whole official rationale for the war collapses. And yes this was done at his expense. They gave him a bad sales pitch.

  9. Curious
    July 20, 2020 at 01:22

    Scott,
    Thank you for keeping this story alive as many want to bury it, or become the ostriches they so often are.
    I don’t know how you could tie my following thought together in an article about Iraq, but what I see is very important and often understated. And that is the mental effort it went into propagandizing the troops.
    I’ve spoken with many Iraq vets and heard all sides of the argument to go in. Many felt ethical holiness at killing the people who created 911. That was just military propaganda, but effective for the young volunteers. Since Sad dam had nothing to do with 911, nor the Anthrax scare, and some of the sad suicides we see every day from vets is partly due to guilt. This part I know personally.
    The other defense I heard was “when we were there we found an old MIG buried in the sand” as if that gave credence to the WMD lie.
    What I still hear from vets is Iraqis are ‘sand n*****s and it ok to still go on killing them. This expression horrifies me that they haven’t changed their military bias.
    But many in the US are fixated on the idea that all soldiers are heroes, so a lot of this may never change.
    Thank you again Scott for your many informative articles cutting through the lies so some may wake up.

  10. Phil Rojas
    July 19, 2020 at 18:14

    Powell is and should be tried as a war criminal.

  11. Robert Emmett
    July 19, 2020 at 16:11

    Is it Draper’s intention to soften Colin Powell’s position in history? Sure sounds like it, according to Scott Ritter’s experience. So what’s real?

    And WhoGivesaFF what Colin Powell wants now anyway? Oh, right. Don’t want to cancel him or his story. Lynch-pin in a plan to jigger the country into regime change invasion with lies and then personally profit from it? Oh hell yeah, pretty please, let’s uphold your right to speak to that principle! Fuck Human Misery (including, of course, U.S. service members and their families). Hey, by jingo, FHM, isn’t that the real “Powell Doctrine”?

    Noticed my new favorite word, bunk, used in two of the three Powell articles. In my view, ol’ P.T. would be proud to see so many so taken-in for so long. Ritter claims Powell’s U.N. show was one of the Agency’s greatest successes. Tenet got the medal to prove it! Doesn’t it just stand to reason, in a prima facie kind of way, that most of what we now witness relative to great strategic decisions of the day is some form of ass-covering and/or face-saving for earlier decisions? Whatever’s coming out of either orifice, solid or gaseous it ain’t “intelligence”.

    Colin (What-Me-Lie?) Powell and his scribe represent the latest bloviation. Take all the bullshit that’s been catapulted into the world as a result of his infamous “performance”. Would it even be humanly possible to walk that shit back? Not that our noble and venerable lead actors are honorable enough to take responsibility for it themselves. So, I guess you could argue that CN & its contributors are doing some of that for them, a shove in the right direction, as it were. I just hope historians choose their sources wisely.

  12. JHM
    July 19, 2020 at 13:48

    Let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh’s role in denigrating Scott Ritter and Hans Blix before the invasion of Iraq. Not to mention his many other instances of disinformation and coverups.

  13. Rob
    July 19, 2020 at 13:39

    Thank you, Scott Ritter, for presenting the clearest and most damning rendition of this shameful history that I have ever read.

  14. E L
    July 19, 2020 at 12:35

    Like it or not on moral or political or for any reason, I maintain that it was the right thing to do to remove Saddam. And secret of all secrets is that everyone with any power, inside the US or GB or France, etc, knew the way forward over there was going to get very, very nasty for all and possible lead to WWIII.

    Getting rid of Saddam allowed the West to NOT get in a war with Iran : that was the main international concern as the Allies would not support the USA on what could only be seen as a vengeance war with Iran even though Saudi Arabia would support the USA.

    The compromise that was made with the Allies was the WMD story …which no one believed even at the time. The shame of it was that Powell was politically thrown under the bus… not that his wife minded as she wanted him out of the Washington BS.

  15. July 19, 2020 at 11:59

    I had an argument with my brother-in-law about this very issue.He bought the bush-cheney-powell lie at dinner and believed the afghan boogieman lie too.I told him if he really believed the wmd lie, he had his head up his rear end.a hush fell over the dinner table and my wife and I left.Never been invited back to my sister’s house since.And that’s after there has never been found any weapons to this day,also gave an apology.

  16. Cascadian
    July 19, 2020 at 11:11

    A tiny book I found and read in the lead up to the 2003 war on Iraq – “War on Iraq” by Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt. I still have it.

    From my own, not in respect of weapons but signals, low level military experiences it was clear from the start that we were being led to war on the basis of lies – e.g. since when is the panhandle of Cyprus a part of the UK?

  17. Fred Mc
    July 19, 2020 at 00:27

    Thank you, Scott. I believe every word you wrote here. And I am finding your book, “Target Iran”, equally revealing.

  18. Michael
    July 18, 2020 at 21:13

    I always had a lot of respect for General Colin Powell until that ridiculous speech to the UN. Anyone with at least an ounce of common sense would have realized that it was pure fiction. Unfortunately, regime change was the objective and all that was needed was some cooked up intelligence to justify the WMD all carefully provided by the CIA.

    • Skip Scott
      July 19, 2020 at 08:02

      Powell has always been a smooth talker, but if you examine his record from Viet Nam onward, he was never “respectable”.

  19. Adrian Postel
    July 18, 2020 at 20:56

    Thank you for exposing this sad story to our readers.

  20. July 18, 2020 at 20:42

    Correction Re the statement: “Regime change, not disarmament, was always the driving factor behind U.S. policy towards Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.” The misleading word is “the”. The sentence should read: “Regime change, not disarmament, was always “a” driving factor behind U.S. policy towards Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

    Ritter and Draper are non-the-less hiding (and for political purposes – as is usually the case in all rethinks of policies of the other side) the number one driving factor behind US policy towards Saddam Hussein and thus Iraq 20 to 30 years ago.

    The core truth of the main driving force in play back then is that Saddam had been spending all his political goodwill and financial windfalls from the west to magnify his ego such that historically his status would rival that of Cyrus The Great !!! So much was this Saddam’s ultimate objective that he allowed his military to diminish to the point that in a matter of months Iran was going to waltz in in an over-night blitzkrieg and take over. Everyone knew this to be the truth but no one dared to breath a word until a plan was made to defy both Saddam and the mullahs which could also be sold east, west, north and south.

    Then finally Saddam realized that he was not going become the hero of the Muslim world that he believed he would be because his days were so shortly numbered as Iran was so close to invading Iraq. Thus Saddam went in to panic mode looking for a quick fix for his egotistical shortsightedness and his military impotence. What to do? What to do?

    What To Do! There were only three possible options. 1. The USA, whom he had been giving the finger to for several years re: the money they were pouring in to Iraq which he was spending on his immense ego and not as he had promised, thus was not going to help him personally (maybe if he stepped down there could be help); not an option; 2. Invade Kuwait and hope against hope that he would not be rebuffed by the World, which of course he was and then the heat was really on him to step down; and finally 3. Nuclear warheads for his scud missiles. AND HE WAS desperately shopping the World black markets for any kind of a dirty bomb that could keep Iran at bay.

    What the USA and other power brokers in the area knew was that there was no way to save Saddam from himself as they had come to realize that his ego made him too much of a loose canon to be trusted and kept in power; all players now believed that he was not worth what it would cost the West to save him. And more than that, they all knew that Iran was so close to invasion that the only way to change the mullahs’ minds was that it would be the might of the USA they would be coming up against if they took any kind of overt military action inside of Iraq. Remember how ready Saudi Arabia was to accommodate the western coalition and the USA.

    That my friends is the only story that makes any real sense in the sordid mixture of misinformation and propaganda pro-porting to tell how Saddam lost everything including his head. It tells also how a minor nuclear war (!!!) in the Middle East between the two main factions of Islam was avoided and also of how the West got pulled in to prevent that impending doom in the greater area.

    Of course, oil was that important then to the whole World. Now, however, with a soon to be much cleaner mass power source Age, the west will probably allow them more and more room to fight it out on their own… so long as Russia and China stay out of the ruckus. Russia will not go there but will China back away when the shoe drops?

    Do you notice that Iran and China are becoming much better friends now that Russia’s Christianity is back to becoming a real social power and the people want to ally with their Caucasian equals, while China fears that Trump may win a 2nd term and thus continue the pressure for it become decent, honest human beings?

    • Zhu
      July 21, 2020 at 04:48

      Somehow, I doubt Iran’s and China’s leader care two cents about the Russian Orthodx Church.

  21. July 18, 2020 at 20:41

    Something different……..honest!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. RomeoCharlie29
    July 18, 2020 at 20:22

    This explains why Powell, as described in the Draper article referred to, continued to whine about having to tell porkies about WMD when he knew they were wrong. The desire for regime change, usually for all the wrong reasons, has a lengthy, and sadly ongoing, history in the United States. Witness the inability of Trump to enforce his stated policy of withdrawing US forces from war zones. ( the only policy of Trump’s with which I agree incidentally and which thus shows his utter ineffectuality)

    • AnneR
      July 19, 2020 at 13:16

      RomeoCharlie – There is NO good reason for our (or NATO’s) “regime” change efforts beyond our own shores. We have NO right, zero right, to change another country’s, people’s government (not regime – or certainly no more a regime than ours have been – western world, especially US-UK – for well over a century) – even when a few, highly educated, deeply westernized, bourgeois members of that society emigrate to our western nations and start agitating for “regime” change. All they want is *their* relatives, their bourgeoisie types, friends in power, not those others. Won’t stop the torture (should it exist), the imprisonments (need to check our own navel), the executions (how can we complain? Not only do we execute but we also support, militarily, Saudia a nation hardly behind the curve when it comes to executions – or profound misogyny). (The Shah of Iran…and Savak…)

  23. David
    July 18, 2020 at 19:30

    The WMD story was obviously a phony pretext for their regime change operation. Powell was a critical part of the fraud perpetrated on the American people, the UN and the entire international community. His chief of staff,Lawrence Wilkerson, said that Powell UN speech was the, “Darkest day of my life” because he had briefed Powell and knew that Powell was aware that the claims he made were untrue.
    W’s advisors were all part of the New American Century group that had as it’s primary objective a war, first with Iraq and then with Iran. Paul O’Neal, W’s Treasury Secretary reported that war with Iraq was the first topic of the first cabinet meeting W held.

  24. Randal Marlin
    July 18, 2020 at 17:37

    Wow!
    So Colin Powell was not misled at all. The image of him holding forth a vial of some white powder, meant to represent anthrax that Saddam Hussein supposedly would like to use against Americans – all that was pure theater. Well, we knew it was theater, but what we didn’t know is how thoroughly supportive he was of the regime change policy. That makes it difficult to see him as a dove (comparatively speaking) among hawks, very reluctantly yielding to them under pressure of false WMD intelligence. We knew that he was aware that parts of his presentation to the UN Security Council were BS. What we didn’t know is that, from what Scott Ritter says, he was fully supportive of the whole deception along with the purpose – regime change – it was meant to serve.

  25. PDK
    July 18, 2020 at 17:16

    Paul O’Neill is quoted in the Ron Suskind book “The Price of Loyalty” is quoted as saying that in the very first cabinet meeting of the Bush administration that regime change in Iraq was a forgone conclusion of the Bush inner circle (the cabinet within a cabinet that included Cheney and Rumsfeld of course, but not O’Neill). Then, Richard A. Clarke said that the night of 9/11/2001 an elated Dick Cheney said that the attacks were the golden chance to invade Iraq. (perhaps written in “Against All Enemies” but I don’t have it to check).
    Those two quotes convinced me that it was never about WMDs.

  26. July 18, 2020 at 17:01

    An excellent piece, as one expects from this strong and well-informed analyst.

    We actually had several sources of quality information telling us before the invasion that there were no hidden weapons of mass destruction.

    Sweden’s Hans Blix was doing weapons inspections in Iraq, and he pushed his team hard, finding absolutely nothing.

    We also had at least one very knowledgeable Iraqi defector confirming the truth.

    We should remember, too, that at one point, Scott Ritter was smeared with accusations of pedophilia for his speaking out. The boys at the CIA play a very dirty game.

    No, those in power had determined Iraq must be destroyed. It was a favorite project of Ariel Sharon, who pushed it vigorously.

    So, about a million people were fated to die for a complete lie.

    And there were countless wounded and horribly injured, as children sliced up by American cluster bombs, used heavily in the invasion.

    Pictures were on the Internet at the time taken by brave photographers who risked their lives to counteract American propaganda.

    Depleted uranium dust from American munitions would continue killing for years.

    One of the world’s greatest collections of antiquities was brutally ransacked with much lost from ancient Mesopotamia through American carelessness. One of the things Saddam was exceptionally good at was archeology in this cradle of civilization. Many great discoveries were made. Many ancient sites restored. America is responsible for a good deal of destruction of them.

    And that society, once the most advanced in the Arab world was so shattered that good water and electricity were not available in many places long after the invasion. Millions were reduced to poverty.

    To this day, America has not repaired Iraq’s electricity grid, trying to blackmail the country into giving up a major portion of its oil production in return for doing what they were obliged to do. China is contracted now to do the job in a reasonable arrangement.

    It was all very shameful, as shameful as the holocaust in Vietnam.

    But the psychopaths running America’s power establishment just couldn’t care less. They’d like to repeat the job in Iran, and they already have done massive damage to the beautiful, ancient land of Syria.

    • Citizen 14
      July 19, 2020 at 08:04

      An excellent response to an excellent article.

    • AnneR
      July 19, 2020 at 13:28

      All so very true, John. Would so much that it weren’t.

      My only question is: Why shouldn’t other countries, especially in that particular region, ALL have WMDs???? (Whatever that means at any particular moment in history.) Why should WE (including NATO countries and “Israel”) be “allowed” to have WMD including nuclear arms, while all others denied. And thereby denied the ability to defend themselves, if only by the threat of similar retaliation…

      NK’s stance is perfectly understandable. But from the US (and NATO) pov not allowable.

  27. July 18, 2020 at 16:59

    I look forward to the day Major Scott Ritter hooks up with Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.
    The last time Colonel Wilkerson was on the podcast Fortress on a Hill, he had a few choice words for his ex-boss General Powell.
    Check it out: hXXps://www.fortressonahill.com/ episode 67

    • David Otness
      July 20, 2020 at 15:18

      Thanks for adding this FOH link, Mrs DL.CdL.

      This is an essential link for the bigger picture we all aspire toward you have provided, and I suggest all CN readers check out Fortress on a Hill podcasts—they are highly informative and backed by the august presence of combat vet / ex-West Point Professor Maj Danny Sjursen’s (Ret) fine work and the team of vets who make up its core. Wilkerson really lets loose on Powell in this episode. Candid indeed.

  28. michael888
    July 18, 2020 at 16:59

    Remember back when Joe Biden publicly dressed Scott Ritter down for “making decisions above his paygrade”? Saying “this is why some of us ride in limousines and you don’t?” Ritter had tried to let the cat out of the bag and Biden wasn’t having it.
    Just guessing the chain was unbroken when Obama joined Bush-Clinton-Bush in playing the CIA-Israeli-Saudi “game” in Iraq and the MidEast. Soon Biden will be installed and new forever wars will start rolling out again. Trump was too incompetent (?) to get things done, properly.

    • Curious
      July 19, 2020 at 03:10

      I agree M888,
      Biden is in very deep with wars upon wars. He’s in deep with the coup in Ukraine. He’s in deep wanting to bomb Iraq 2 years before the US did. You are right about his wars and that is the saddest bio Biden could bring on his resume.
      He is ‘died in the wool Zionist’ so expect a confrontation with Iran ASAP, all for the sake of Israel.. We have no win game here in the US between the two candidates. Yes, Trump is an incompetent but at least he didn’t outwardly start a war, just verbally on twitter attacked Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, China, etc. It’s hard to say what is better really. Twitter rants and sanctions are are nearly an act of war.
      How can the UK refuse over 5 billion in gold to Venezuela which is their own money? Just to back a guy who wasn’t even on the voting list for president at the time of the vote? I guess that doesn’t matter. Trump has created his own version of war around the globe. Biden’s version may be with ordinance and regime change. I don’t even know how to solve either version of both wars. Trump has scared the world and created outward hate in the US.
      I doubt Biden, with his failing mental capacity will be a solution. But getting the child out of the Oval Office is a plus, that I can admit.

  29. Anonymous
    July 18, 2020 at 16:48

    It seems like you genuinely believed in your cause, Mr. Ritter. This is unfortunate given the actual nature of this country.

    It’s also absolutely hilarious that politicians would go so far as to insult the entire intelligence community – and perhaps it’s also lucky that they didn’t choose to single out individual scapegoats and pull the usual “bad apple” nonsense routine. How are they not expecting fallout from this? How can they possibly be so short sighted?

  30. Pablo Diablo
    July 18, 2020 at 16:01

    And WHY did they want regime change?

    • July 19, 2020 at 06:17

      Because Israel and the Israel lobby in the United States wanted it, and the Pentagon and CIA are closely aligned with Israeli interests. After all, it is a kind of privileged imperial colony.

      There was no other reason.

      Saddam was an unpleasant man for sure, but the US deals happily with such men all the time. And Saddam kept his country advancing. He also was reasonably open about matters like religion. Iraq stood out for that.

      Consider Generalissimo el-Sisi, murderous torturer in Egypt. Or the blood-soaked Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Or, indeed, Israel’s Netanyahu who has killed literally thousands of Palestinians and keeps Gaza like a concentration camp.

      No, Iraq had to be toppled because it thought independently and did not closely toe the American policy line. Ditto Libya. Ditto Syria. And ditto Iran.

    • Edgerton
      July 19, 2020 at 07:07

      That is the primary question. What was the underlying motive for regime change? And who were the drivers of this policy?

    • E L
      July 19, 2020 at 13:17

      Like it or not on moral or political or any reason, I maintain that it was the right thing to do to remove Saddam. And secret of all secrets is that everyone with any power, inside the US or GB or France, etc, knew the way forward over there with Saddam still in charge was going to get very, very nasty for all …and possibly lead to WWIII.

      Getting rid of Saddam allowed the entire West to NOT get led in to a war with Iran and its friends – in particular with a fractured but still dangerous bear, the USSR cum Russia. That was the main international concern as the Allies would not support the USA on what would only be seen, at the time and throughout history, as the means toward a vengeance war with Iran even though Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt would support the USA.

      The compromise that was made with the Allied powers was the WMD story …which no one (inside or outside the USA) believed even at the time. The shame of it was that Powell was politically thrown under the bus… not that his wife minded as she wanted him out of the Washington BS… and he may have even been willing to be the fall-guy.

    • michael888
      July 20, 2020 at 15:55

      The worst US intervention in the Mid East was the support for Yemeni genocide with the Saudis in return for their muting of dissent about the Iran nuclear deal. Somehow Obama received a pass on this genocide, but Bernie Sanders et al showed their outrage when Trump continued Obama’s policy there. Was shocked and disappointed that Sanders made no effort earlier. Politics over humanity.

  31. rosemerry
    July 18, 2020 at 15:52

    Anyone who believes anything officially expressed by US administrations is deceived willingly or not. We see now how blatantly false reasons are given for illegal, cruel and vicious “sanctions” to destroy so many countries economically without letting US forces get into harm’s way and upset the public. Trump is vulgar and ignorant, but his policies follow those of his predecessors and cause as much damage. Venezuela over the last twenty years, daring to elect and support governments to help the majority, overcome poverty, provide housing, food and education, has been treated shamefully by every US Administration for the terrible crime of democracy.

  32. July 18, 2020 at 15:31

    It is outrageous that, after executing the massive war crime that was the invasion and destruction of Iraq, criminals like Powell and the lackeys at the New York Times can still get away with passing the buck, claiming it was all a silly mistake, when this information was readily available at the time through the inspectors such as Scott Ritter and Hans Blix.
    And the public, especially in the United States, doesn’t want to know the truth, as evidenced by the crucifixion of Julian Assange

  33. David
    July 18, 2020 at 15:20

    It was obvious from the beginning that regime change was a false pretext. The Bush administration feed information to the New York Times through Judith Miller to ramp up fear of the prospect of a nuclear armed Iraq. The Bush administration also pushed the claim of yellow cake from Niger that it knew was false. Paul O’Neal, Bush’s Treasury Secretary, has said that regime change in Iraq was the first item on the agenda in W’s first cabinet meeting.

    It was not the first time Powell lied in the service of a morally bankrupt policy. During the Vietnam war, after receiving reports prior to the Mi Lia massacre that massacres of civilians were occurring with regularity, Powell was tasked to investigate. He provided the answer that he knew his superiors wanted to hear. He asserted that it was not happening. That is how you rise in the US armed forces. You dutifully meet the requirements of the people above you. He came through for his masters once again. He played a crucial role in the biggest strategic mistake the US has made since WW 2.

  34. VallejoD
    July 18, 2020 at 15:15

    And let’s not forget Powell’s role in attempting to cover up the Mai Lai massacre (and who knows how many other war crimes) with a lying report about the atrocity.

  35. July 18, 2020 at 14:58

    The best I’ve read.

    • Michael Egan
      July 18, 2020 at 17:00

      Few people write or speak with the power of Scott Ritter. He backs up each statement with historical framing and documented, verifiable facts. I say give him a bigger platform; he could destroy Biden, Bush, and many others as he was in the middle of the action during the 90s when our actions in the Middle East ramped up along with the many lies.

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