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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 15:14 GMT

January: Scott Ritter

Review of the Year
Scott Ritter resigned as head of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq in August. It was a high-profile move that sent shockwaves through the UN and the diplomatic community.

He began the year in the headlines, when Iraqi accusations that he was a spy almost triggered military action. Since he spoke here to BBC News Online, he has been in the news again for his vocal criticism of the recent US and British military strikes, which he has called "a horrible mistake."

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The stand-off with Iraq

At the time, the crisis in January and February didn't affect me personally at all. I had been a professional military man for some time and when you get in a situation like that you have to detach yourself and just get on with the job.

Going into Iraq was always a momentous undertaking, one that required steeling yourself for the kind of confrontation that would take place.

Almost every professional who was in the Special Commission recognised the agreement reached by Kofi Annan in Baghdad in February as a major compromise of our rights and privileges.

Even though we were allowed to go back into Iraq we knew we didn't necessarily have the full backing of the world community. And that makes doing the job very difficult indeed.


Resigning was the hardest decision I've made in my professional life. This was a job that I loved. I was good at it. I had a good reputation. It was an important - critical - job.

But then I look at it from a larger perspective: I know the people on the team - they're my friends, they're my colleagues, they're good people and they're trying to do a good job - but the reality is that the situation that caused me to resign is still in place, nothing's changed. It's a futile job.

One of the reasons I resigned was to help my team-mates by speaking out, so I feel good about what I've done and I certainly hope that history will show I made the right decision.

December's strikes on Iraq

These strikes were totally the wrong thing to do. I have never been in favor of bombing for bombing's sake, and yet that is what appears to have happened here.

Nothing was gained from these strikes, and much was lost, to include Unscom itself. It's ironic that strikes done ostensibly to save Unscom have killed it, and this should underscore the utter ineffective nature of these strikes.

If deemed necessary to compel Iraq into compliance (and I believe this to be the case), then Iraq should be subjected to a major campaign that seeks to destroy the regime of Saddam Hussein.

It is an extreme solution for an extreme problem. But half measures such a Desert Fox are much worse, in my opinion.

The future

My resignation was very sudden. I hadn't planned extensively on what I was going to do when I resigned and I'm still sort of picking up the pieces. By resigning I burnt a lot of bridges.

I think I would probably like to get involved in academic work - to somehow capture my experiences on paper. But how exactly that's going to happen I don't know.
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In this section

January: Scott Ritter

February: Touched by an angel

March: Jane Couch

April: Gitta Sereny

May (1): People of Northern Ireland

May (2): Mo Mowlam

June: The England-Argentina referee

July: Gill Samuels, Viagra creator

August: David Shayler

September: Neville Lawrence

October: Ann Widdecombe

November: Sally Becker

December: Deborah Hickey