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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: SCOTT RITTER SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2002
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DAVID FROST: Hans Blix the head of the UN Weapons Inspection team is currently finalising plans to fly into Baghdad. He hopes to arrive in a couple of weeks time according to latest reports and begin the process of checking and monitoring the sites where the West suspects that Saddam is hiding weapons of mass destruction. One of the Inspectors who did exactly that job in Iraq before the last UN team was so hindered by Saddam that they gave up was Scott Ritter, an American citizen who's flown into Britain to address a range of meetings with delegates here and others at the Labour conference. We say good morning to Scott Ritter straight away. Scott what does an inspector do when he goes into Iraq to make sure he's going to the right place for instance?
SCOTT RITTER: Well the key thing is to what he does before he goes into Iraq, there's a lot of cooperation with supporting governments, intelligence services, your own homework and knowing your, knowing the weapon's systems, knowing the capabilities of Iraq, so, you know I always spent between two and six months before an inspection preparing so that when we got to Iraq we knew exactly what we were doing, we didn't waste any time, we got straight to the task. So the key is the preparation and then execution once you get to Iraq.
DAVID FROST: Will it be any easier or much more difficult this time in the sense that when you gave up last time and Richard Butler said life had been made impossible by the way Saddam was organising things or disorganising things. Will it be easier now because there may be slightly fewer weapons or will it be more difficult because they will be better concealed?
SCOTT RITTER: I think it's going to be a combination of the two. I think it's going to be easier because we're not going to be doing this for the first time, there is seven year's worth of experience on the ground of, with all due respect to Mr Butler though, it wasn't just the Iraqis that were mucking around, it was the involvement of the United States in manipulating the inspection process, the refusal of the Security Council to have a singular voice on this issue and I think those are still the issues that are going to cloud this. Iraqi obstructionism, international interference and this whole concept of regime removal that sort of layered over the top of the, the issue of disarmament. It's going to be a very difficult task on all fronts and the best way to ensure the success of the inspectors is not only to hold Iraq fully accountable to the law, as they should be, but also to ensure that we allow the inspectors to carry out their task unfettered by the larger power politics of Washington DC and even London.
DAVID FROST: It seems, it seems as though you've had a sea change in your point of view, I mean Americans may be bitter about it, but that you have become more of an apologist for Saddam almost than for the weapons teams, how would you answer that accusation?
SCOTT RITTER: Saddam Hussein is a brutal, tyrannical dictator who should be dead right now, I don't know how that translates into an apologist for Saddam Hussein. I'm fully, I'm into account...fully holding Iraq accountable to the rule of law. I was that, was as an inspector, I'm that way now but I'm also someone who recognises the rule of law and the need to run a clean prosecution. I resigned not only because of Iraq's obstruction but the interference of the United States, Great Britain, the Security Council and the Secretary General in our work and today while I'm saying, we need to get the inspectors in and do the job as effectively as we tried to do in the past but they need it to be done without this kind of interference - how's that being an apologist for Saddam Hussein? I'm basically saying let us do the job that is set forth in Security Council Resolutions.
DAVID FROST: What about attacking Iraq, would you be in favour of that if it was with UN support?
SCOTT RITTER: Look I fought in the first war against Iraq, I'm no pacifist, I'm a Marine Corps officer who knows about war, that's why I'm not ready to rush into war, there is a time and place when wars need to be fought but you have to exhaust every venue short of war before going to war and it has to be done through the rule of international law. The United Nations must agree that war is the course of action that is needed and before we go to war we need to give the inspections a fair shake.
DAVID FROST: And what about the, you were saying that they only had ten per cent of their weapons left at the end of the Gulf War...and a period up until the inspectors left, those two periods, five to ten per cent did you say?
SCOTT RITTER: Yes, then again that's not my term, that's a term of Rolf Ekeus the Swedish diplomat who ran the programme from 1991 to 1997, remember there were six years of disarmament before Richard Butler came in and ran the ship aground.
DAVID FROST: But how do we know what's gone on since 1998, let's say, since there were no inspectors there, since there was no surveillance - or can we with remote cameras in the sky still survey these things.
SCOTT RITTER: The best way to have certainty on the ground is get the inspectors in. I made it clear when I resigned in 1998, if you pull inspectors out Iraq can reconstitute significant aspects of its programme within six months. It's been nearly four years, there's no way of knowing what's going on inside, it's of great concern. You know I support the Blair dossier on a number of fronts, the Blair dossier shows that there's a good reason to be concerned about what's happening in Iraq today, a good reason, we need to be gravely concerned, we need to get inspectors in. But that document does not substantiate a case for war, that document is not worth the price of American blood, British blood or Iraqi blood, there is no hard case for war, there is a case for getting the inspectors back in because we don't know what's happened in the past four years.
DAVID FROST: But you don't think the case has been made for war yet?
SCOTT RITTER: I'm not willing to die for that document and I'm not willing to allow anybody else to die for that document at this point in time.
DAVID FROST: Scott Ritter thank you very much.
SCOTT RITTER: Thank you Sir.
DAVID FROST: Thank you, Scott Ritter there.
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