FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Scott Ritter in Tokyo

Former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter’s participation in a symposium at the University of Tokyo on 6 February presented his first opportunity to publicly address Secretary Colin Powell’s presentation of “evidence” to the UN. Building 900 of the Komaba campus is not a large building but was packed over 500 strong, the walls lined with standing spectators. Although there were not security checks for the audience Ritter’s bodyguard stood off-stage right, and his Japanese counterpart for the politician on the panel opposite. In his welcoming remarks a representative of the sponsoring citizen’s group thanked Ritter for coming at short notice and for flying economy class. During his four days in town he was interviewed on two national evening news shows (on News 23 former inspector Kurada Hideo sat as character witness and offered the highest praise for his integrity), met with members of the Lower House of the National Diet, and held a news conference at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in addition to the symposium.

Ritter’s talk at Tokyo U was straight-forwardly critical of both the Bush administration’s progress towards war and the general US stance towards Iraq since arms inspections began in 1991. The US insistence on “regime-change” had “polluted the integrity” of the UN inspection process as it came to gather intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s security. Upon expulsion Ritter warned both the US government and the UN that although 90 to 95% of Iraq’s weapons and 100% of all munitions factories were destroyed they could be re-built in six months and there was reason for concern.

Four years hence the inspectors have returned and found nothing, a situation that is utterly unacceptable to the US. This is so, Ritter explained, because it would allow Iraq a path to return to the international community and an ending of sanctions with the current “regime” intact. Therefore the tenor of Colin Powell’s evidence was to show inspections useless and the Iraqi military masterful at the art of deception; “Can you imagine trying to find 18 trucks (allegedly mobile chemical factories) in a country the size of Iraq?” he pointed out with some humor. He summed up the “evidence” as “circumstantial with no hard facts”, the intercepted conversation provided without a clear context, and defectors’ testimonies no matter what the circumstances “uniformly unreliable”.

Sitting on the panel Professor Takahashi Kazuo of Japan’s University of the Air seconded Ritter’s viewpoint of the evidence: Could not have the information of the “terrorist training camps” in the North been shared with the UN, he pondered. Furthermore Saddam Hussein’s “evilness” surely extends back to the 1980’s when Rumsfeld had visited him, or was he less so at this point (audience laughter)? Lower House Representative Sutô Nobuhiko of the opposition Minshutô party expressed his consternation that there was no live televised feed broadcast of the UN session on any of the networks (public t.v. NHK drops the ball again). Tokyo U Professor Kang Sang-jung was a sobering presence. As a Japanese born of Korean ancestry he voiced his concern over the current demonization in Japan’s media of North Korea; indeed, he intoned, where is the US going to turn its attention to next upon “completion” of the Iraq campaign? Quoting an article by George Kennan he opined that US foreign policy is stuck in a militaristic “realism” that seeks to repeat the “Japanese success” of primacy given to bombing as a precursor to democracy. What’s to happen if other stronger nations come to view this as viable standard of foreign policy, he asked. Independent journalist Tanaka Sakai ­ the odd man out in his belief the US would not invade — seemed to second this point in his assertion that this realpolitik does not account for the possibilities for indigenous Islamic democratic movement.

Ritter, already successful at communicating his ideas to the audience through his skilled interpreter (I especially appreciated his “provoking a war with Iraq” becoming “pulling-out a military response” in Japanese) at this point came into his rhetorical best: The Neo-cons who have “seized control” of the decision-making hierarchy are drunk with power, and “friends don’t let friends drive drunk”. His appeal for Japan to “take the key” and “raise their flag proudly” went down particularly well with the audience, for Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s exhortation for the same a year ago clearly meant for those in attendance quite a different banner. A good portion of Ritter’s message is in the presentation. It is clear, with short sentences and key words that can appeal to a listener’s sense of fairness–framework, rules, integrity, law. US neo-con policy is bound to harsher descriptors ­ poisonous, affrontive, drunk. The message is simple and Ritter the messenger is able to convey it so appealingly well not only because he believes in it but because he is a concerned insider, the “warrior at heart” ex-Marine who is speaking out in defense of country and international law. “To be critical is to be patriotic, not treasonous”, and “Opposing an illegal war is the most pro-American act.” He is the law-and-order kinda guy who opened his talk with of explanation of the three conditions that must be fulfilled if weapon’s inspection is to be successful: 1) Iraq must give full cooperation, 2) the Security Council must be willing to enforce its resolutions, and 3) Inspectors and the inspection process must operate within the framework of the resolution. His major point was that first two are in place, it is the US that undermines the third, and this unilateralism is not reflective of democracy but imperialism.

I am usually not stirred to pride for my birth country by the words of a Republican, but it happened that night and it gives me pause to consider another aspect of Ritter’s manner: it is political, almost like a stump speech. This is pure conjecture, of course, but it is plausible. Robert Novak’s sentiments in his 10 February article are shared by many others on the American right and even in the GOP and there may even be tacit approval of Ritter from some within his own party. The party will require a new public face if the Middle East situation spins out of control and there is intra-party strife aimed at removing the current dominating faction, and that would be Ritter’s moment. If that moment comes and he does come to a position of political authority I hope that he lives up to his words spoken on that chilly evening.

Debate Update: Koizumi VS Kan

Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro and opposition leader Kan Naoto (Minshutô Democratic Party) went toe-to-toe again yesterday during question time in the National Diet. Although his Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo in news conference praised the veracity of Powell’s claims the following exchange (taken from the 13 February Asahi Shinbun) reveals he is still sticking to “wait and see” and like much of the world waiting for the UN report:

Kan: France, Germany, and Russia in a joint statement believe the inspections should be given more time. Are you for or against this?

PM: First Iraq has to comply fully with the UN resolution. I am requesting the US build international support, and while keeping an eye on the situation would like to continue working towards a peaceful resolution.

Kan: Why don’t you come right out and say you are waiting for the US to make their move and then you will follow accordingly?

PM: I am coming out and saying what needs to be said. I am waiting for the UN report on the 14th and then will make our policy clear. This is not evasion.

Kan: What exactly is the Bush administration wanting: The removal of Iraqi WMD’s, or the actual removal of the Saddam Hussein government?

PM: It is not only the White House but the entire international community that demands weapons removal. The onus is on Iraq to show that they have none.

Kan: Don’t you believe that a preemptive attack without another resolution goes against the UN Charter?

PM: I am not saying that the US will attack. There will be consultations in the Security Council. What will happen after that I cannot tell.

Meanwhile Yomiuri Shinbun Japan’s largest daily has been noticeably pro-US in their reporting and yesterday sported a color front-page photo that disturbingly resembled the home page of the Self-Defense Agency: three battle-class frigates escorting and refueling a US battleship in the Indian Ocean. The Asahi Shinbun has gone several miles in the opposite direction and last week ran a black editorial cartoon of a rough and bruised American flag with several of its tiles fallen out.

ADAM LEBOWITZ teaches at Nihon University and has lived in Japan for 12 years. Mr. Ritter’s comments on Hans Blix’s 27 January report are at http://www.ribbon-project.jp/SR-shiryou/shiryou-02e.htm as part of the Japanese website concerning his visit. Streaming of his interviews on Japanese t.v. are also available through this site. He can be reached at: noriko-adam@tokai.or.jp

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Justin Anderson
Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail