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Jared Israel on 'How the Lies of Scott Ritter Reveal the Strategic Goals of the Bizarre Iraq War'
 - A Series

by Jared Israel

Parts:  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5 

=======================================================

3.  Reader Says Emperor's Clothes all wrong on Ritter's Nuke Statements; Jared Israel Responds.

[Posted 14 May 2004]

[For other articles in this series, see footnote [1] at the end]

========================================================

Below is a criticism of Jared Israel's second article on Scott Ritter, "The Source of the Claim that Iraq had Nuclear Weapons was... Scott Ritter." [1] The criticism was posted on an email discussion list.

I've posted Jared Israel's reply to the criticism and following that a 1998 article from Nucleonics Week. In it an International Atomic Energy Agency spokesperson is quoted saying that Ritter's allegations about Iraq having nuclear weapons would be "spectacular and conclusive" if they were true but that the IAEA had seen no confirming evidence.
-- John Flaherty
Editorial Assistant, Emperor's Clothes

***

Criticism: "It is not disputed that Saddam wanted nukes.  What Ritter's comments here say is that Saddam wanted nukes but didn't have them, since he didn't have the most important ingredient [, the "fissile material".]  Without the "fissile material" there isn't much of an issue.   The "fissile material" is apparently the most difficult part of the program.  If Iraq didn't have fissile material then there wasn't a bomb.  Period. If Ritter clearly said that there weren't any fissile materials in Iraq then anyone with the most basic understanding of the issue would understand that Iraq did not have nukes. This shows that Emperor's Clothes doesn't know what they are talking about."

***

Jared Israel replies

The issue is not whether fissile cores are or are not the most difficult aspect of making nuclear bombs. The issue is what Ritter *said* and the effect his words had when they were widely reported by the media.

On Oct. 1, 1998 the London Independent reported: [2]

"The likelihood of sanctions ending soon has been reduced by claims from Scott Ritter, a former US Marine intelligence officer and chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the UN, that Iraq could make three or four 20-kiloton nuclear bombs if it could obtain enriched uranium. US officials say they find the claim credible though International Atomic Energy Agency officials say Captain Ritter's report has 'no credibility.'"

In 1998 Ritter told the US Congress that fissile material could be acquired in two ways.  One was by producing it in Iraq; this could take years. The other was for the Iraqis to use their network of front companies to smuggle it in from outside. In that case, if everything was functional, the Iraqis would have armed nuclear weapons in "a very short period of time." [3]

These words of Scott Ritter, suggesting a great and immediate danger, were broadcast by the media, creating a storm. Just how much of a storm is indicated by the response of the normally staid International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  They had been tasked by the UN with determining if Iraq had viable nuclear weapons, and they answered, "No."

When Ritter testified that Iraq might be days away from having armed nuclear weapons, IAEA officials responded with uncharacteristic anger, both stating that Ritter's claims were "unsubstantiated" and adding, bitterly, that, assuming he did have real evidence, "we won't forget that we were not informed.''  (From Nucleonics Week, below)

One IAEA official told Nucleonics Week that if Ritter were right - a possibility he rejected - ''it would be a spectacular development, spectacular and conclusive.'' Note the word "conclusive." The point is, Ritter's claim supported a call for war with Iraq and everybody knew it. That's why his comments could be, and were, used to mobilize pro-war sentiment. 

The full text from Nucleonics Week is posted below.

-- Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor’s Clothes

========================================================


Nucleonics Week * 1 October 1998
U.N. had no hard Data Iraq had Nuclear Devices; Byline: Mark Hibbs, Vienna

 Section: Vol. 39, No. 40; Pg. 15; Length: 908 Words;  ========================================================

Senior officials at the IAEA last week categorically denied statements by former chief inspector Scott Ritter that United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) data strongly suggested that Iraq had developed and assembled three nuclear explosive devices that were missing only fissile material.

Gary Dillon, head of the IAEA Action Team responsible for nuclear inspections in Iraq under U.N. Security Council mandates from 1991, told Nucleonics Week that the Action Team and the IAEA had ''no such information.''

Diplomatic sources in Vienna said that the IAEA has discussed the allegations with Unscom head Richard Butler and that Butler would not confirm Ritter's account. Unscom is responsible for eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Ritter resigned from Unscom, charging that the U.S. government had inhibited efforts by Unscom to get to the bottom of outstanding questions regarding Iraq's capabilities in nuclear weapons and other areas. The U.S. then denied that it had obstructed any activities by Unscom or its inspectors.

In testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee following his resignation, Ritter said Sept. 15 that Unscom ''had received sensitive information of some credibility which indicated that Iraq had the components to assemble three implosion-type devices, minus the fissile material, and that if Iraq were able to obtain fissile material of the quality and of the proper physical properties conducive to such a weapon, then they could assemble three nuclear devices in a very short period of time.''

According to officials close to the matter, Ritter has suggested that the intelligence information at hand specifically identifies the suspected location of the alleged nuclear explosive devices. Because the IAEA has for seven years been unsuccessful in turning up hardware components used in a nuclear weapon by Iraq, if Ritter's allegations were true, ''it would be a spectacular development, spectacular and conclusive,'' one IAEA official said.

Another IAEA official said that the Action Team would continue to monitor intelligence leads that Iraq has hidden nuclear bomb components, since such components have never been located by inspectors and Iraq has had seven years to continue pursuing nuclear weapons research since the Gulf War. Nuclear weapon design experts from the U.S., France, Britain, and Russia, who have advised Unscom and the IAEA on the state of Iraq's nuclear development effort, continue to puzzle over how Iraq had proceeded in key areas. One European official said it is still not known whether Iraq had developed a neutron initiator for a weapon. Iraq had done some work on an initiator using polonium-210 (NW, 10 Oct. '91, 9), but the short half-life of Po-210 would make it difficult to stockpile initiators using this isotope. Iraq was familiar with deuterium-tritium initiators used in its petroleum industry, but the IAEA has no hard evidence that these were intended to serve as the basis for a neutron initiator for a nuclear weapon.

IAEA officials pointed out that the Action Team is responsible under the Security Council mandate to investigate leads on undisclosed nuclear activities in Iraq. When Unscom obtains raw intelligence from U.N. member states in the nuclear area, said Berhan Andemicael, who represents the IAEA at the U.N. in New York, ''This information is routinely passed on to the IAEA by Unscom, since the Action Team is responsible for this. That's where the nuclear expertise is.'' In the case of Ritter's allegations, however, ''no such notification ever occurred.''

IAEA officials said that, in numerous cases since 1991, IAEA inspectors have been sent into the field in Iraq to track down activities, equipment, and facilities named in intelligence reports given to Unscom by member states. Some of the leads, provided by defectors, were solid. Others were not, and fruitless efforts to confirm these leads led to tension between the IAEA and Unscom over the conduct of nuclear investigations in Iraq. In one such case, the French government provided raw intelligence indicating that Iraq had built a clandestine heavy water plant. ''That led to a wild goose chase and lost a lot of time and energy,'' one inspector involved said.

However, when Ritter alleged earlier this month that Iraq is hiding nuclear devices, the IAEA Action Team immediately contacted Unscom head Richard Butler by telephone in New York. Butler, officials said, did not confirm Ritter's allegations.

Vienna officials said last week that Ritter, who joined Unscom after a career in U.S. defense intelligence, had been responsible in the past for analyzing and interpreting raw data of the kind collected by Unscom on past and present Iraqi activities.

Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, asked Ritter about a Nucleonics Week report (NW, 12 Feb., 16) that Unscom and the IAEA had learned in 1995 that Iraq had made a mock-up of a nuclear implosion bomb but that it had never been found by inspectors. Ritter said he had ''shared a lot of sensitive information'' with the IAEA but refused to give any specifics.

Vienna officials expressed anger over Ritter's alarming allegations to the media and the U.S. Congress. ''We haven't seen anything new so far that isn't unsubstantiated,'' one IAEA official said, ''and we won't forget that we were not informed.''  
URL:
http://www.platts.com

(C) 1998 Nucleonics Week, Posted here for educational purposes and fair use only

[Footnotes and Further Reading follows the fundraising appeal]

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Footnotes and Further Reading

[1] Five pieces have been posted so far in Jared Israel's series, 'How the Lies of Scott Ritter Reveal the Strategic Goals of the Bizarre Iraq War':

"Part 1: Hawk-to-Dove Scott Ritter challenges Emperor's
Clothes to Prove he's a Liar. EC accepts." At
http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/ritter.htm

"Part 2: The Source of the Claim that Iraq had Nuclear Weapons was... Scott Ritter," by Jared Israel at
http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/ritter-nuke.htm 

* "Part 3: Reader Says Emperor's Clothes all wrong on Ritter's Nuke Statements; Jared Israel Responds."
http://emperors-clothes.com/letters/iaea.htm

* Part 4: "Readers ask: 'Why this focus on Scott Ritter?" Jared Israel Respond"
http://emperors-clothes.com/letters/focus.htm 

* "Part 5: "The Neocons made me do it!"
http://emperors-clothes.com/ritter/mademe.htm

[2]  Copyright 1998 Newspaper Publishing Plc; The Independent (London); October 1, 1998, Thursday;Section: News; Page 15; Length: 597 Words; Headline: Un Aid Chief Resigns Over Iraq; Sanctions; Byline: Patrick Cockburn In Jerusalem

[3]  Ritter’s statement was quoted by CNN on 30 September 1998.  You may read it as quoted in Jared Israel’s second article ("The Source of the Claim that Iraq had Nuclear Weapons was...Scott Ritter") at
http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/ritter-nuke.htm#a
or you may prefer to read it in the full transcript of the CNN broadcast at
http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/ritter-nuke-a.htm#2 


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