Jared Israel on
'How the Lies
of Scott Ritter Reveal the Strategic
Goals of the Bizarre Iraq War'
- A Series
by Jared Israel
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
 at the
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."
criticism was posted on an email discussion list.
I've posted Jared Israel's reply to the criticism
and following that a 1998
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.
1, 1998 the London Independent reported:
"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."
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
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,
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
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
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.''
(C) 1998 Nucleonics Week, Posted here for educational
purposes and fair use only
and Further Reading follows the fundraising appeal]
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Footnotes and Further Reading
 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
"Part 2: The Source of the Claim that Iraq had Nuclear
Weapons was... Scott Ritter," by Jared Israel at
* "Part 3: Reader Says Emperor's Clothes all wrong on Ritter's
Nuke Statements; Jared Israel Responds."
* Part 4: "Readers ask: 'Why this focus on Scott
Ritter?" Jared Israel Respond"
* "Part 5: "The Neocons made me do it!"
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
 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
or you may prefer to read it in the full transcript of the CNN broadcast
The Emperor's New Clothes
(TENC) * www.tenc.net