Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Review Iraq Confidential, The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein

Ritter, Scott, Iraq Confidential, The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein, New York: Nation Books, 2005


Iraq Confidential, The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein was former U.N. inspector Scott Ritter’s second book on his experiences working in Iraq. He claimed the United States undermined the inspection process from the start not supporting it, trying to manipulate it, and ultimately giving up on it. The problem is much of his story contradicts what he wrote in his first book Endgame, Solving The Iraq Crisis. That begs the question of which version is the reader supposed to believe?


In Iraq Confidential Ritter writes that the United States was trying to undercut the U.N. weapons inspections from the start. For example, Ritter came to focus upon uncovering Iraq’s concealment program to hide its WMD programs. He asked the United States to provide equipment to tap into Iraqi communications to find out how the government was operating. He wrote that the CIA sabotaged the effort because it installed its own devices to spy on Iraq and didn’t want to share anything with the United Nations. He also claimed that the Clinton administration constantly made the inspectors back down from their work because it didn’t want confrontations in the U.N. with Baghdad The second point he made is in his first book Endgame but his first contradicted that account. Originally, Ritter said that the U.N. had broken into Iraqi signals and found out exactly what officials were doing to deny the inspectors information. Only one of these versions can be true.


Another issue is that Ritter tries to put himself at the center of every controversy. In one sequence the Clinton White House wanted the inspectors to go to the Defense Ministry which Baghdad said was off limits to justify a military strike. Ritter got the inspectors in and the crisis was averted. Another time Secretary of State Madeline Albright didn’t want him to be in Iraq but he writes that his team complained so much she had to relent. He wrote that he was the only one that knew the inspection process so thoroughly and therefore things could not move forward without him. This was another change from Endgame which was more about the inspections instead of becoming all about himself.


Reading Iraq Confidential leaves more questions than answers. Early Ritter agreed with older Ritter that by the end of the 1990s President Clinton was no longer interested in the U.N.’s work in Iraq. He wanted to put the problem behind him by saying he was containing Saddam Hussein through sanctions. Whether the United Nations process was working by the end of the 90s is never resolved. The U.N. did get the Iraqis to admit that they hid their WMD. Whether or not the inspectors figured out how that worked is up in the air depending upon which Ritter book you read. Most importantly Ritter does admit that the Iraqis were hiding documents and their involvement in concealment after they destroyed all their weapons in 1991 and that made the inspectors and more importantly the U.S. to believe that Iraq still had WMD. That would provide the justification for the 2003 invasion which Ritter was opposed to. Perhaps his grievance with Clinton administration not supporting inspections led him to write Iraq Confidential and blame everything on the U.S. His bitterness was definitely an issue in both of his books.


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