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On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Melbourne based writer, reviewer, novelist and Webdiarist Chris Saliba was recently in the audience of a discussion with Scott Ritter and filed this report. Chris' previous  pieces for Webdiary include What they do is not honourable, Why do suicide bombers want to kill us? and The thought crimes of Jennifer Zeng. Chris' blog is here.


Scott Ritter, former senior UN weapons inspector, was in town recently plugging his new book, Iraq Confidential, and continuing his campaign against Bush, the war in Iraq and the downsizing of democracy. Ritter, you will remember, started popping up on television screens when the build up for the Iraq war began, insisting that Iraq was essentially de-fanged of its weapons of mass destruction, and not a threat worthy of war. Post September 11 was not exactly a time conducive to the raising of serious doubts, and Ritter consequently copped a shellacking for his troubles. Events were to prove him right. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Did Bush and company know this all along? Did John Howard?

The evening with Mr Ritter was hosted by the Victorian Peace Network, with Bill Deller chairing. In Mr Deller's introduction, he told us how he believed it would be necessary in future to create broad coalitions with people of differing ideological hues in order to achieve similar goals. To prove how pear shaped politics has become, Deller introduced us to Scott Ritter, a man who voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election and a former marine who worked as a ballistic missile adviser to General Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf war.

A small group of us huddled together in the middle of the Basement Lecture Theatre, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, at Melbourne University. I thought our international guest would have been playing to a packed house. To my amazement, hardly anyone turned up. Embarrassed audience members speculated during question time as to the reasons for the poor attendance.

Ritter advised us that he would speak for half an hour, and then we could challenge him on any point we liked, as he hoped this would be a dialogue. Listening to this big, super confident American speak, it seemed highly unlikely that he would stop at half an hour, if at all. My hunch proved correct - he kept on going for over an hour. Not that anyone minded. Ritter has a punchy and forthright speaking style that keeps you thoroughly engaged. He also has a good sense of humour, and disarmed us all with his self-deprecating jokes. 

The substance of his talk was the lies that got us into Iraq and the steady erosion of democracy. His pronouncements on the latter subject were very compelling. No matter your attitude to his character, his beliefs and values about democracy made irrefutable good sense.

The first thing Ritter wanted to discuss was our pending sedition laws. He made the example of his pre-war warnings, questioning Bush administration assessments on Iraq. This, he said, was construed as seditious, yet everything he said was true. Can we afford not to be seditious? he asked.

"The only sedition is silence," Ritter said. "Let's not use their language, this is not sedition. This is patriotism."

Furthermore, accepting more draconian terror laws means, "you're willing to sell your liberties down the road in order to get security."

Ritter described himself as a warrior, as someone who would not shy away from war if it were necessary. If you really believed in something, then you would be willing to die for it. For Ritter, this means defence of the American Constitution. When he signed up for the marines, he had to take an oath that he would uphold the constitution. This is what his campaign hinges on, a belief that the American Constitution is being compromised by the current Bush administration, and that it should be defended. "My country believes in the rule of law and the constitution."

He elaborated on this point in his 2003 book Frontier Justice:

The constitution defines the United States as a nation of law, a civilised society functioning as a democratic republic that guarantees each citizen the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Inherent in this social model is the concept of democratic representation, where government officials are elected by, and held accountable to, the free will of the people.

On the subject of a poorly engaged and apathetic American electorate, we were given this stinging criticism: "For the most technologically advanced people in the world, we're also the most ignorant people in the world." Nor were Australians let off the hook, being deemed just as ignorant as Americans were. It was this ignorance which was leading to the 'culture of fear' that we lived in, and which made us putty in the hands of opportunistic governments. Worse, we allowed ourselves to be intimidated. The only way out of this quandary is to get smarter, to stick our noses into what our governments are doing. "We need to empower ourselves with knowledge."

One of the root causes of an apathetic populace, Ritter believes, is our addiction to consumerism and 'lifestyle'. "We have a choice to make, am I a citizen, or a consumer?" At the moment, we are letting consumerism destroy democracy. More starkly, Ritter says, 'We have failed to live up to the responsibilities of citizenship.' Rather than take an interest in politics and democracy, 'you just want to have your addiction to your lifestyle fed.'

Also, "There's no such thing as representative democracy unless you act as citizens."

It made me think of that recent political buzzword, the aspirational voter, so heavily mortgaged that all issues are narrowed down to interest rate movements.

As American political scientist Christopher Lasch wrote in The Revolt of the Elites, surely rebutting the idea of an aspirational, consumer citizenship:

Luxury is morally repugnant, and its incompatibility with democratic ideals, moreover, has been consistently recognised in the traditions that shape our political culture.

The reason for the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq Ritter saw as quite simple. When George Herbert Walker Bush likened Saddam Hussein to Hitler he set America on an inexorable path to his removal, for you cannot have a Hitler left in power. Regime change, however, is the wrong expression for what the Bush administration wanted to achieve. It was name change that was really desired. Depose one Sunni tyrant, and replace him with another Sunni tyrant, because true democracy in Iraq is impossible to harmonise with American interests. No American administration would countenance a Shia majority running Iraq.

Since 1995, Ritter claims, the CIA has known there have been no weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the US was monitoring Iraq's weapons capability with some of the most advanced and intrusive arms control technology in history. Ritter described one extraordinary meeting he had with the CIA, where he cheerfully informed them that Iraq was fully disarmed. He expected them to be over the moon, and was shocked when their response was 'icey cold'. They asked him to leave the room. This was not the kind of report the CIA wanted to hear, according to Ritter, as the US had no intention of leaving Saddam Hussein in control.

Whilst discussing this subject, Ritter was adamant that ASIO (he said he 'knew' our intelligence agencies) knew Iraq was completely disarmed, and that's why John Howard relied primarily on American intelligence. "See, you're just a colony of the US," he told us. Nor did he just stop there. When an audience member asked what he knew about Pine Gap, he made an 'ooooh' gesture with his lips, told us he had signed a confidentiality agreement, then proceeded to harangue us about how it was our responsibility to find out what was happening there.

Ritter took questions for about an hour. Of course there just wasn't time to answer everyone's questions. Even as he was trying to leave, people were jumping out of their chairs and trying to squeeze in quickie last minute queries. One woman who'd had a disagreement leapt at him whilst he was walking out, making apologies for any misunderstanding, to which Mr Ritter laughed and put an arm around her. The two walked out of the lecture theatre together like old friends.

During questions Ritter admitted to having paid huge personal costs for his speaking out. Not only himself, but also his family. He worried about his two children. He told us a humorous story about when his two kids were watching him on television giving a speech in Britain's Hyde Park before a million people and they asked, "Are they against Daddy?" No, he told them. This made them whoop for joy. For once not everyone was against their dad.

Ritter admitted to having passed through a period of terrible depression, but that he had now come out of that and his personal future, his well being and happiness, looked good. "I believe in what I'm doing," he said. "We're involved in a process that's positive."

Perhaps this is the key. To believe in what you're doing. To have faith. Could this self confessed warrior be preaching the Dalai Lama's recipe for personal felicity, that doing good makes us happy?

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re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Gerard Henderson, Howard apologist and executive director of the right-wing think-tank the Sydney Institute, seems to think that the time has come when he must make comment
about the rise of fascism in Australia

One knows that the notion of an Australia slipping headlong into fascism is gaining traction when commentators like Gerard Henderson are pulled out of their roosts to attempt to articulate denial.

The problem with Henderson’s denials is that they are, as they always are, based on direct comparisons of the ‘old’ fascisms of Mussolini’s Italy and Germany under Hitler which is a blatant attempt to conjure up the classic fascist images of the era which, of course, do not exist in the ‘new’ fascism of Australia that Howard is promoting. On the one hand Henderson is telling us that “…the sedition provisions in the anti-terrorism legislation are similar to those that have been on the statute books for four decades during Coalition and Labor governments,” as though to say ‘there’s nothing to fear because they were always there anyway’ and then reinforces the idea with: “Despite the self-importance of some artists, the fact is they are not being targeted by Howard or the Labor premiers.” The obvious retort then has to be; ‘Then why change the sedition laws’?

The fact is, with these new sedition laws in place, ‘self-important artists’ can be targeted. It doesn’t matter whether they will be or not, the important point is they can be and, more importantly, are now more likely to be.

And that’s the fascist difference that Henderson is unable to see and is attempting to blind others from seeing.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Damian Lataan at least everybody knows where Henderson stands. The same can't be said for you though can it? Due to the fact of your strange reluctence to articulate any alternative outside of glib half mission statements.

This leads one to think that perhaps your cure may indeed be worse than the alleged disease you see before you. I have always read the fine print before signing a contract so I would be most interested in seeing yours.

If I sign on to the fight against "new facism" which Government in the world best exceplifies this fight? hell even insurance companies have fine print albeit very small.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

I really admire men like Scott Ritter and Andrew Wilkie who speak out. Even those who oppose what they say must admit that these guys are very brave to go against an establishment they were formely a part of.

Gerard Henderson misses the point again. It's not that we think jack-booted armies are going to stomp down Pitt or Collins Streets, but any number of small changes in our laws can add up to make the conditions ripe for a real tyrant to quietly take over. Howard may think his changes are perfectly reasonable and be horrified at the thought of a totalitarian style government. But chipping away at democratic freedoms helps those who would welcome fascism. He also needs to look back at the pre-war history of the UK, the country he seems to identify with so much. There was a significant minority in the establishment and government who welcomed the changes in Germany that brought a monster to power. Sadly freedoms are something you often don't even know you had until they have gone.

John Howard should have held an enquiry into what went wrong with the intelligence he received that turned out to be bogus and which he presented to Parliament and the Australian people. To keep faith in our security services we must believe they are honorable.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

New Fascism right Damian. As invented by, and believed by Damian. And Damian alone.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Chris Saliba, why were you amazed that nobody turned up to listen to Mr Ritter promoting his book. Just because somebody writes a book it does not mean that what he has written is of any use to anybody.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

What an amusing article, assuming it is a joke?
“Whilst discussing this subject, Ritter was adamant that ASIO (he said he 'knew' our intelligence agencies) knew Iraq was completely disarmed,”
Obviously he doesn’t “know” our intelligence agencies at all, as ASIO only deals with internal intelligence, whilst ASIS gathers information from overseas. Seems a pretty glaring error for an “expert” to make.

“Since 1995, Ritter claims, the CIA has known there have been no weapons of mass destruction.” Well then it makes a lot of his own personal statements on the topic post 95 to be complete lies:
This from his declaration to a senate committee : Iraq today is not disarmed, and remains an ugly threat to its neighbors and to world peace. (http://www.ceip.org/programs/npp/ritter.htm) in 1998
From his previous book: Endgame - Solving the Iraq Problem Once and For All (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0684864851/104-8730054-5633539?v=glance&n=283155 )
“I have grown convinced that there has been a total breakdown in the willingness of the international community to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein is well on the road to getting his sanctions lifted and keeping his weapons in the bargain. A resurgent Iraq, reinvigorated economically and politically by standing up successfully to the United States and the United Nations, will be a very dangerous Iraq -- one that sooner or later will have to be confronted by American military might. “

So all in all, I am hardly surprised that not many people turned up to this event. You are not sure which Ritter is going to turn up (a bit like his meetings in Burger King).

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Christ this is boring. Could we have some real topics please Margo and a little less of Lataan?

ed Kerri: Hi A Mills. Would you like to write one for us?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

If few people turned up to see Scott Ritter it's just an example of bad promotion. I was disappointed to read elswhere that he had appeared in Sydney.There had been no pre-publicity.

Ritter is correct to bring up the sedition laws and connect it to the Iraq War. Our short memory spans have forgotten how anyone who opposed the invasion of Iraq, for what we now know are bogus reasons, was called every name under the sun but importantly, were accused of "giving comfort to the enemy". That still happens in reference to the Iraqi insurgents, whoever they are. Under the re-working of sedition laws, this could be deemed to be illegal.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Charles Gillespie, perhaps nobody turned up because they were scared now that the 'old' sedition laws have been re-invented by Ruddock? Can we expect similar low attendances at future meetings where the current government's view of the world is being challenged?

Justin Wilshaw I don't think Damian Lataan is alone.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

As some like to give links to the Wikipedia - here is an entry on Neo Fascism

Neo means new

So its take on it in brief is :

“Most scholars consider Fascism to be an authoritarian political movement, and it is generally considered to be part of, or in coalition with, the extreme right. “

And what is authoritarian political movement ? Again briefly :

“Authoritarianism often arises from the governing bodies' presumption that they know what is right or wrong for the country and from intolerance of dissent. The government then enforces what it thinks is right, often with use of considerable force and sometimes in blatant violation of human rights. Dissenting voices are ignored, or, more strikingly, are considered to be plotting against the best interests of the country.”

Recently Ruddock said, in defense of the new sedition laws, that the internet was like the “pamphleteering and publishing” of old. And also last week on the ABC news, again in defense of these laws and replying on the question that these laws would make people careful of what they say. Ruddock reply was that if these laws make people more careful about what they are saying then that could only be a good thing.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Triumphantly finding faults James Squires doesn't change facts. Iraq had no WMD and someone lied about it. The PM presented those lies to the Australian people and a lot of people died.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Charles Gillespie - I, too, an amazed that "only a small group" turned up to hear Scott Ritter. Generally he speaks to a packed audience and receives a standing ovation. Maybe the event wasn't well publicised.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Michael de Angelos - in order to lie to someone you need to know that what you are saying is not the truth. The government thought there was WMD, and said so. This isn’t a lie. They might have been wrong (although that in itself is debatable, as WMD programs were discovered, just not actual weapons), but that doesn’t make it a lie, it just means they were wrong. Was Julia Gillard lying when she got the costing wrong for Medicare Gold? Was Steve Bracks lying when he promised a fast train in Victoria for only $80 million (now closing in on $1 billion)? Or did they get it wrong?

As for people dying, well they were doing that anyway under a homicidal dictator, and at a faster rate than present. As for finding faults, I was pointing out why not many people would turn up to hear him speak. He is another classic example of the sort of people the anti-liberation crowd champion, when in reality these people do more harm for the movement than good. But like another champion on the anti-liberation crowd, Ritter does it for the money (think Galloway).

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

T Tazman, I must have dozed off during the news break and missed the bit where Christians got crucified by Muslims in Victoria for quoting the Koran. Can you be specific?

Thinking that the sedition laws “…are in place to stop terrorists” is a somewhat simple-minded and rather naïve view. I can’t think where you may have got such an idea... Oh! Yes I can!

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Justin Wilshaw, Jay White, Craig Warton, James Squire, A. Mills, T. Tazman, you and your right-wing friends can insult and attempt to belittle me as much as you like; it’s water off a ducks back.

Such insults are merely indicators that I’m hitting home at the truth of it. The reality is you all support Howard despite knowing that he is a liar and a warmonger. Howard, no matter how much you care to deny it, is dragging Australia down the path to fascism and you lot are actively supporting him. What are people to think of you if you continue to support him despite his lies and deceit? Or are you going to deny that he lied?

And if you think I’m alone in what I say then I’m afraid you’re simply delusional. I might be alone in the up-front in-your-face way I say it – but I can assure you I’m not alone in what I say.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

James Squires, if a government was presented with an intelligence analysis that contained qualifiers such as a certain state "might" possess something and the government removed the qualifiers to make it a cetainty, would you consider that lying?

If the government used evidence from that analysis which supported its case but not that which contradicted its case, would you consider that to be lying?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

I agree with A Mills this is boring.
Perhaps Damian Lataan and Michael de Angelos could tell us how we would all be better off under a Labor government. Perhaps they know of some Labor policies that would improve our lives.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Charles Gillespie, Scott Ritter has written several books and made a documentary film In Shifting Sands. No matter what you might think of his politics or his motivations, he does have an international profile, and was spot on when he insisted pre-war that there were no weapons of mass destruction.

I'm sure he gets bigger turnouts in his home country, seeing the war over there is so hot politically. Interestingly, at the beginning of the talk he said he was ready to be challenged on any point. I'm speculating that his US audiences give him a good run for his money, i.e people turn up just to disagree with him and challenge him.

I think the reason for the small audience here in Melbourne was just sheer apathy. Or maybe the Victorian Peace Network need to advertise better.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Alan Curran: Huh? What has Labor got to do with it? Most people who deplore the recent attacks on liberal democracy by the Evil Triumverate, believe me, put absolutely no faith in the pathetic Beazley crew. And we remember that one of the triumverate originates from the British Labour party.

All the Damian Lataan attackers: he's not alone. We certainly are a minority, but talk of the new fascism of Australia is common currency amongst many now. And it's not merely the old mud-slinging hyperbole of the left, because most of those I've come across using the term aren't really politically aligned in the traditional sense. It results from genuine fear of the extremism of the three rogue nations (UK, US, Australia), with their obsessive centralisation of power. If 'fascism' means anything at all beyond its early European contexts, it's that: pulling all power to the centre, and using propaganda to create scapegoat out-groups.

Mad (and equally fascist) as they are, the minority amongst world terrorists that claim to be Muslims, just don't have anywhere near the capacity to be as dangerous to our civilisation as are Bush, Blair and Howard.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Damian Lataan,

Hear hear! I too am pretty sick of the right wingers reflexive pro-Howardism. Makes me wonder if someone has removed their capacity for independent, evaluative thought.

Your views and concepts on Fascism are interesting, and while in Australia we're sill a long way from jackboots and brown shirts, given the Governments' recently developed habit of guillotining debate in Parliament, and ramming legislation through both houses in hasty fasion (otherwise known as "shoot first, ask questions later - or better still, not at all") it could be argued that we are effectively a one party state. I'm sure that Jay White and cronies will have some defence of the action of the Government (and I'll certainly be interested to see how they contort themselves to do so), but we are uncomfortably close to the fascism you describe.

For my money, we simply have too little constitutional and procedural protection from despotism - personally I'm way too cynical (that is: "experienced") to rely on the "goodwill" of elected officials, and that effectively seems to be all that we currently have.

I have made this statement previously, and it holds true throughout history: Those who seek to enslave us will not warn us that that is their intention.

And if anyone thinks it can't happen here, I'll bet that when Adolf Hitler was elected German Chancellor in 1933, not too many people who voted for him imagined what was going to happen over the following 12 years.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

James Squires "in order to lie to someone you need to know that what you are saying is not the truth"

If I were to say John Howard cheated in his uni exams and loved to watch pornography would I be lying?

As I do not know that John Howard did not cheat in his uni exams and does not watch pornography then I would not be lying if I were to propose the above, right James?

Now, I would have to be a real galoot (or down right malicious) to propose those things unless I could test that my propositions were true or false, just the same way that the weapons inspectors in Iraq were there to establish the existence of WMD.

The FACT is James (and others) the weapons inspectors could NOT find any WMD in Iraq so why would any sane and reasonable person claim there were WMD in Iraq. At least you would keep looking, an option that GWB did not have time for although that would have been the sensible thing to do. It was quite obvious to anyone with at least one brain cell that George W Bush had his heart set on war.

All one can assume is these galoots were really galoots of they are war criminals or both. It would be good to test that assumption in an unbiased international court of law and of course if our brave and noble leaders had nothing to hide they would surely jump at the chance to clear their names. Would they not James?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Alan Curran, it’s not just Australia that would be better of without Howard, it would be the entire world. Under any other government, not necessarily Labor, Australia would be far better off.

Australia would not have got itself involved in a war against a nation that was never a threat to us. It would not have incarcerated hundreds of innocent men, women and children in concentration camps simply because they sought refuge in Australia. It would have made a much greater effort to search for and save the people of SIEV X. It would not have spent billions of dollars on wasteful armaments programs and defence expansion for use against an enemy that barely exists. It would not have deprived workers of their rights. It would not have denied Australians their democracy by whittling away at their basic freedoms. It would not have debased the entire Australian tertiary and university system. It would not have made health facilities less available to ordinary Australians.

It would have increased spending on Australians education, health and aged care with the money it didn’t need to spend on useless and massive defence projects, most of which are unlikely to ever see the light of day. Other monies could then have been spent on researching and protecting our environment and finding ways of commercially providing sustainable and renewable energy resources.

We wouldn’t be living in a climate of fear and hate.

We wouldn’t be heading towards Howard’s fascist Australia.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

James, you gave a definition of what you consider lying to be. I asked whether two examples constituted lying. You respond by saying it is presenting a one-sided case. Is it not an act of deception to withhold or alter evidence that you have when presenting to others, such as the public?

Who mentioned ASIS?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Bob Wall - in those examples you gave, I would say it is presenting a one sided argument, not lying. But importantly, the opposition was present at the same briefings from ASIS, and they didnt doubt it either. Or are you saying the briefings to both parties were changed before hand? If so, do you have evidence of this?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Ritter's 1998 Senate testimony is here. The Senate hearing was not about determining whether Iraq at the time had WMD, but was rather a "joint hearing of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Relations on U.S. policy regarding Iraq weapons inspections".

James Squires is correct that Ritter was asserting “Iraq is not disarmed, and remains an ugly threat to its neighbors and to world peace”. Oddly, Ritter then went on at length to complain that inspectors didn’t have sufficient access to the sites to be able to verify that assertion. The whole testimony by Ritter was clearly arguing a case for strengthening the inspections regime.

So yes, it would be interesting to know from Ritter why he made such a strong case for WMD then without having the means to back up his assertions. It's clear from the transcript that he was pushing the barrow for 'our' Richard Butler, so that might offer a clue. I don't suppose this or similar questions came up in the one hour of Q&A?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Phil Moffat, no, you wouldn’t be lying. But if all the major intelligence agencies around the world had evidence that this was the case, would you not believe them?

But you do repeat one lie- No WMD were found in Iraq. This is simply not the case. A couple of artillery shells loaded with chemicals were found (read the report found here on the CIA website). So what you should be saying is that no sizeable amounts of WMD were found. What was also found by the report was that Iraq, under Saddam, was planning on reinitializing his WMD programs as soon as the sanctions were over (which thanks to help from “oil for Food” funds, wasn’t to far off). For example, this guy seems to know a lot about it.

As for your whole bit on court cases, well, the man responsible is currently facing his trial. The real shame of course, is that those responsible behind the scenes, who helped keep this monster in power, are getting off scot free. How many people have been sacked from the UN for their involvement in the biggest scam ever perpetrated? To help you out, it was 1, until he was reinstated in his job.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Damian, you forget history again. Under Labour and “bomber” Beazley do you really think defense spending would drop?

Every country world wide regardless of type of government spends a proportion of GDP on defense. Australia has a modest sized defense force and spends compared to other nations a small % of GSP on defense. The last figures I saw we were ranked 16th in the Asia Pacific region.

Can you tell us all what is it with your latest buzz word “Fascist”. I have never seen someone us the word so many times, in so many posts, over so many days. Your rants are becoming more and more unintelligible.

Your last post said we, and the world would be better off without “Howard”. That is bordering on a serious threat against a person Damian.

To say we would be better of without a particular political party is one thing, but to say that about a person specifically. Well, it can mean so many things.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

James Squires, are you seriously comparing estimates for a healthcare plan or a railway with the decision to invade another country? And are you seriously suggesting that the fact that Labor stuffs up sometimes means we should forgive the Howard government for sending us into this war?

The government either lied, was massively incompetent in interpreting intelligence or was conned by our allies. Whichever of these is true, it is astounding that not one single person has taken responsibility for the incorrect information given to the Australian people before this war began.

This isn't about Liberal versus Labor. I for one would never argue that Labor is some great beacon of political virtue and ability. This is about a war that was fought on the basis that Iraq had WMDs - not WMD programs but stockpiles of actual weapons that supposedly required immediate pre-emptive action. They didn't and now we are stuck in a mess for which the Howard government must accept responsibility.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Thank you Damian Lataan that’s exactly what I thought you would say, long on what you would like to see done but short on how.
Just rattling on about “concentration camps”, “depriving workers of their rights” and “whittling away at their basic freedoms”.

Just “It would have increased spending on Australians education, health and aged care”. What garbage.

How could they do that without another Beazley Deficit.

You forgot to mention High Unemployment, High Interest Rates and High inflation, remember those things, no I guess not, we have not had those things for the last 9 years.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Damian Lataan (To Tuzman of Skull Island)

“I must have dozed off during the news break and missed the bit where Christians got crucified by Muslims in Victoria for quoting the Koran.”

It was very good, Damian, for Shopping Channels coverage (choice of the knuckle-dragging neo-Con roto-rooting Mr Hanky type Howard-loving classes).

I especially liked the bit where, despite all the bashing and bloody spear in the guts and crown of thorns and shoving vinegar and lye and opium and other nasties in the victim’s gob, the Anglo boy-girl newsreader winked lewdly to Camera #1, and breathlessly warned: “and now to the Wevva…”

It was just like when the government killed the real Islamic prophet Christ all that time ago. Followed by a thunderstorm.

God, I love it when the Pentecostalist Jonestown monkey channels crew go out to get Muslims.

Carrying double-barrelled shotguns to get both feet at the same time.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Damian Lataan, you're not alone mate.

To all those who think this is boring, well you would say that wouldn't you. Especially when the facts reveal that you (the supporters of this stupid adventure) were all stooged. One day you may all grow up and learn something from this, but I suspect not.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Scott was actually in Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction; were his detractors there?

I heard a radio interview a few days ago and found a comment he made to be quite telling. Scott stated that basically Intelligence Agencies had good information; the problem being that the information gets changed as it goes up the chain. A bit like the joke about workers finding a crock of shit and the upper echelons being told about a bucket of roses; except it’s in reverse order in relation to Iraq.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Damian Lataan, here's your reference. Now tell us which is more sinister, the sedition law or this Victorian leftie effort to silence people, even when they are telling the truth?

I must say I laughed when the laws were trained onto the Christian majority - always the focus and objective of the law, we now don't see any support for these laws by those misguided church leaders... what idiots they were!

Wasn't fascism a direct derivative of the left? In searching this topic, I find very little difference between these two extremes. Perhaps Damian can detail the differences for us here. Calling someone a fascist is mainly an insult of the air head left. On any count, the left has a crueller and more murderous history than the right!

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Bob Wall, it would appear poor old James Squires is cluthching at straws now. OK James you feel our Government was not lying (though I disagree) when they took out those pesky little qualifiers, but you would have to ask why did they do it? Why did they choose not tell us the whole truth?

That's what you should be asking yourself James. Tell me James why do you think they took out those qualifiers?

One can only assume they did it because they wanted to incite the Australian population into attacking another country that was absolutely no threat whatso ever. It think that's what our PM and AG would define as sedition.

Why do you think our Government took out those qualifiers James? WHY?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

James Squires - do you think Andrew Wilkie was lying when he said that Australia's spies knew the United States was lying about Iraq's WMD programme?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

James Squires "Phil Moffat, no, you wouldn’t be lying. But if all the major intelligence agencies around the world had evidence that this was the case, would you not believe them?" If they were using British or American intelligence then I would have to be a mug to believe them. Tell me James what did Jewish intelligence have to say about WMD or the French or the Russians or the Chinese?

James I am not going to waste my time regarding the remainder of your post, for you are obviously ill informed and you are quite happy to remain that way.

For example "A couple of artillery shells loaded with chemicals were found" takes the cake. Were not those shells left over from the first Gulf War? Were they not past their use by date? WMD NO, red herring YES.

Sorry James you are obviously cluthing at straws.

Craig R Ed.: And my apology to you Phil for not picking up James' error in spelling your name. I'll just go back and fix that now...

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Phil, I had just finished reading and appreciating your post when up jumps James proving your point about clutching at straws.

James, no response to my question about whether withholding or altering evidence is deception? Seems not. Rather you have asked if I am making baseless allegations. Seems a case of avoiding the issue.

Also I expect that someone who wishes to post opinions on this matter would be aware of the findings of the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into Iraq Intelligence. Even more since I have on WD posted extracts of the report and referred people to it on as recall four occasions. Yet it has totally passed you by. Perhaps you had your eyes closed.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Question 3 (20 marks)

Damian. How will you feel if those with opposing views (i.e. Jay, James, Justin et al) are indeed proved to be correct by the passage of time?

Jay, James, Justin et al. How will you feel if Damian and those that agree with him are proven correct by the passage of time?

But more seriously, would there be any other ramifications if your particular view is wrong? If you knew in advance that you were going to be proven wrong, what would you do about it?

Discuss. (Points will be deducted for mud-slinging and name calling.)

And for bonus marks. Can anyone direct me to a thread where there is a geniune discussion about the issues by those willing to learn, or are all the threads just the same "my Dad's better than your Dad, so there" kind of stuff.

Craig R Ed: Thanks Steve. On my watch I've not published the worst of it. Everyone please read the Discussion Guidelines and if you find you can't abide them, please take your muddy fingers and write it all up on your own blog where you can get as filthy as you like.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Alan Curran and Justin Wilshaw, you missed the point and failed to read the detail in my post – as usual Justin Wilshaw!

What I said was: “Under any other government, not necessarily Labor…”, I’ll just repeat that: NOT NECESSARILY LABOR. History is something I don’t forget Justin Wilshaw – I do it for a living. As for your inference that I’m somehow threatening Howard – I’m afraid most people can see through your mischievousness and are aware that I was referring to his status as Australia’s leader. But since YOU mention it… As you say, “…it can mean so many things”.

Alan Curran, you go on to say: “You forgot to mention High Unemployment, High Interest Rates and High inflation”, I did too. I also forgot to mention that these things were a world-wide phenomenon at the time and a hangover from the Reagan-Thatcher economic rationalism era. I also may have forgotten to mention the lies Howard came out with in order to start a war which resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives and which is likely to cost the lives of tens of thousand more before the insurgents eventually rid their country of the murdering and plundering invaders.

I acknowledge and thank those on Webdiary who have come out in support of my stance.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Bob Wall, you have evidence that the government was witholding or altering evidence? Can you provide this for me? Or are you making baseless allegations?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

The Vietnam war showed that these elective wars are defended by the trusting until either it bites at home, through conscription; or reality is shoved in their faces by graphic photos of the damage we are causing to - well, people.

We've learned a little about conflict resolution in the last 50 years. It's never smart to come out swinging.

Unless you push other people into the target area, are well cushioned, and have a lot to gain from rise in certain stock prices. Then it's just good business.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

I don't know if John Howard lied to Parliament about WMD James Squire. I do know someone lied and manipulated the intelligence.

Howard has never apologised to the Australian people for presenting the bogus information and I say again, in order for us to have faith in our intelligence services we should have had an investigation into how the Prime Minister was given this false information. Either we were deceived by our allies or our own agencies were slack with the truth. As we still have the same personell in charge, I have little faith in them.

I know of no other area of business or public life were such appalling inaccurate information would be tolerated and those who were guilty of deceit, left to carry on as normal. You may find that satisfactory. Certainly the Prime Minister thinks there is no need for an enquiry so he either knows the answer or doesn't care.

Calling people "anti-liberation" is rather childish and dismisses the reality of the disaster that the invasion of Iraq has become. I find it a far too complex moral dilemna to simply say "people were dying at a faster rate" and that this, if it were true and you have no proof, somehow legitimises that a whole lot more people who are entitled to be alive, should simply be massacred in a dreadful fashion.

I note the concern about anyone harmed during Saddam's time is a fairly new discovery for the pro-war crowd. I doubt they gave these people a second's though in the past. I doubt they really care about them now. Reducing these people to some fact that can be used to justify an argument indicates to me that the pro-war lobby basically doesn't give a stuff about Iraqis or Iraq. It's merely a convenient excuse to once again say that the current Australian government cannot be questioned on any matter and everything they have done is correct and true.

The facts of course show that sadly the anti-war protestors were correct and accurate this time. The so-called Democratic government of Iraq is a joke and has no power except where the US allows it. The insurgency gets worse every month despite the protagonists of the war saying the opposite. Iraqis are dying at an alarming rate and the countries infrastructure has never been worse. The future for Iraq is bleak and we and our allies busted it and anyone who thinks that a country can be "liberated" while it still has a foreign force occupying it and controlling every aspect of life there is mis-informed what the word liberation means.

You could always prove me wrong by travelling there and assisting in this great liberation and reporting back on your progress. Be warned though. I have an Iraqi friend who gave up his smallgoods shop in Potts Point - possibly where Malcolm B Duncan gets his milk from, a year ago to return to Iraq to share in the spoils. He landed a very high job in what is laughingly called the Iraqi Tourism Board for fantastic money.

He returmed to Australia after 6 months with his nerves an utter mess and thanking Allah he didn't take his family with him. The dull thud of daily car bombs in Bahgdad has done his head in. You should also note the much hated Robert Fisk's words for I'm sure he speaks the truth about this. You can only ever venture from your hotel into Baghdad for 20 minutes at a time. That is how long it takes for a mobile phone call to summon your assassin. Theorising about what may happen in Iraq is just that. Reality is something else.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Phil Moffat, also, the French, Russian and Chinese intelligence all thought Iraq still had WMD. Have fun with those straws...

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Please Bob, point to me where in that report it says the government "altered" evidence, as you claim?

And no, putting a one sided argument is not lying. Telling a deliberate untruth that you know to be false is. Check a dictionary. For someone to lie, as I said earlier, they have to know that it is not the truth.

And Phil Moffat, I would call burying uranium centrifuges a good example of WMD programs existing. The shells found were also still a breech of the UN resolutions Iraq was meant to honour.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Steve Ped asks: “Damian, how will you feel if those with opposing views (i.e. Jay, James, Justin et al) are indeed proved to be correct by the passage of time?”

Disappointed because of the advent of fascism but otherwise vindicated! After all these people are advocating fascism by support of the liar and warmonger Howard. I’m trying to warn Australians against it.

If I’m wrong and we don’t have fascism then that’s great too.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

T Tazman, you direct me to an Andrew Bolt article?! Am I supposed to be impressed? And can you just run that past me again where Christians got crucified by Muslims in Victoria for quoting the Koran?

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

James Squires, while we are on the subject of baseless allegations, you say, “As for people dying, well they were doing that anyway under a homicidal dictator and at a faster rate than present.” Can you please point me in the direction of any reference material to back up that claim?

Your statement that, “As for people dying, well they were doing that anyway” - enough said.

A Mills said earlier, “Christ this is boring.” Damn right! The tone needs to be brought down a touch around here. Debate = Good. Pissing matches = Bad. That is on all sides. At the moment there is no way I could invite a stranger to Club Chaos as we could not have a decent chat for the background noise. If this keeps up it will be to the detriment of Webdiary.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Here is another piece by Scott Ritter on "What Happened to Iraq's WMD; How politics corrupts intelligence".

From San Francisco Chronicle.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

And a damning critique from the Middle East here.

re: On democracy and war with Scott Ritter

Damian, I checked tonight and cannot see a full moon, but, notwithstanding, the One Handed Keyboard Warriors are out in force including their little drummer boy who calls himself "Tazman".

I just had to laugh when I read James Squire's attempt at cogent and sober analysis as quoted below:

"But importantly, the opposition was present at the same briefings from ASIS, and they didn't doubt it either."

Well now what are they going to say? They had plenty of doubts but the problem is, if you treat the rumours and beatups as the scuttlebutt they usually are and something does happen (even the discovery of a small stockpile of agricultural chemicals for instance) you are history. So the sceptical realists in all parties have to publicly pretend they buy into the crap, even to the extent of joining in the hairy-chested pissing contests which always ensue.

There are no doubts about why Bush actually went to Iraq though. And it is very quickly turning pear-shaped for him.

I cannot recall a 20th Century war involving the US, including the Vietnam War, where the military themselves, active and retired, have had so many reservations and have been so outspoken in their criticism. In fact the mood amongst them is reminiscent of that in Germany around 1944; only difference being that they can (so far) come out publicly.

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