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Former Arms Inspector Wants Iraqi Sanctions Ended - 2001-07-19


A high-ranking member of the United Nations team which investigated Iraq's weapons program after the Gulf War argues it is time to end sanctions against the Iraqi government. The former arms inspector has made a film of his experiences which he says backs up his contentions.

For most of the 1990s, Scott Ritter was an integral part of UNSCOM, the United Nations team sent to Baghdad to make sure Iraq complied with resolutions aimed at eliminating its weapons of mass destruction.

Despite official claims to the contrary, most notably by the U.S. and British governments, Mr. Ritter maintains that the majority of the original goals of the UNSCOM mission have been fulfilled. Specifically, he says Iraq's ballistic missile program and its efforts to develop chemical and biological weapons have either been fundamentally destroyed or rendered inoperable. And he charges that the U.S. government is preventing that evaluation from being accepted as fact.

Now, Mr. Ritter has made a film about those experiences. He says his film - entitled "In Shifting Sands" - sheds new light on the successes and failures of the inspection operation and examines why the international community has failed to accept that Saddam Hussein no longer maintains a strong weapons capability.

Scott Ritter says the desire to make this film was based on a simple fact: That Iraq has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction and therefore sanctions against Baghdad should now be ended. "People have accepted at face value the irresponsible information coming out of Washington DC, and London in regards to Iraq's ongoing weapons of mass destruction capabilities, not only their past programs, but activities that are alleged to be taking place today," Mr. Ritter said. m"I want people to challenge this. I want people to demand factual information."

The film is often critical of what Mr. Ritter calls diplomatic failures within the United Nations and of what he says were attempts by the United States to manipulate the inspections to justify the continued isolation of Iraq.

"In Shifting Sands" was made with the participation of many individuals involved in the sanctions program, including several high-ranking Iraqi officials. But it was made without the participation of the United States government which has consistently rejected the arguments made by Mr. Ritter.

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