Former U.N. Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter spoke to an audience of about 200 on Tuesday night at the Traprock Peace Center's 24th anniversary celebration. The event, called "Disarming Realities Lessons Learned," took place at the Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield at 7 p.m.
Ritter offered his opinions on the Bush administration and the current condition of Iraq.
"America today is sick, it is killing the country we live in, the country we love," he said. "If we can't realize we are infected, then we cannot come up with the cure."
Ritter said that the sickness the United States is experiencing is in the form of fear and ignorance; he said that the American public allowed the Bush administration to prey on this sickness. He expressed that because of this ignorance, Bush was able to connect the threat of weapons of mass destruction to the imminent threat of terrorism without questioning.
"We invaded Iraq illegally," said Ritter. Taking the posture of a cowboy he said, "and now we must undergo frontier justice, which is some where between civilization and the wilderness."
Keeping on the theme of the West, Ritter said that Bush used the worst form of frontier justice by bushwhacking the American people. "He shot us in the back, he lied to us about weapons of mass destruction."
Ritter described a compliant national media that regurgitated Bush's words as truth. Before appearing on CNN, Ritter was drilled by the cable channel on his stance on Iraq. He said that after answering all of their questions amply and to their content, he was then accepted as an expert and could speak on television. He asked them, "Why aren't you asking your own president these same questions?"
"David Kay is not in Iraq to search for the truth," he said. "He is in there to buy the president time politically."
Ritter said Kay has claimed there are dangerous nuclear and biological weapons in ammunition supply points. Ritter asked why the supply points are still not secured if there are known dangers. He answered his own question saying there are no dangers, Kay is lying and so is Bush. He stated that disarmament worked and that there are no significant weapons left in Iraq.
"We are stuck in Iraq and there is no elegant solution for getting us unstuck," he said.
However, Ritter had a few suggestions to better the situation.
"Iraq is burning and the fuel is American troops, so get the fuel out of the fire," he said.
He then said the United Nations could step into the vacuum created by the removal of U.S. troops, and that the Iraqi people should be under control of their own national security.
Ritter called upon the audience and the American people to be engaged in their government to defeat the disease of ignorance that has 70 percent of the American population believing that 9/11 is linked to Saddam Hussein.
"We are capable of doing great things," he said. "But right now bad things are being done in our name."
Ritter was preceded by two introductory speakers.
Pacifist Juanita Nelson, a local organic farmer and co-founder of organizations such as the Tax Resisters Group and the Farmers Market, spoke on the subject of economic disarmament.
"Economics as it is, is quite violent," she said.
She said she imagined an economy without the need to pit one against the other. She reminded the audience of the importance of everyone's contribution and said war is a product of greed, and not realizing that we are all interdependent.
Randy Kehler spoke on the subject of social disarmament. He said that our essential problem is not in Washington but in our lack of courage. He likened greed, ignorance, and desire for endless comforts as viruses in a living body.
"Viruses are capable of spreading but so is courage," he said.
The Traprock Peace Center, established in 1979, provides peace education programs and organizes national educational campaigns. This past year, the Center has collaborated with colleagues to organize educational forums on alternatives to war.
© 2003 The Massachusetts Daily Collegian