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War Talk a Neo-Con Ploy
Published on Tuesday, August 13, 2002 in the Cape Cod Times
War Talk a Neo-Con Ploy
by Sean Gonsalves

President Eisenhower warned us of the perils of "the military-industrial complex," asking the all-important question: "What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road" to increasing militarism?

And before Ike there was Truman, who, despite having used the A-bomb, wasn't without a moral conscience. In their new book, "Prophets Without Honor: A Requiem for Moral Patriotism," William Strabala and Michael Palecek recount how in 1945 Truman toured "the rubble of a devastated Berlin while en route to the Potsdam Conference." Has President Bush toured the rubble of a devastated Afghanistan?

To quote a bumper sticker I once saw: "I miss Ike. Hell, I even miss Harry," especially after reading the war philosophy of one of the main Gulf War planners. In a 1996 USAF Air Power magazine article, Col. John Warden wrote: "strategic war is war to force the enemy state or organization to do what you want it to do...It is...the whole system that is our target, not its military forces."

The "whole system" is our target? Pardon my naiveté, but I thought attacking non-military targets - a.k.a. targeting civilian infrastructure - is considered to be terrorism.

Comparing "enemy systems" to five overlapping rings, each marked for varying degrees of destruction, Warden wrote: "The fourth most critical ring is the population. Moral objections aside...." Say what? Isn't our moral sense precisely what makes us human? How else to explain Truman's trepidation: "I fear the machines (of war) are ahead of morals by some centuries," he wrote.

Cut from the same mold as Ike and Truman is former U.S. Marine intelligence officer and UNSCOM chief inspector Scott Ritter. A ballistic missile expert who served on the staff of Gen. Schwarzkopf during the Gulf War, this guy is no bleeding-heart peacenik squeamish about war.

But as one who has witnessed the horrors of battle, he believes military might ought to be reserved for defending clear national interests. When it comes to Iraq, Ritter told me last week, U.S. military action would be justified if there was evidence linking the Iraqi government to the Sept. 11 attacks, or if there was evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Problem is, no such evidence exists.

There are few people on the planet who know more about Iraq's military capabilities than does Ritter. When UNSCOM realized that Iraqi officials had been lying about its weapons program, Ritter was the expert they called in to find what Saddam was hiding, and where, and then to destroy it.

"I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them," Ritter explained.

From the beginning Ritter and his UNSCOM team refused to believe any official declarations of the Iraqi government. So they meticulously tracked down and destroyed nearly every hidden bomb, missile, and weapons factory in Iraq. By the time they were finished Iraq had been stripped of 90 to 95 percent of its weapons of mass destruction.

The missing 10 percent, Ritter said, was mostly destroyed in the Gulf War, making 100 percent quantitative compliance with the U.N. disarmament mandate an impossible benchmark. Talk now of Iraq's refusal to allow inspections is a red herring.

"With the exception of mustard agent, all chemical agents produced by Iraq prior to 1990 would have degraded within five years. The same holds true for biological agents, which would have been neutralized through natural processes within three years of manufacture," not to mention the fact that chemical weapons emits vented gasses that can be detected by U.S. eavesdropping. The same holds true for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, which emit detectable gamma rays. We've been watching, via satellite and other means, and have seen none of this, Ritter said.

So why would the expertise of this "card-carrying Republican in the conservative-moderate range who voted for George W. Bush for President" be left out of the recent senate hearings on whether or not to attack Iraq?

"The hearings were a sham," he said. "The national security of the United States has been hijacked by a handful of neo-conservatives who are using their position of authority to pursue their own ideologically-driven political ambitions. The day we send our soldiers off to die for narrow political reasons is the day we fail as an American democracy."

Any chance to stop the war?

"The Bush administration is dead serious about this," Ritter said. "I'm hoping the media and the American people will wake up to this direct assault on the Constitution and on our moral standards as a nation."

Sorry Col. Warden - morals matter. I miss Ike. And Harry too.

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist. His column runs on Tuesdays. Call him at 508-775-1200, ext. 719, or e-mail him at

Copyright © 2002 Cape Cod Times


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