Speaking to an audience of 350 at West Virginia State University Monday evening, former Marine and top intelligence analyst Scott Ritter gave an impassioned plea for the U.S. to adopt a more humane foreign policy.
"I am a hyper-patriot. I love my country," Ritter said. "We live in a nation that espouses freedom.
"'The Power of Pride' is a very popular bumper sticker today. But this is not a nation built on pride. This is a nation built on the Constitution of the United States of America.
"What does 'God Bless America' mean? What does that tell all the other people in the world?" Ritter asked.
"There is nothing that makes us inherently better than any other human being. The definition of 'hubris' is to believe that 300 million Americans can dictate what happens to 6.8 billion other people on the earth.
"We have to learn to peacefully co-exist," Ritter said.
"'We the people' means the Constitution does not belong to the president, to the Congress or to the Supreme Court. It belongs to the people," Ritter said.
The Constitution also imposes obligations on citizens to inform themselves, study current events, become active politically and vote in elections, he added, noting only 38 percent of all adults vote in national elections today.
Ritter said he believes today's federal government an "oligarchy, not a representative democracy; 98 percent of Americans cannot afford to run for political office. Power is concentrated in the hands of a few."
Ritter, who was a top United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, repeatedly said "evidence" for "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq before the March 2003 invasion was fabricated.
The Clinton administration shares in the blame for today's problems, Ritter said, noting that Clinton also supported the philosophy of "regime change" in Iraq and other nations.
Bush's two "National Security Strategy" plans, released in September 2002 and March 2006, re-asserted "pre-emptive military action as the preferred strategy," a strategy Ritter believes "violates the Constitution."
Ritter had special praise for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., even though he disagrees with almost all of his domestic policies.
Citing Byrd's respect for the Constitution, Ritter said, "He is the greatest American serving us today. We should populate the halls of Congress with people like that."
Toward the end of his talk, Ritter said he believes there is an 80 percent to 100 percent chance that Bush will attack Iran.
"This administration has paved the way for an assault on Iran before next summer's elections.
"But there is no evidence whatsoever that Bush is right about Iran's nuclear program. If you look at International Atomic Energy Agency reports, there is nothing to say Iran has any nuclear weapons program.
"Some say Iran is 10 years away. Charleston, West Virginia is 10 years away. My hometown in New York is 10 years away. There is not a spot on the earth that is not 10 years away from having nuclear weapons if they spend the money."
Ritter said he regrets how the international image of the United States has moved away from "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolets.
"Now it is a B-1 bomber, an F-15 fighter and a soldier. The Marine Corps, tragically, has become a symbol of oppression to people around the world.
"I support the troops with all my heart," Ritter said. "But I am as anti-war as you can get. We love firefighters, but we hate fires.
"It is high time our society became a society of war preventionists. We should not glorify war. We need to condemn war. We need to prevent war," Ritter said.
Seneca 2, a group of women activists, and West Virginia State's Political Science Department co-sponsored Ritter's talk.
© 2007 The Charleston Gazette