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Ritter: Iran is target

From The Bennington Banner. Feb. 17, 2007

By Mark E. Rondeau

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Bush administration is determined to go to war with Iran, is making the necessary preparations to do so, and will not be stopped by an impotent Congress.

These were the conclusions of former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, speaking Thursday night on the topic "Target Iran" at the First United Methodist Church in Williamstown. Ritter first rose to prominence disputing the administration's claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the start of the war with that country.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to war with Iran," he said to the audience of about 120. "It's going to happen. There's nothing we can do to stop it."

Democrats scorned

Ritter held out for scorn the behavior of the new Democratic congressional majority, which is seeking non-binding resolutions condemning the recent troop surge while continuing to vote to fund the war: "We're seeing how this Congress behaves. It's not going to stop the war."

Many believe that the Administration would not attack Iran because the Iraq war is going so badly. "Those are people who allow themselves to differentiate between Iraq and Iran and view them as separate policies," Ritter said. "They are not separate policies."

Instead, both nations are seen as part of a strategy of "regional transformation" bent on installing regimes compliant to the will and vision of the U.S., he said.

In 2002 the Bush Administration incorporated the vision of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century into the National Security Strategy of the United States. The 2006 National Security Strategy takes the same approach, Ritter said.

"You realize that we haven't learned anything from Iraq. It embraces preemptive wars of aggression as sound policy, it refuses to recognize any failure in Iraq," he said of the 2006 statement on strategy. "It says we were right to go to Iraq. Then it identifies Iran no fewer than 16 times as representing the number one threat to the national security of the United States."

Administration's rationale

The policy calls Iran the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Just as terror provided the rationale for Congressional approval of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, so the authorization to combat terrorism provides the rationale to attack Iran.

"We have a president who is intent on completing the mission he believes he has been given by the American people, a mission he believes that Congress has approved," Ritter said.

Though there is repression in Iran, people do speak with some freedom, carry cell phones, watch CNN, and surf the Internet.

"It's not what we think it is. It's not what we're being led to believe," he said of Iran, which he recently visited to work on a magazine article. "I came out of there saying it's insanity to talk about going to war against these people. They do not represent anything near a threat to the security of the United States of America."

The Bush administration has been putting into place the pieces necessary to launch an air attack on Iran. Two aircraft carrier battle groups have been moved into the region, and two more will be there by April; the Pentagon has negotiated basing rights in Romania and Bulgaria so that B-1 and B-2 bombers can operate out of airfields there.

Anti-Iranian frenzy

"We are deploying fuel and munitions as we speak," he said. "The Department of State, and the Pentagon, together with the vice president have engaged in repeated diplomacy with Iran's neighbors — particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar. They have whipped these nations up into an anti-Iranian frenzy."

The recent attempt to link advanced improvised explosive devices used against American troops in Iraq to "the highest levels of the Iranian government" without any proof is evidence of the Administration trying to portray Iran as a serious threat.

"But who is confronting the president on this? Where are our politicians? Engaged in non-binding resolutions. Continuing to fund the war," he said. "Congress has not debated the viability of the intelligence out there that says Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. We need a congressional debate on this."

Members of both parties are engaging in harsh rhetoric, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, who has called Iran "the number-one threat to American, Israeli, and international security in the world today," according to Ritter.

"She'll go to war with Iran that quick," he said, snapping his fingers. "So will every one of our elected representatives, because they don't have the courage to confront the president on this issue." he said.

Fear factor

"They know the ultimate reality: that we the people of the United States of America are wallowing in ignorance about the world that we live in. We have succumbed to the fear factor so often that we are preprogrammed to accept at face value anything negative put out there about Iran," he said. "We don't want to accept that there might be an alternative reality."

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