EDITOR’S NOTE: Iraq is a nation on fire, a conflagration of America’s making that threatens to consume everything the nation stands for. How did we get there? How do we get out? Can we get out?
In this edited transcript of an October 19 public conversation sponsored by The Nation Institute at the New York Ethical Culture Society, legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter discuss how the CIA manipulated and sabotaged the work of UN departments to achieve a hidden foreign policy agenda in the Middle East. The conversation was based on revelations in Ritter’s new book, Iraq Confidential, published by Nation Books. Hersh’s most recent book is Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, published by HarperCollins.
What I’m going to do is just ask Scott a series of questions. I’ve read his book a couple of times, and basically we’re going to try to have some fun. Consider Scott and I your little orchestra playing on the deck of the Titanic as it goes down, because we’re all in grave trouble here. So, Scott, to begin, before we even talk about how we got to where we are, my own personal view is we have two options in Iraq. Option A, we can get all our troops out by midnight tonight, and option B, we can get them all out by tomorrow night at midnight. And so I wonder where you sit on that, what’s your view?
Well, I view that Iraq is a nation that’s on fire. There’s a horrific problem that faces not only the people of Iraq but the United States and the entire world. And the fuel that feeds that fire is the presence of American and British troops. This is widely acknowledged by the very generals that are in charge of the military action in Iraq. So the best way to put out the fire is to separate the fuel from the flame. So I’m a big proponent of bringing the troops home as soon as possible.
Today’s the best day we’re going to have in Iraq. Tomorrow’s going to be worse, and the day after that’s going to be even worse. But we also have to recognize that one of the reasons why we didn’t move to Baghdad in 1991 to take out Saddam was that there was wide recognition that if you get rid of Saddam and you don’t have a good idea of what’s going to take his place, that Iraq will devolve into chaos and anarchy. Well, we’ve done just that. We got rid of Saddam, and we have no clue what was going to take his place. And pulling the troops out is only half of the problem.
We also have to deal with three critical issues that have emerged since we invaded:
–A, the Shia, and I’m not talking about the mainstream Shia of Iraq. I’m talking about this political elite that’s pro-Iranian that has conducted a coup d’etat. They’re running the government today.