Profile of U.N. Weapons Inspector
Jan. 13, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who denies Iraqi accusations of lying and spying, has disagreed with claims by his former U.S. military commanders, as well.
At the U.N. Special Command on Iraq, where officials try to ignore nationalities, the American inspector has a reputation for polite objectivity in a job that requires perseverance, patience and occasional confrontation.
Iraq vowed Monday to block any inspections led by Ritter, personalizing its latest showdown with Washington and the United Nations.
Labeled a ``troublemaker'' by Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, Ritter is accused by Iraqis of ``falsifying facts, inventing lies, deliberately prolonging the process and sending false reports to the Security Council.''
U.S. and U.N. officials, in turn, accuse Iraq of using attacks against Ritter as a ruse to avoid compliance with Security Council demands that it dismantle all missile, chemical and biological weapons systems before international sanctions will be lifted.
Ritter, 36, a former U.S. Marine captain, worked in military intelligence as an arms control specialist and received several commendations in a 12-year military career. But that did not keep him from disagreeing with U.S. military claims after the war.
Ritter served for several months during the war with Central Command headquarters in Saudi Arabia, according to the Marine Corps.
A professor who interviewed Ritter for an upcoming book on the war described him as an unlikely candidate for the CIA spying Iraq claimed he conducted as a U.N. inspector. The CIA, the State Department, the White House, the U.N. and Ritter himself all deny any such tie.
``Based on my conversations with him, he is far too ingenuous and sincere a person to be the type to do the CIA much good,'' said Mark Crispin Miller, a media studies professor at New York University who interviewed Ritter several times in 1992 for articles and a book on the Gulf War.
Miller said Ritter's former superiors in the U.S. military were not pleased with him for airing his conclusion shortly after the war that Schwarzkopf was wrong when he said U.S. forces destroyed up to 16 mobile scud launchers. Ritter claimed none were destroyed, and Miller said this proved to be accurate.
U.N. officials who work with Ritter bristled Monday at the suggestion any focus should be put on the American and were reluctant even to provide biographical information.
``To discuss him at all is playing right into what they want,'' said Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the U.N. Special Command on Iraq, which has inspectors from 21 countries checking on Iraqi compliance with Security Council orders that it destroy missiles and chemical and biological weapons.
``He is a very honest man. I have a lot of admiration for him. He has a lot of integrity,'' said Buchanan.
Ritter, a U.N. weapons inspector dealing with Iraq since he left the Marines in 1991, has been leading the concealment investigation for 18 months. His predecessor, Russian inspector Nikita Smidovich, was the focus of Iraqi criticism prior to that, Buchanan said.
``Whoever fills that position, they are the ones over whom there is the most friction. It's the nature of the work,'' he said.
While the Iraqi's have tried to portray Ritter as ``some kind of storm trooper,'' Buchanan said, he actually is ``very restrained and polite,'' and that is not a description that U.N. officials apply to all their inspectors.
Ritter has taken part in more than 30 inspection missions, 12 of them as lead inspector. In 1995, his team discovered missile guidance equipment Iraq had bought through Palestinian business agent Wiam Gharbieh.
Iraqi criticism of Ritter accelerated with a bold inspection last month at Lake Habaniya. Routinely, inspectors announce their inspections and then convoy out of their Baghdad headquarters followed by Iraqis. The inspection at a lakeside resort sometimes visited by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was conducted like a commando raid. The inspectors led by Ritter swooped in on the resort unannounced and, according to the Iraqis, found nothing.
In another high-profile incident, Ritter was turned away in September, when he tried to enter the presidential compound on the west bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad.