March 17, 2008
Johnson State College will be the first stop on a three-college tour of Vermont to present former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter's searing critique of the occupation of Iraq and the dangerous march to war with Iran.
Ritter will appear at JSC's Bentley Hall auditorium on Monday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
His appearance is part of a program organized by the Peace and Justice Center (PJC) in Burlington, and will include visits to Middlebury College on April 2 and St. Michael's College on April 3, both at 7:30 p.m.
Visiting JSC Assistant Professor of Sociology, Jerry Himelstein, who is also a PJC member, said Johnson State College is honored to host Ritter. "It is a privilege for JSC to host Scott Ritter, the weapons inspector who has firsthand knowledge of how we were drawn into the war in Iraq and how the situation in that region continues to be cast in confusing and sometimes misleading ways," he said. "He brings a piercing, insightful perspective to bear on both our political leaders and the media who cover them. JSC is delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this educational tour put together by the Peace and Justice Center."
As chief weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq, Ritter was labeled a hero by some, a maverick by others and a spy by the Iraqi government. In charge of searching out weapons of mass destruction (WMD) within Iraq, Ritter was on the front lines of the ongoing battle against arms proliferation. His experience in Iraq served as the basis for his bookEndgame, which explored the shortcomings of American foreign policy in the Persian Gulf region and alternative approaches to handling the Iraqi crisis; and for Iraq Confidential, which detailed his seven years' experience as a weapons inspector.
At the heart of his critique is the understanding that policy-makers and the media have consistently failed to understand the complexities of the region and that the national security policy underlying all of our government's actions there is fundamentally flawed and a danger to the very peace and security it purports to protect.
Ritter asserts: "The only policy direction worthy of consideration here in the United States concerning Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces … the fact that this option is given short shrift by all capable of making or influencing such a decision guarantees that this bloody war will go on, inconclusively and incomprehensibly, for many years."
Ritter has had an extensive and distinguished career in government service. He is an intelligence specialist with a 12-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps including assignments in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. Rising to the rank of Major, Ritter spent several months of the Gulf War serving under General Norman Schwarzkopf with US Central Command headquarters in Saudi Arabia, where he played an instrumental role in formulating and implementing combat operations targeting Iraqi mobile missile launchers which threatened Israel.
In 1991, Ritter joined the United Nations weapons inspections team, or UNSCOM. He participated in 34 inspection missions, 14 of them as chief inspector. Ritter resigned from UNSCOM in August 1998, citing US interference in the work of the inspections.
He is the author of many books, including Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein and most recently, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change." He lives in New York State. Ritter was born in Florida and raised all over the world in a career military family. He is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College, with a B.A. in Soviet History.
The Vermont Tour is one of many educational activities that the Peace & Justice Center is hosting around the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq. The Center's goal is to bring different voices to the table to discuss the local, national and international costs of war. Ritter's tour is specifically intended to promote public dialogue on Iraq and Iran in the context of his recent trip to the region, US elections, and the lack of media scrutiny around the war.
"I have gotten to know Scott over the years and have found his understanding of the situation in the Middle East to be accurate and compelling," added Gene Bergman,Peace and Justice Center board member emeritus. "His firsthand experiences, including that as chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq throughout the 1990s, allowed him to expose the distortions and lies that led our country into war before the invasion in March 2003."
For more information, contact: Andrea Arratoon in the Peace and Justice Center in Burlington at: 802-863-2345, ext. 6, or email@example.com