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04/24/08

Why We Should Listen to Scott Ritter This Time

By Fatemeh Keshavarz

 

Scott Ritter, the Chief UN inspector in Iraq for eight years, the man who insisted Iraq had no WMDs, is on the road again. He spoke in St. Louis, Missouri, in early April. His main message "Iran is not a threat to anyone. Speak up against a disastrous war with Iran!" Why is it so crucial to listen to Mr. Ritter and not take lightly the statement of the presidential hopefuls, Clinton and McCain, who contemplate this war with ease?

 

Living in peace prevents one from seeing the depth of the disaster that is war. Statistics, though significant for understanding catastrophes, can themselves become masking devices that convert human tragedy into innocuous numbers: 4,000 Americans dead, 30,000 wounded, many more affected in ways that only they and their families know. On the Iraqi side the death and displacement figures are in the millions. What do these numbers really mean?
 

Target Iran: The Truth About the
White House's
 Plans for Regime Change
by Scott Ritter (buy from amazon)

 

Last week, my feminist economist friend R. discovered this first hand when she visited a refugee camp housing 35, 000 displaced Iraqis in Said Zeinab, one of the poorest suburbs of southern Damascus in Syria. This is only one group. The statistics say the total number of refugees in Syria is 1/5 million. Many think that estimate to be modest. In her e-mail to me, R. does not quote statistics. The reality she is looking at is too enormous to fit into numbers "it is absolutely shocking" she says "it is unbelievable. Five years after the war begun, the Iraqis are still fleeing. The Syrians and the UN are both overwhelmed."

 

Yet, these refugees are the lucky ones. Unlike those who hit Jordan's closed boarders, these people were let into Syria. Now they face the problems that all refugees do: finding work to survive while maintaining their dignity, and providing their families with food security, medical care, and education. Even as they chase after hard manual labor with next-to-nothing wages, they must protect their youngsters against more formidable enemies: drug dealing and prostitution. They are not always successful.

 

R. is in pain to emphasize the decency of these people. They work hard to maintain their dignity, she explains. I don't need any convincing. Refugees are often decent people who face atrocities forcing them to flee. The question is how to stop the process that creates refugees: war and violence.

 


Fatemeh Keshavarz is the author of Jasmine
and Stars: Reading More than "Lolita"
in Tehran (
order from amazon)

That is why Scott Ritter who worked hard to prevent the Iraq war is on the road again. Mr. Ritter is a former marine who has sworn to defend America with his life. He has the expertise of a top intelligence officer and extensive experience in the Middle East. Could anyone explain to the millions of displaced Iraqis why did we not listen to an expert like him and stop the unjustified war that destroyed the fabric of their society?

 

Mr. Ritter has a new book, "Target Iran: The Truth about the White House's Plans for Regime Change" (Nation Books). In the concluding section of this book, which the Journal of International Affairs calls a "tremendous success," he observes "There will be a war between the United States and Iran, unless some dramatic intervention occurs that changes the political dynamic in Washington."

 

"Changing the political dynamic in Washington" seems like a colossal task. But the sense of helplessness is an illusion. As members of a democratic society, we have the ability to listen and the power to speak. There are many reasons why it is important to listen to Scott Ritter this time and speak against a new war. Chief among them: the world does not need any more graveyards or refugee camps.

 

There is a human tragedy that can still be prevented: a war on Iran.

 

 

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