Speech sparks more Iraq war debate

Meera Rao

Former United Nations Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter spoke to an audience of about 300 Northwestern students and community members Monday night, sparking more than an hour of discussion and debate.

The Muslim-cultural Students Association hosted the lecture, “Iraq: A Case Study in the Failure of American Foreign Policy.” Ritter started his speech by warning the audience in McCormick Auditorium the lecture was “not going to be an easy dialogue or discussion,” and took a strong stance against U.S. military involvement in Iraq.

Ritter repeatedly emphasized the failure of U.S. involvement in Iraq under the Bush administration. He criticized the administration for losing the war in Iraq and lying about the basis of the war to the American people. He also condemned U.S. citizens for not questioning the government’s policies.

“The president says he knows there are chemical weapons in Iraq,” Ritter said, “and yet nobody asked, ‘How do you know, Mr. President?’ and no one asked what the basis for these assertions was.”

McSA hosted the lecture to bring an alternative perspective on the recent war in Iraq to campus, according to Medill sophomore Abed Moiduddin, the organization’s public relations vice president. The lecture follows an ongoing series of political action lectures hosted by McSA each Fall Quarter.

Last year the organization brought former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Edward Peck to campus. This year, Weinberg junior Nilofer Umar, McSA’s executive vice president who planned the lecture, got Ritter’s name from the Campus Anti-War Network and decided to ask him to speak at NU.

Ritter said the issue of weapons of mass destruction was at the heart of the war and denied Bush’s rhetoric of liberating or bringing democracy into Iraq. He then went on to say the problem of possible weapons, though it existed, was not a legitimate basis for starting a war.

“So where are the weapons?” Ritter asked. “There are no weapons, and what’s worse is that the government knew there were no weapons. … They chose not to tell us the truth. They told us a lie.”

Though the lecture started almost an hour late because of flight delays, many remained in the auditorium for almost two hours, taking part in a lively question and answer session following the speech. Many Bush supporters prompted the debate, questioning Ritter’s logic and definitions of what makes war legitimate.

“If the majority of Americans agree with Scott Ritter’s idea of what is justified warfare, he would be 100 percent right,” said Medill freshman Guy Benson. “Fortunately, the vast majority of Americans understand our nation’s reasons, and accusations of lies on behalf of the Bush administration will not fool the American people who are most concerned about their security.”

Ritter’s supporters defended his antiwar stance.

“In the effort to protect ourselves in this war against terrorism, I think people need to think that while we’re protecting ourselves, we’re also hurting other people,” Umar said. “That could eventually hurt us as well.”