Scott Ritter v. Chris Hitchens
Straight from Bob Geiger's post on the debate between Scott Ritter and Chris Hitchens. While I relish a Hitchens defeat as much as the next guy I sorta wish people would stop debating him and giving him a platform. It only gives legitimacy to him as a pundit, something he lost years ago...
"Hey, you guys are great taxi drivers," laughed Scott Ritter, the former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, as he warmly shook my hand and gave the traditional ribbing a former Marine gives to an ex-Navy guy like myself. (It's a joke among Marines about how they believe the Navy exists only to give Marines a ride.)
I met Ritter and got to spend a few minutes with him after attending a debate on the Iraq war between him and neoconservative apologist Christopher Hitchens Tuesday night.
Moderated by talk-show host Jay Diamond after the scheduled moderator, Air America's Laura Flanders, took ill, the debate was held at the old and austere Tarrytown Music Hall in Westchester County, NY.
Ritter, the author of Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein, was a top U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 through 1998 and frequently served as the chief inspector. Prior to his employment with the U.N., Ritter was a major in the U.S. Marines, where he served for 12 years as an intelligence officer and a ballistic missile adviser to General Schwarzkopf in the first Gulf War.
He struck me one-on-one as much the same person I watched dismantle Hitchens in front of a crowd of perhaps 600 people Tuesday: ramrod straight and solid, without an ounce of military bearing lost in civilian life and more than capable of debating both the technical and political nature of pre-war intelligence leading up to the Iraq mess.
The Gulf-war Veteran, who described himself in introductions as a "Reagan Republican who voted for Kerry," made it clear at the start of the evening exactly where he stood.
"I am as opposed to this war as strongly as one can possibly be against this war," said Ritter firmly. "I cannot come up with one justification worthy of a single American life for why we're in Iraq. And we cannot solve Iraq until we get some answers about the war's foundation. And, I'll tell you right now, it's the most corrupt foundation imaginable."
Hitchens, the acerbic British author and Vanity Fair contributor is a self-described "proponent of the Iraq war," and, while sometimes hard to pin down on his overall political views, clearly came to this event prepared to defend George W. Bush and the Iraq war.
"Another confrontation with Saddam Hussein was inevitable," said Hitchens in defending the Iraq invasion. "Who should have determined the timing of that confrontation? Saddam Hussein? Or the U.S. and other democratic nations?"