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Exclusive: Scott Ritter Talks Tough with High School Students About Iraq, Iran and the Future of Their Country

by Pamela Leavey

One of the greatest catalysts for me to get involved with politics after years of political apathy, was my teenager. Her future lies in delicate balance as our country and the future of our children, continues to be sold out by the Bush administration and their supporters. Thursday morning I had the opportunity to join my daughter at her school to listen to Scott Ritter (see earlier post here) talk about Iraq, Iran and the need for our youth to get involved with their future and the future of our country.

Scott Ritter, who served in the Marines for 12 years, opened his talk with same group of students from North Hollywood High School, by telling them he had been talking to high school students across the country since before the war in Iraq started. “Four students” Ritter said, “who were at events before the war in Iraq, have died in the war since then.”

“The cost of war” Ritter said, “goes beyond the thousands in the hospitals around the country” who’s lives will never be the same, living with lost limbs, and PTSD. “The other cost of war” he told the students, “is that you have to shoot someone and they have lives just like you. You have to live with that. When you go to war, you are scared to death.”

On his flight to Los Angeles, Ritter said he spoke with Marines coming home from Iraq. They told him, it was now as if, “We’re going to war for the sole purpose of keeping our friends alive.”

“We are now heading towards a war with Iran,” Ritter told the students and it’s going to be ‘Your War.’” “Gas and oil prices are going to get worse. My generation let you down. Hopefully, you are going to get up and fix it” because he explained, “it’s your future.”

There were a few things I did not agree with Ritter on, one was telling the students that “Congress has failed it’s responsibility” in referring to the Iraq War. Ritter failed to explain to the students that Bush, stepped over Congress, in his rush to war and he also neglected to tell them that there are members of Congress who are working on plans to get us out of Iraq — like John Kerry, Jack Murtha and others.

Most of the students attending the assembly were high school juniors and seniors, some of whom will vote in the upcoming ’06 elections. Ritter talked about the importance of voting. He said, “Study the candidates, study the issues — VOTE.” He also stressed that importance of paying attention to what their elected officials do in office and the need to “hold those you vote for accountable,” because they are there doing the job that you elected them to do.

“You have the your futures in your own hands,” Ritter said. “Be the generation that could, instead of the generation that wouldn’t.”

After speaking with the students Ritter took questions from some. The questions were all well thought out and I was impressed by and proud of those who spoke up.

One student asked if Ritter thought Iraq was in a civil war and if we did not have a responsibility to stay and fix what we, in effect had broken. Ritter’s response was that Iraq is in a civil war and it’s “up to the people of Iraq to solve their problems, now.” The military, Ritter said, “has acknowledged we’re doing nothing to change the course.” Iraq, Ritter explained, “is broke so bad, there is no fixing it.”

Asked about the possibility of a draft, Ritter said he was “against a draft” and he talked about our military being broken.

Another student, well versed in current events (my daughter), asked about the “possibility of a pre-emptive war with Iran.” “Do you believe,” she asked, “that Bush has the means and the motive to go to war in Iran?”

Ritter said, “They have it in their plan (the 2006 National Security Plan).” Ritter explained that the “2002 National Security Plan only mentions Iraq once,” however he said, “the 2006 National Security Plan mentions Iran 16 times.” In the rush to war with Iraq, the Bush administration had “pre-programmed minds to accept that Saddam was a threat,” said Ritter. He explained that they are now doing the same thing with Iran — pre-programming American’s to believe that war with Iran was right.

Following up on her initial question, my daughter asked Ritter if he felt that this “was all the Bush administration’s fault, or did the media have a part in it?” Ritter’s response was not what either my daughter or I expected. Ritter blamed the Clinton administration for being weak on Saddam, he blamed both the Democrats and Republicans for “exploiting fear” but he never blamed the media for being complicit. I found Ritter’s response to be curious, considering how harshly he has spoken out against the Bush administration, yet he seemed unwilling to place the blame directly where it lies — on the Bush administration.

Ritter told the students he’s a conservative in response to the one conservative student who spoke up in support of a pre-emptive strike on Iran. The reasoning the student cited was basic math “2 + 2 = 4,” he said. “Iran hates us, the Iranian president wants to wipe Israel off the map and would do the same with the U.S.,” the student said.

Thankfully Scott Ritter set the student straight stating that currently it was all “speculative evidence against Iran” as to whether they have the capability for nuclear weapons. “Yes, the Iranian president is a dangerous man. He espouses a rapture vision,” not unlike Bush, Ritter said, who also “espouses a rapture vision.”

Iran, Ritter pointed out is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. What Iran is doing, “is permitted under the treaty.”

Scott Ritter gave the students present a lot to think about on Thursday. I was grateful as a parent for his well thought out conversation with them. Our kids need more events like this, to teach them the facts about our current administration and the consequences of their actions.

6 Responses to “Exclusive: Scott Ritter Talks Tough with High School Students About Iraq, Iran and the Future of Their Country”

  1. Somehow, I cannot believe we will get stupid enough to do this again. For one thing, I think Americans would have to feel more threatened than just the possibility of Iran making a bomb.
    As we are all well aware, the way to get them feeling that threatened is for the terrorists to strike here.

    Everybody got duct tape?

  2. Your daughter’s questions were excellent. When Scott Ritter first spoke out, his comments on the Clinton administration being weak on Iraq were brought out. They were taken as a reason to question his then current position.

    At the risk of misstating something from memory, he was one of the people who in the late 90s when we first had inspectors were spreading concern that they still had weapons. This may have, rightfully, diminished his credablility with members of Congress – as he had no new information and a story 180 degrees different.

  3. Karennj

    Ritrer did change his position at some point. There’s two articles in Time about it.

    Here and Here.

    He was very tough on Clinton and the darling of the Repubs. Whatever caused him to change him stance made him the enemy of the right wing and certainly diminished his credibility with them.

    However, politics aside, speaking out against going to Iraq was the right thing to do in my opinion, and he has not backed down on this.

  4. Bless Scott Ritter for his work, which I think is fantastic, important and well worth reporting about.

    Pamela, you did a wonderful job covering this event.

  5. I cross-posted this on Booman Tribune with this introduction:
    Pamela Leavey sets up her post on Ritter’s appearance at her daughter’s high school in North Hollywood, California.
    Now it just so happens I have a teenage daughter and I also graduated from North Hollywood High School after moving from New York as a high school student. So I feel close to this situation. Ritter believes we are going to war in Iran. Here’s an except from Pamela Leavey’s report on Ritter’s remarks.

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