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February 04, 2004

Scott Ritter's Shell Game

In May of 2003 former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter denied that Iraqi money had any role whatsoever in the making of his movie "Shifting Sands", a controversial documentary about U.S. policy on Iraq.

The denial was necessitated by the discovery of documents detailing a number attempts by Iraqi Intelligence services to "influence" former inspector Ritter.

Mr Ritter said that he had rebuffed each attempt and filed reports on the approaches to the FBI. He had also filed reports to the US Treasury when he was raising the money for Shifting Sands.

"Be careful how you interpret those documents," he said. "I would hate to read that I had taken Iraqi money, which I did not.

"Perhaps you can find documents relating to the meeting I eventually had with Tariq Aziz, in which I told him I would take no money, and he replied, 'We respect you because you do not have your hand out'," Mr Ritter said.

"I know that the Iraqis had no influence whatsoever on making this film."

One of the planned bribery attempts involved the purchase of gold jewellery for Ritter's wife and daughter, to be delivered to them by a friend of the family, Shakir al-Khafaji.

The documents say that the gifts should be offered via an intermediary, who was named as Shakir al-Khafaji, an Iraqi-American businessman and close associate of Mr Ritter.

The documents, which are signed by the then director-general of Iraqi intelligence, purport to reveal close links between Mr al-Khafaji and Iraqi intelligence, and suggest that the regime was making available substantial funds to offer him. Mr Ritter and Mr al-Khafaji have both made clear that they received no such gifts or funds.
Mr Ritter formed a partnership with Mr al-Khafaji to finance the film, Shifting Sands which, according to Mr Ritter, "proved" that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. In an interview with the New York Times in 2001, Mr Ritter stated that none of Mr al-Khafaji's funding came from Saddam's regime. Of the £250,000 spent on the film, he said that only £26,250 went into his own pocket.

While he confirmed that he had received money from Mr al-Khafaji, Mr Ritter said that he had had his business associate checked by CIA "sources" via a friend who was a reporter, and was reassured.

The problem with the above is that while Mr. Ritter may not have received funds directly from the Iraqi regime, Mr al-Khafaji most certainly did, as detailed by a recently discovered list of 270 individuals, organizations, and companies given oil allocations by the Hussein goverment.

As detailed by the Weekly Standard, Ritter's film was funded by al-Khafaji to the tune of $400,000. Sure, Ritter might not have gotten the money from his film directly from Saddam's wallet, but it came from there just the same.

To be sure, al-Khafaji has issued yet another denial that Saddam's silver ever crossed his palm. The denial should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, as the May documents purportedly show a close connection between al-Khafaji and Iraqi Intelligence. In any case, all that Scott Ritter and al-Khafaji need do to clear themselves is to reveal the mysterious unnamed reporter friend who used his CIA sources to clear Mr. al-Khafaji to begin with.

Come to think of it, any real friend would have already stepped forward to clear the good names of Ritter and al-Khafaji, wouldn't he? Surely Ritter would not have just made that person up in answer to a inconvenient question.

Besides, who trusts CIA sources nowadays anyway?

Ritter aslo claims that his film's funding was cleared by the FBI.

Ritter doesn't mention his funding in the film - what film does? - but he says in a slim volume he co-wrote (War On Iraq - What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know) that he told the FBI he would terminate the film if they found any evidence that Shakir Alkafajii was using the film to gain favours in Baghdad, or that the Iraqi Government had funnelled money to the film.

"Not only did they fail to find any dirt on the money, but after ... I showed it to [the FBI] they said it was pretty darned good."

Perhaps Ritter and Shakir Alkafaji could produce the FBI agents who investigated him--surely they could clear him, unless they turn out to be another of Ritter's creations.

Ironic, that what Ritter's film claims seems to be the case so far. No one has actually turned up any WMD's in Iraq, despite months of searching. What the Iraqis desperately wanted covered up turned out to not need covering up after all.

Posted by Bigwig at February 4, 2004 12:29 PM | TrackBack
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