The clue is in Bai’s very obvious bias to show that this is all so sad, because Ritter should be a hero, since he was purportedly the man who exposed the perfidies of the Clinton and Bush administrations, both of whom wanted to foist regime change in Iraq and oust Hussein. Look at some of the following words in the article:
Ritter’s opponents on Iraq still aren’t willing to grant that he knew something they didn’t. The way they see it, Ritter, whose position on W.M.D.’s swung significantly after he left the country in 1998, was like the stopped clock that finally managed to tell the correct time.
And it was Ritter who then did an about-face and emerged, during the long period that led to the war, as the loudest and most credible skeptic of the Bush administration’s contention that Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. In a bizarre moment in 2002, Ritter even made the long journey back to Baghdad to address the Iraqi Parliament as a private citizen, warning that his own country was about to make a “historical mistake” and urging the Iraqis to allow inspections to resume. For this, and for his relentless insistence that the presence of hidden W.M.D.’s was nothing but a political pretense for war, Ritter was dismissed and even mocked by much of the media establishment (including writers for this magazine and The New York Times)
Was Ritter really “credible,” as Bai argues? One must remember that when Ritter started shilling for Saddam Hussein you could not find one Democrat or Republican who had any inkling that Iraq was not hiding weapons. And to whom did he speak when he went to the controlled parliament — a rubber stamp for the totalitarian Ba’ath Party — as a “private citizen”? Who let him do that? Would any real independent person be welcomed by Saddam to play such a role? Do those actions make Ritter any real kind of hero? Would a legitimate journalist, someone with the integrity of the late Christopher Hitchens, let us say, be welcome to speak in Iraq?
Yes, and Bai also makes it clear: “It’s fair to say that the war…produced few real heroes…In Ritter’s case, the public vindication to which he would seem entitled- and which he has never quite received-has now been replaced by a very public disgrace.” (my emphasis)
That above sentence gives you the real agenda: We should separate our disgust for Ritter’s personal behavior — which hurts no one but himself — and pronounce him as a hero because he was always right, when no one else was. Bai even insinuates — but does not quite say — that it is suspicious that the charges against him emerged “just as the administration was preparing to invade Iraq,” and seemed “to indicate that his political adversaries meant to destroy his credibility.” Perhaps. But it was Ritter himself who engaged in this behavior, and his detractors did not have to invent it.
Indeed, Bai tells us that “he claims that the American government suspected him of spying for Israel; that Norman Schwarzkopf, the gulf-war general, once had him arrested; that the F.B.I. hounded [his wife] Marina for years because it suspected she was former K.G.B. You can’t help wondering how one man managed to attract so much institutional persecution.”
And yet, this is the same man of whom Bai also writes that “History will record…that Ritter was right, while those who showed him nothing but contempt were flat wrong.” Ritter, he says, was “the one with the most on-the-ground intelligence.” And Bai rationalizes his continual flip-flops, by writing that he “demonstrated a capacity to evolve in his thinking.” He was “never taken in.”