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The Times' Tabloid Trolling

Is there any reason on earth that can justify Matt Bai’s article in this coming Sunday's New York Times Magazine? Ostensibly a profile about Scott Ritter, the well-known former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, and his present-day troubles, the piece plumbs the depths of supermarket tabloid journalism.

Ritter, you might recall, had reached a level of notoriety when he shifted in 2002 from a man certain of hidden WMDs in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to an anti-war activist assuring the world (way before he or anyone else had real evidence) of the opposite and the necessity of peace with the dictator. (You can read his bio in the Wikipedia entry about him)

Back in that early era, he told The News Hour with Jim Lehrer that “without effective inspections, without effective monitoring, Iraq can in a very short period of time measured in months, reconstitute chemical and biological weapons, long-range ballistic missiles to deliver these weapons, and even certain aspects of their developing of nuclear weapons programs.”

In protest against the UN’s do-nothing response to Hussein’s decision to suspend cooperation with inspectors, Ritter resigned. Having opposed containment Ritter suddenly shifted to favoring a policy that one might justifiably call appeasement. He embraced the role of bi-partisan critic of both the Clinton and the Bush administrations for believing the kind of argument he had himself made earlier -- that Hussein’s lack of cooperation and intransigence made his nation a very real threat to the world’s peace and stability.

Writing about Clinton, for example, he said that he had witnessed “firsthand the duplicitous Iraq policies of the administration of Bill Clinton, the implementation of which saw a President lie to the American people about a threat he knew was hyped.” Its real aim, he charged, was regime change -- trying to “remove Saddam Hussein from power.”

Soon enough, Ritter made the documentary film Shifting Sands in 2000. It was financed by an Iraqi-American later found guilty of felony charges in 2004 in the UN Oil for Food scandal.

From arguing Iraq might reconstitute weapons programs, Ritter quickly moved to claiming that no evidence for development existed at all. Thus, Ritter became a hero to the anti-war movement and, as Bai notes, was entertained and wined and dined by the likes of Warren Beatty, Barbra Streisand, and others of the Hollywood elite.

All of the above, however, is not the handle for Bai’s story. Rather: the salacious, tawdry portrayal of a pathetic, haunted man -- a premature pedophile, who spent his time surfing the internet in search of teenage girls he planned to meet at secret locations (such as deserted parking lots at night) where he could then masturbate in front of them! Yes, this is the theme of Bai’s articles, complete with the details we really do not need to know.