- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2000

Editorial on Iraq's armament building misses target

As a former weapons inspector with the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM), I read with concern your April 3 editorial "Saddam's rogue alliance." While I am not inclined to speak up in defense of the regime of Saddam Hussein, the issue of Iraq's disarmament obligation is too important to be shaped by information that, when examined under the light of fact-backed logic, simply does not stand up. Unfortunately, this is the case with the information in your editorial concerning a supposed joint effort that has North Korea building a Scud missile factory in Sudan, financed by Iraq.

Despite what your editorial suggests, Saddam has never attempted to establish a strategic industrial capability for manufacturing weapons outside of Iraq. Nor, as William Safire suggests in his related column in the New York Times ("Saddam's Sudan?" March 23), has Iraq ever secreted away any of its missiles in Sudan, or any other nation, in an effort to escape U.N. detection. The history of Iraq's pre-Desert Storm relations with the former Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Libya reinforces this point. While Iraq has made numerous efforts to procure technology, know-how and materials related to ballistic missiles abroad, including efforts to purchase complete factories, in every single case, Iraq planned to use those purchases to enhance its indigenous capacity to produce missiles. Building an Iraqi factory in Sudan not only makes no sense, but runs against the grain of everything Iraq has ever done in this regard.

I spent seven years as one of UNSCOM's leading investigators of Iraq's ballistic missile programs and efforts used by Iraq to conceal aspects of this program from the inspectors, and I can make such statements with absolute certainty. This model holds true in the post-Desert Storm period as well. In 1995, I headed efforts inside Jordan to intercept shipments of Russian-provided missile guidance and control devices, along with tools for testing and assembly, before they were shipped into Iraq. In 1997 I worked closely with Ukrainian security services to shut down the activities of a Ukrainian middleman who was brokering missile-related technology to the Iraqis, again for use inside Iraq. In 1998 I spearheaded a complex effort to foil Iraqi efforts to purchase controlling interests in a Romanian aerospace company, which Iraq planned to use to transfer technology and materials into Iraq in order to enhance its capabilities in the field of missile production.

Despite this record of illegal activity, the reality is that for all of this effort at covert procurement, the missile system for which the Iraqis were working to acquire this technology was not, as some would like to believe, a 1,200-mile-range behemoth that could threaten Europe, but rather a battlefield support missile possessing a range of 90 miles. While the efforts made by Iraq to acquire technology to assist in the production of this missile were illegal, the missile, known as the Al-Samoud, is, in fact, a legitimate system allowed under the provisions of relevant Security Council resolutions.

Touted by many Western intelligence analysts as a "mini-Scud," the Al-Samoud has a long way to go before it can live up to its more famous predecessor. The performance of the Al-Samoud was, and is, abysmal. I have videotapes of the last few Al-Samoud flight tests conducted in 1998, all of which were failures. UNSCOM assessments regarding the Al-Samoud placed it at least five years away from reaching operational capability under ideal circumstances. Yet this is the same missile that, because Iraq has had the audacity to rebuild associated factories bombed during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, the Pentagon and State Department would lead us to believe represents a real and imminent threat to regional peace and security. The Al-Samoud represents a threat to no one.

If the report of an Iraqi-North Korean-Sudanese axis proves to be accurate, at best it represents an attempt by Iraq to acquire missile technology for use by existing factories inside Iraq. It is somewhat ironic that the same factories Iraq is refurbishing today were under stringent monitoring by UNSCOM inspectors on the eve of Desert Fox. If anything, the information written by Mr. Safire reinforces how critical it is to get weapons inspectors back to work in Iraq. An effective monitoring system such as existed before Operation Desert Fox would be able to detect and interdict any effort by Iraq to illegally acquire missile-related technology. My personal experience proves this. The return of a viable weapons-inspection regime to Iraq should be the overriding priority of the United States and the Security Council, even if this means trading the lifting of economic sanctions. With inspectors back in Iraq, the world would be able to rest easier and not be absorbed in bouts of unsubstantiated missile madness.

SCOTT RITTER

Hastings, N.Y.

Scott Ritter was an UNSCOM weapons inspector from 1991 to 1998.

Why the increase in Ritalin-popping children?

The statements of "Hillary Ritalin Clinton" (Editorial, April 2) expressing reservations about "the hasty, practically automatic prescription of psychiatric drugs to troubled toddlers" has prompted both a White House study and a consensus "so solid that one has to wonder how this prescription craze came about in the first place." Like many other solutions to nonexistent problems, money, particularly federal money, was involved.

Two federal programs may be responsible for the skyrocketing diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD). The Supplemental Security Income program hands out cash to low-income parents whose children are diagnosed as having ADD, which the government accepts as a learning disability. Also, hundreds of dollars in special-education grant money is awarded to schools each year by the Department of Education for each child diagnosed.

The private sector is not blameless. Experts who certify such disorders receive extravagant annual retainers from pharmaceutical companies that profit from the promotion of disorders treatable by the companies' medications.

Since the government began funding schools and families for ADD children, Ritalin sales have tripled. Before those programs, growth in ADHD diagnoses was flat. Since then, they have shot up 21 percent a year. The United States uses 90 percent of the world's supply of Ritalin, and use and production is up by 700 percent since 1991. This has followed an explosion in the number of American children diagnosed with ADD in the past few years. In 1996, 10 percent to 12 percent of all American schoolboys were taking the addictive Ritalin.

There is a growing tendency to regard as mental problems many characteristics that are really aspects of individuality. Individuality is politically incorrect. In children, it is considered a disease. The criteria for children to be diagnosed as having ADHD, according to the standard textbook on psychiatric disorders, include 14 activities such as fidgeting, squirming, distraction by extraneous stimuli, difficulty waiting turns, blurting out answers, losing things, interrupting and ignoring adults.

Ritalin is, in fact, a cure for childhood. It does to children what the government and the experts would like to do to all of us. It makes them sit down, shut up and follow orders.

DANIEL JOHN SOBIESKI

Chicago

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Your April 2 editorial "Hillary Ritalin Clinton" missed a very important aspect of the overprescription of Ritalin and other mood-altering drugs: money.

In November, nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin made the money connection when she described two federal policies that stimulate the exploitation of children for whom these drugs are prescribed. The first is payment of Supplemental Security Income benefits to children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). (Remember SSI's "crazy checks" scandal?) The second is the creation of a $400-per-head school grant for every ADHD-diagnosed student.

To your suggestion that the programs put forth by the White House "would actually seem to be laying the groundwork for making their widespread usage in the future all the more acceptable," I can only say, count on it.

JOHN F. BILLING

Ocean Pines, Md.

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The feeding frenzy has begun. A political target has been acquired, and Hillary Rodham Clinton along with others, such as columnist Arianna Huffington, are trying to capitalize on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a brain-chemistry malfunction afflicting a large number of American children.

ADHD is not, as you put it in your editorial, a hastily diagnosed variety of behaviors. It is real, it is heartbreaking, and it responds to the proper medication in a unique fashion.

It's obvious Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Huffington don't have any loved ones with this heartbreaking condition. They are typical of the bandwagon opportunists. I would like to suggest that they and all the other meddlers who may have been blessed with "normal" children spend more time on their knees thanking God and less time making a difficult situation worse.

T.E. TAYLOR

Phoenix

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