More than 100 Santa Barbara citizens filled Victoria Hall
Thursday night in anticipation what Jeff Cohen and Scott Ritter had
to say about the United States at war in Iraq and the
allegedly imminent attack on Iran

is a former intelligence commissioner for the Marines, a
ballistic missile advisor, and a security and military consultant
for Fox News. For seven years he worked for the United Nations
Special Commission as an Iraq weapons inspector and was involved
with the same group responsible for finding weapons of mass
destruction before he resigned in 1998. Since his resignation,
Ritter has become outspoken on U.S. policy toward Iraq. He has also
remained a “card-carrying Republican,” however, and voted for
George W. Bush in 2000. In 2002, he criticized the Bush
administration’s claims of WMDs and the reasoning that lead to the
invasion of Iraq the following year.

Scott Ritter

For his Santa Barbara address, Scott
Ritter’s target was Iran, while he promoted his most recent book,
Target Iran: the Truth about the White House’s Plans for Regime
. However, the attendees of the event were apparently
unimpressed with Ritter’s Republican status, which elicited at
least one boo from the audience. He bounced back quickly, though,
by refuting the significance of labels like party affiliations.
“There’s only one thing that says who we are,” professed Ritter,
“…It’s the constitution.” In a later statement he said, “If you
want to identify the greatest threat to the
, it is George W. Bush.”

By the time Ritter had declared that the United States is in
fact going to war in Iran, the hall was dead
. He declared that the Democrats are not going to do
much to stop the progression towards Iran because Congress “has
already given power to the president,” citing the War Powers
resolution passed less than a week prior to his speech. He also
said that there was very little separating the Democrats of
Congress to the Republicans. “Facts simply don’t matter and that’s
the problem,” he said.

Jeff Cohen

And the room continued to be silent when he made another claim:
Iran does not pose a threat to the United States
of America.” Ritter was referring to one technological hurdle Iran
has yet to overcome in making a nuclear bomb. Iranian uranium is
contaminated with a metal that as of now cannot be removed. If the
tainted uranium is used, the bomb will not work. Ritter explained
that the ignorance of the much of the American public is what has
gotten the United States into Iraq and will get the country into
Iran. “After 9/11, people went brain dead,” he said.

His talk of Iran preceded an already heated
recap of Iraq, or rather how much of the news about Iraq has been
suppressed by mainstream American media outlets. Jeff Cohen, formerly employed by
CNN and MSNBC among other cable news stations, recently released a
new book: Cable News Confidential. Most recently he worked
on Phil Donahue’s MSNBC show that was cancelled just weeks before
American troops landed in Iraq. A memo from inside of NBC indicated
Donahue was terminated because it “represents a difficult
public face for MSNBC in a time of war.” The reason given to most
individuals was that it was hardly watched. Donahue was
one of the news network’s least watched shows up until February
2003, the month it was cancelled, and the month before war with
Iraq began. In that month it experienced not only its highest
amount of viewers—at around 446,000 on average—but the highest
numbers of any show on MSNBC. Cohen claimed that if motives for war
are questioned, “Then you’re not ready for TV.”

Cohen said that the mainstream media networks are “strict
corporate hierarchies.” A conservative company such as General
Electric — which owns NBC — could not support a show such as Phil
Donahue’s because it was questioning what the Bush
administration did not want to be questioned
. He also
reminisced about a time he tried to book Scott Ritter on Donahue
and was told he would need three conservatives to counteract
Ritter. And Cohen said this is just one instance of news being
suppressed. The audience chuckled when he said that there was no
need to explain arrogant media owners, remembering that Santa
Barbara is the home of the now-infamous Santa Barbara
and Wendy McCaw.

Jeff Cohen ended his speech by noting the emergence of blogs and
independent media. “There’s a lot of good news in the media, and
the corporate media is going down the toilet faster than you can
say Anna Nicole Smith,” he assured the audience.

Ritter ended his talk by saying, “We no longer have the luxury
of sitting back and doing nothing.” He received a standing ovation
by the crowd.

The event was sponsored by the Fund for Santa Barbara,
Progressive Democrats of Santa Barbara, and the Gray Panthers of
Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara’s public access channels were also
covering the event for a broadcast at a later date. Zac Estrada
is an intern at the


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