By John Harley

Delivering an earnest speech from the pulpit on U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Iran to a packed church of Santa Cruz’s most ardent anti-war activists, Republican Scott Ritter found his audience enraptured and largely in agreement with his message—despite his political affiliation.

Ritter’s political trajectory has been an interesting one. Working as the Chief United Nations weapons inspector for Iraq from 1991 to 1998, he has since become a leading voice in the anti-war movement.

Speaking with ease to his captivated audience, Ritter sought to answer his own rhetorical questions regarding Iraq.

Of U.S. military forces in the country, he asked, “Why are they there, and what are they doing?”

According to Ritter, the recent surge of U.S. troops to Iraq, which has been praised by Republican Congressman Tim Walberg after his recent tour of the country, has not solved any of Iraq’s existing problems.

“We don’t have a clue what we are doing in Iraq,” Ritter said.

When asked about the aggressiveness of current U.S. foreign policy, Ritter replied, “As our population increases there is an exponential increase in our consumption of the world’s resources. The demands of our foreign policy feed our addiction to the world’s resources.”

A former media pundit, Jeff Cohen, who is also founder of a national media watchdog group called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), preceded Ritter at the meeting.

While touching upon media blunders from Iraq and abroad, he wove in biting criticism of the mainstream media, asserting that they led the nation into war based on false pretenses.

“The motto of the mainstream media,” Cohen said, “seems to be ‘we will get fooled again.”’

After Cohen’s assault on corporate media, Scott Ritter began his talk in support of the previous speech’s message.

“I am just disgusted with the mainstream media,” Ritter began. He continued by providing steps for the average person to synthesize information for themselves, rather than relying on television networks and news outlets.

“God bless Google,” Ritter said, praising the search engine’s ability to bring information from abroad to the fingertips.

The event was well-received by its Santa Cruz attendees. According to one UC Santa Cruz student (who wished to remain anonymous), “Events like these are beneficial to the community, especially when important issues are on the table like Iran and Iraq. It’s nice to know that some political authorities have agreeable views on foreign policy.”

The event was sponsored in part by Media Watch, a group fighting commercial media, and was represented at the event by its founder and director, Ann Simonton.

“I don’t believe that any media that has a commercial alongside it is unbiased, and that is very unfortunate,” Simonton said. She went on, like Ritter, to encourage people to seek out information on their own.

Jeff Cohen echoed these sentiments and summarized the evening’s central theme best when he stated, simply: “Don’t take the mainstream media lying down.”