Weapons of mass self-destruction

The uncomfortable truth about populist hero and former U.N. official Scott Ritter, charged in a child sex sting

Topics: Broadsheet, Scott Ritter,

You don’t expect a respected public figure like Scott Ritter to get snared in a child sex sting. The 48-year-old former U.N. weapons inspector has been greatly admired for his vocal criticism of the Bush administration and the Iraq war. A man of his integrity and intelligence — you’d hope he’d be better than that.

And yet, according to the criminal complaint filed against him, an officer posing as a 15-year-old girl named Emily was allegedly contacted by Ritter in February in an Internet chat room. He  asked “Emily” her age and for a photograph and then sent her a link to his Web cam and started masturbating. At one point he again asked her age. When the officer answered, Ritter said “he didn’t want to get in trouble” and turned off the camera, but he was quick to add that he was “fantasizing about fucking [her].” The officer responded, “guess u turned [the camera] off np.” Ritter replied, “you want to see it finish,” turned the camera back on and climaxed on cue.

This isn’t the first time Ritter, a father of twin 16-year-old girls, has faced such shudder-inducing allegations. In June of 2001, he was caught allegedly trying to meet up with someone he believed to be a 16-year-old girl to masturbate in front of her, but the case never went to trial. He was reportedly caught in a similar situation with someone he thought was 14 years old a couple months prior but was never charged, according to the New York Post.

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This doesn’t exactly sound like the populist hero who called foul on the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had WMDs. But as Maia Christopher, executive director of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, told Broadsheet: “People feel more comfortable assuming that you can pick out who has what kind of sexual behavior based on how they look or their standing in the community.” And as Daniel Bergner, author of “The Other Side of Desire,” which in part tells the tale of a middle-aged stepfather who makes sexual passes at his 12-year-old stepdaughter online, wrote in an email, the uncomfortable truth is that “Ritter’s desires don’t make him especially strange let alone monstrous — a look at all our advertising that eroticizes teenage bodies will attest to that.”

What sets Ritter apart, though, is that he allegedly pursued and acted on these desires, and in a shockingly reckless manner. He must have known just the risk at hand — given his previous arrests and the fact that a former chief U.N. weapons inspector sure knows a thing or two about surveillance — and he allegedly did it anyway. Some will inevitably see this as monstrous or mindless, but there’s no denying it’s the behavior of someone with a profound need for treatment. As Bergner told Broadsheet: “It’s pretty clear he needs better help than he’s been getting.”

Tracy Clark-Flory
Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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