Joseph Wilson on Bush Crowd: "A Real Threat to Our Republic"
Joseph Wilson is the author of The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity (Avalon Publishing Group, 2004). Joseph Wilson is a political centrist, was a career United States diplomat from 1976 to 1998. During Democratic and Republican administrations he served in various diplomatic posts throughout Africa and eventually as ambassador to Gabon. He was the acting ambassador to Baghdad when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. In February 2002, he investigated reports of Iraq’s attempt to buy uranium from Niger. In October 2003, Wilson received the Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Joseph Wilson was interviewed by Lori Price with Michael Rectenwald, Ph.D., of Citizens For Legitimate Government on 6 July 2005. The transcript of that interview follows.
Citizens For Legitimate Government: Thank you so much, Ambassador Wilson, for doing this interview with Citizens For Legitimate Government. It's very much appreciated. Thank you, also, for all you have done for this country. We have your book, The Politics of Truth, linked to CLG's 'Books CLG Recommends' page.
Mr. Ambassador, when you listened to George W. Bush's speech in January of 2003 and his mention of the 'yellowcake from Niger,' did you think that he was lying or simply that he was misled?' I know you gave a formal response to the New York Times in the July editorial ["What I Didn't Find in Africa "], and in subsequent interviews, but I wonder if the word "liar" crossed your mind at the time, or thereafter.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson: At the time of the State of the Union, I had no idea the President was referring to Niger. Remember, his statement was 'the British government have learned that Saddam Hussein recently attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa'. There are four countries in Africa that produce yellowcake, so he could have been speaking about one of the other three. It was only in March when it became apparent that Niger was the country in question that I came to understand that the administration had misstated the facts. To this day, I don't know whether the President lied or was misled. I don't expect him to be a fact checker on every detail in the State of the Union but at the same time he did say that he was responsible for every word in the speech. It is clear that the administration was intent in making the nuclear threat case (How many times did we hear, "we cannot afford to wait for the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud"?) The administration was required by the use of force authorization resolution passed by congress to convince itself of the gravity of the WMD threat, and the nuclear case was the one they pushed.
The pressure was sometimes subtle, like asking analysts the same question
thirty times until they received the answer they wanted and sometimes
heavy handed such as the several trips Cheney took to the agency to
press analysts to find something. And the administration also set up
separate cells within the bureaucracy to stovepipe information directly
to the White House bypassing the normal analysis channels. That may
be how the yellowcake information came to the attention of the VP. The
problem with the cell structure is that much of the information they
passed up the chain was completely bogus. A cursory analysis by the
intelligence community would have kept a lot of that bogus information
out of the decision-making loop. Instead, the falsehoods formed the
foundation of the case for invading, conquering, and now occupying Iraq.
is clear from the Downing Street Memos that the administration decided
to go to war with Iraq far earlier than generally assumed. The administration
did not even request a national intelligence estimate before making
its decision (the request came from Congress). The cherry-picking of
the intelligence, the lack of analysis, the use of information that
was so clearly disputable or unrealistic and known to be so, lead me
to conclude that the administration consciously misled the Congress
and the American people. Yes, it lied to justify the invasion of Iraq.
the administration misled the American people was why I spent so much
time in the last campaign working to defeat the administration. We settle
political questions at the polls. Regrettably the administration's continued
lying secured its victory. I believe that the congress should exercise
its oversight responsibilities and hold hearings in to the lies and
deceptions of the administration. For once the Republicans, who hold
control of both Houses, should put their loyalty to the Constitution
and their oversight responsibilities above partisanship. I doubt that
they will which leads really to the need to defeat them in the next
JW: I would
not presume to speak for the President's underlying motives. I heard
him say that 'after all Saddam tried to kill my dad' and I have heard
the oil arguments, the protecting of Israel, etc. But I think that the
best explanation came from Bill Kristol in a debate we had in Texas.
He said it was all about changing the political dynamics in the Middle
East. The problem is war breeds extremism, as we clearly see, and those
are not the dynamics we wanted to change to. If it was for oil, we surely
screwed up as two years after the fact, Iraqi production is flat. If
it was for Israel, it is hard to see how we have made it more stable,
since the hatred we have spawned is intense and the instability that
has resulted from our invasion cannot reassure Israel that its neighborhood
is now safer.
Halliburton was a motivator or a beneficiary is a good question. One
thing is clear in war: there will always be some who will profit from
the misery of others. Churchill once advocated and may have passed a
law limiting profits of defence contractors in time of war to 10% to
stop the war profiteering. Halliburton should welcome such a law here
to put an end to the speculation about its role and unseemly profits
at the expense of others. I am not holding my breath however.
large amounts of cash are involved there are sticky fingers. But I am
not privy to this or any other specific expenditure. Congress should
certainly be looking in to it.
is disheartening to see the extent to which we were prepared to stretch
the truth in order to justify the war. It is a breach of faith with
our armed forces and it ultimately undermines our Constitution.
JW: I think
the media has let the country down. It has been totally co-opted by
the administration. I think it is a combination of the hangover of 911,
coupled with aggressive intimidation by the administration and the right
JW: I was
obviously upset. After all, they compromised the identity of one of
their own national security assets. How dumb, and how mean. I feared
for my wife and kids as any husband and father would. As to my own safety,
after one has faced down Saddam Hussein, as I did in the first Gulf
war, it is hard to take Karl Rove and his motley crew of school yard
bullies very seriously as a physical threat.
JW: I wrote
in my book that there was a conspiracy in the white house to find out
everything they could about me and then use it against me. I think the
logical place to look for the conspiracy is in the White House Iraq
Group (WHIG), which included Rove, Scooter Libby, Karen Hughes, Ari
Fleischer and others. I don't know who among them might have been the
leaker or authorized the leak.
law calls for ten years and a substantial fine. I think that is appropriate.
He is a senior adviser to the President of the United States, after
JW: I have
obviously followed the inquiries into 9/11 and I know Dick Clarke and
Rand Beers very well but I am not an expert. I look to the "Jersey Girls"
who have so assiduously pushed the case in the memory of their late
husbands, for real understanding. I have great admiration for them and
for what they have done. They are not satisfied, so neither am I.
is a radical regime, not a Republican administration. It is the most
oppressive crowd I have ever seen and is a real threat to our republic.
While I am not an expert in elections I can see how people might believe
the last two elections were stolen. The lesson for the Democrats is
to stop rolling over and stand up for what you believe in. The Republicans
believe the Democrats and the press are soft and can be pushed around
and that is what they are doing. To the detriment of us all.
CLG: What do you see happening with the Bush Administration - recently, the 'I' word (impeachment) has appeared in the mainstream media. Do you see the impeachment as a possible fate for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and/or other key players of the Bush Administration?
is unlikely that Republican-held Houses of Congress are going to open
an inquiry unless they suddenly decide their Constitutional oversight
responsibilities trump their partisan loyalties. I am not holding my
you so much, Ambassador Wilson, for your time.
Update from Joseph Wilson, 06 July, 2005 3:23 PM EST
The sentencing of Judith Miller to jail for refusing to disclose her sources is the direct result of the culture of unaccountability that infects the Bush White House from top to bottom. President Bush's refusal to enforce his own call for full cooperation with the Special Counsel has brought us to this point. Clearly, the conspiracy to cover up the web of lies that underpinned the invasion of Iraq is more important to the White House than coming clean on a serious breach of national security. Thus has Ms Miller joined my wife, Valerie, and her twenty years of service to this nation as collateral damage in the smear campaign launched when I had the temerity to challenge the President on his assertion that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa.
The real victims of this cover-up, which may have turned criminal, are the Congress, the Constitution and, most tragically, the Americans and Iraqis who have paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly.
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