April 30, 2004
Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, Author of "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity."
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Okay, for the umpteenth time, let's get this straight: In order to send a message to any Bush Cartel whistleblowers and truth tellers, Karl Rove or Scooter Libby (or both) authorized the outing of a CIA operative. But this wasn't just any CIA operative. This was a woman who specialized in tracking the illicit trade in Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Well, the WMD-specializing outed CIA agent was Valerie Plame. Why was she outed and our national security threatened by the Bush Cartel? Because her husband, Former Ambassador Joe Wilson, had the temerity to reveal that the Bush Cartel mischaracterized a key piece of alleged (i.e., phony) evidence that Saddam Hussein was purchasing nuclear material from the nation of Niger (not to be confused with Nigeria).
So, America's national security has been jeopardized because a man who showed heroism in the diplomatic corps told the truth about the Bush Cartel and the Bush Cartel sought revenge.
The story is mind boggling, and it is even more tragically ironic as you read the details in this personal memoir by Ambassador Joe Wilson, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity-A Diplomat's Memoir."
Ambassador Joe Wilson is, like Richard Clarke, one of the heroes of our time.
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BuzzFlash: You have a new book coming out titled, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wifeís CIA Identity." Could you start off by telling us a little bit about whatís in your book and why you decided to write it?
Ambassador Wilson: The book is the story of my foreign service career, which included service in Iraq during the first Gulf War, as well as many other postings in Africa and in Europe. And of course, it deals a lot with the debate and the run-up to this second war in Iraq, and the positions that I took in the run-up to the invasion.
I guess the part that everybodyís interested in is the trip I took out to Niger on behalf of the Administration, to check out whether there was any truth to the allegations that Iraq had attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium. I detail what the Administration did or rather did not do with my report from Niger, and how I responded to what I felt was a lie in the Presidentís State of the Union Address that needed to be corrected. I did my civic duty and held my government to account for statements it had made. The government acknowledged that the sixteen words about Iraq purchasing uranium from Niger did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union Address. And then the Administration went out to savage my family and myself.
BuzzFlash: You were a member of the diplomatic corps for many years. In fact, the first President Bush praised you for your heroism and your work when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Ambassador Wilson: Thatís correct, and he made me an ambassador to two African countries.
BuzzFlash: Tell us what was your experience like in Iraq at the time just before Saddam invaded Kuwait in the first Gulf War?
Ambassador Wilson: I was based in Baghdad, and I was in charge of the embassy. Our ambassador, April Glaspie, had left the post on vacation and consultations. We were watching as the Iraqi troops started massing along the Kuwaiti border. We were giving it our best shot to corroborate information. We had Saddamís assurances that he had no intention of invading Kuwait so long as there was a negotiating process ongoing. And then, of course, he violated that pledge that he had given to Ambassador Glaspie.
Shortly thereafter, the Iraqi government took about 150 Americans hostage and about 400 hostages in total from other countries including French, British, Japanese, and Germans. We went around and offered another 65-70 Americans safe harbor in our diplomatic quarters, and we housed them and fed them, and took care of them so that they would not be taken hostage by Saddam. And then we worked for the following six months between the invasion of Kuwait and the sort of counter-attack which we called Desert Storm to get all Americans out of harmís way. And we were successful. We lost two Americans over those six months Ė one who was an employee of the embassy who died of a cerebral hemorrhage the night of the invasion of Kuwait, and the other was an American businessman who died of a heart attack several days after the invasion.
BuzzFlash: People such as yourself who make a career in the State Department are known as people who donít rock the boat. Letís talk about what compelled you to write the column in The New York Times that dispelled the Niger uranium accusation that Bush included in his State of the Union Address. You had to know before you submitted that column that there would be consequences both personally and professionally.
Ambassador Wilson: First of all, I had been retired for several years from government. But secondly, with respect to this idea of diplomats not rocking the boat, I think itís important to understand that the American diplomatic service is full of people who are patriots, and who serve their country with great distinction. These people carry out their governmentís foreign policy irrespective of which party happens to be in power at any given time. Now that means that they are generally very bright and very knowledgeable about the practicality of doing international relations and foreign policy, since most of them spend a good part of their career overseas.
I wrote my article only after I had given the government several months, both in terms of talking to people close to the Administration, as well as some people within the Administration, and by talking on background to the press. I urged the government to come clean with this story that was patently not true. I did so because I fully understood that it is a penchant of this Administration, and it is a modus operandi of Karl Rove, to attempt to destroy the messenger who brings bad news.
It was important that the government correct the report that Iraq obtained uranium from Niger. And it was important that if, in fact, the government was going to come after me, which I fully understood they would, that the story was fully understood by the American people before they in fact destroyed the messenger. In urging the government to come clean on this Niger business, I was doing nothing more and nothing less than any American has been taught from social studies in seventh grade -- it is the responsibility of any American citizen in our democracy. We have checks and balances, and we have rights, and we have protections to ensure that we hold our government accountable for its actions. And thatís exactly what I was doing.
Now understanding that they would come after me, I didnít feel that I had anything personally to worry about. After all, as you correctly pointed out, the former President Bush had called me an American hero and had written me any number of laudatory handwritten letters. What did shock me and I think shocks most Americans was what this Administration decided when they couldnít discredit me to their satisfaction. Somebody close to the President of the United States decided that in order to defend Bushís political agenda, that individual or individuals would violate the national security of the country and expose my wifeís name and her profession.
That was absolutely unexpected, that this government would take a national security asset off the table, working in an area that is of primordial importance to the national security of the United States -Ė the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction into the hands of rogue states and non-state actors. Yet for some reason, either because they wanted to discourage other people from stepping forward and telling the truth, or out of simple revenge, as was reported in the Washington Post, this government decided that it would go ahead and take that national security asset off the table.
It was truly un-American. It was a betrayal of the country, irrespective of whether they can prosecute this through conviction. It was treasonous and clearly the act and the subsequent pushing of the story, and trying to sort of promote this lie, was un-American in every sense of the word.
BuzzFlash: When the Administration falsely claimed that Iraq was seeking enriched uranium from Niger, I think some people in their minds didnít fully understand what that meant. It seems to me that most people thought that meant the transfer of a suitcase of highly explosive material or something. And in reality, what weíre talking about was a very large-scale operation.
Ambassador Wilson: Sure. Weíre talking about 500 tons that would have had to cross the Sahara Desert, been loaded onto a ship in West Africa, transported to some destination, and then further transported into Baghdad. Five hundred tons is a lot of poundage.
BuzzFlash: And essentially that could not happen without somebody noticing something, right?
Ambassador Wilson: Thatís correct. And I lay all that out in the book and why I concluded that it could not have happened.
BuzzFlash: Right now, the Department of Justice investigation into the national security leak that exposed your wife is in the hands of a U.S. prosecutor from the Northern District of Illinois. And Attorney General Ashcroft has claimed that he is no longer involved in the case. Is there anything that you can add about the status of the Department of Justice investigation, since thereís essentially been no real media coverage of this important national security issue?
Ambassador Wilson: Let me just say that the investigation is in the hands of the professionals. The prosecutor is a career prosecutor whom I hold in the highest esteem, and the FBI people who are looking into this are also professionals. So long as theyíre handling it, I know for a fact that theyíre doing everything they can to get to the bottom of it. Now the fact that they havenít yet been able to get to the bottom of it suggests that there is a fair amount of covering up and stonewalling going on over at the White House, despite the Presidentís claim that he wanted his senior government officials to cooperate. Either he has no control over them, or theyíre just simply not doing it.
Weíre not talking about hundreds of senior government officials in this case. Weíre talking about a few who have both the means -- i.e., a national security clearance that gives them access to the sorts of conversations, and the building, where they might find these secrets -- and the motive and political agenda to carry this out. And finally that they have sufficient seniority that a senior reporter in Washington would actually listen to what they had to say.
BuzzFlash: You are a member of a club of individuals that include Richard Clarke, John OíNeill, John DiIulio -- people who have come forward to tell the truth about the Bush Administration, and then are smeared as liars. It seems that thereís something Orwellian about this practice. And the Bush Administrationís strategy is clearly to attack the messenger and not refute the message. Whatís your advice to other individuals who are thinking of coming forward with information that they think would be vital for the American public to know about the Administration?
Ambassador Wilson: Iíll tell you the ones that Iím most proud of, as I look out at this, are the Jersey girls -- the widows of those Americans who gave their lives in the World Trade Center. These brave women have insisted since 9/11 that the U.S. government come clean on what it knew before the attacks and what it might have done to prevent this from happening. I think that they have been profiles in American courage. And it sickened me when I saw them savaged by Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard in a television appearance, and then subsequently in a Wall Street Journal editorial by Dorothy Rabinowitz.
But what I have to say to people who might come forward is that one of the great things about our democracy is freedom of the press. And if we donít exercise that, we run the risk of losing it. One must always keep oneís government under control. The government serves the people -- not vice-versa.
BuzzFlash: Do you think that the Bush Administration is just exercising raw brute power by trying to silence people like yourself or is there some greater good that they foresee in trying to strike voices such as yours down?
Ambassador Wilson: Itís hard to see what greater good they achieve by lying to the American people and then ruthlessly trying to destroy those who call them on their lies.
BuzzFlash: Youíre continuing to speak out on behalf of the truth and democracy. And the White House would want you to just go away into your private life. After everything youíve been through, how do you forge on when the attacks on you are relentless?
Ambassador Wilson: Because this is my country, and it is a great country, and the American people have every right to know what their government is doing and what their government has done with the false pretenses under which this government launched this war on Iraq. And trust me when I tell you that once this battle is won, I have every intention of retiring back to private life.
BuzzFlash: Ambassador, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
Ambassador Wilson: My pleasure.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
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