Testimony of retired Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV
Good morning. It is an honor to appear before this gathering to discuss the so-called 'Downing Street Memo' of July, 2002, and the assertion contained therein that in the Bush administration, 'the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy' to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.
I served my country as a diplomat for almost twenty-three years, including tours in Niamey, Niger, and in Baghdad, Iraq as Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d'Affaires, (acting Ambassador) during the Desert Shield phase of the first Gulf War. I was also appointed Ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe by President George Herbert Walker Bush, and concluded my public service career as Special Assistant to President Clinton and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. I am the recipient of numerous awards from the Department of State as well as the Distinguished Defense Service Award from the Department of Defense for my service as Political Adviser to the Commander in Chief of American Armed Forces in Europe during the deployment of American troops to Bosnia.
In February, 2002, I was asked by the CIA to meet with the American intelligence community officials charged with understanding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, in order to discuss an intelligence report that had caught the attention of the office of the Vice President. That report concerned the alleged sale of a significant amount of uranium yellowcake from the West African nation of Niger to Iraq. I was asked to attend this meeting because of my extensive experience in Niger and with the government that had been in power in the country during the time the supposed sale had taken place. Additionally, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported, I had previously traveled to Niger to look into other uranium related matters.
At the meeting, I was briefed that American intelligence had either seen or been briefed by a foreign intelligence service about the existence of documents purporting to be a memorandum of sale between Niger and Iraq. I did not see any documents, which I understand were not in the possession of the US government at the time of the meeting. At the meeting I was asked if I would consider traveling to Niger to try to find answers to lingering questions that analysts might have. That was the first time the suggestion of traveling to Niger was ever raised with me. There have been assertions that my wife, Valerie, a CIA operations officer in the counterproliferation area suggested, or recommended me for the trip. She did not. The CIA, a week after her identity was exposed by Robert Novak, told Knut Royce and Tim Phelps of Newsday that 'she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. 'They (the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story) were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising.
''There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up,' he (the CIA spokesman) said. 'I can't understand why.''
The CIA has repeated this denial to all who have asked since, included David Ensor of CNN and Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times. She was not at the meeting where the trip was raised with me.
There have been questions raised about why the CIA would send a 'known Bush critic' to quote Robert Novak to undertake this mission. My trip to Niger took place towards the end of February, 2002, almost six months before I first shared my concerns about the regime change by military action approach of the administration. I went to Niger because the questions raised by the intelligence report and the concerns of the Office of the Vice President were legitimate and needed to be checked out. This was not a partisan question but one impacting National Security. WMD exploding in American cities will kill Americans, not Republicans or Democrats, but Americans. Even when I did begin to question the administration's approach, as I first wrote in an article published in the San Jose Mercury News on October 13, 2002, I acknowledged the importance of dealing with the threat I, like so many, believed his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction posed to the region and to our own national security.
I traveled to Niger, spent eight days there meeting with former members of the Niger government and satisfied myself that their answers, coupled with the structure of the mining industry, about which I knew quite a bit, and the government decision making process made it highly unlikely that such a transaction had ever taken place. There were two other inquiries made at approximately the same time. Our Ambassador to Niger at the time, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick and the Deputy Commander in Chief of US Armed Forces in Europe, Marine Corps General Carlton Fulford who also traveled to Niger reported that it was highly unlikely that such a sale had occurred. There were, accordingly, three reports on the subject in the files of the US government by mid March, 2002. Parenthetically, there are those who have questioned my qualifications to make the inquiries, noting that I am not a CIA officer, nor an expert on WMD. Those assertions are true. I am, however, an expert on Niger, and know quite a bit about uranium mining in Africa, having served in three countries in Africa in which uranium is mined, including as Ambassador to Gabon where the mining industry structure is similar to that in Niger. Uranium yellowcake is the result of the separation of ore from the rock in which it is found. It is a mining question, not a nuclear weapon question. My particular value added to the US government's understanding of the issue was my knowledge of the country, its mining industry and my long relationship with key players in Niger's politics. Quite simply I knew them far better than our Ambassador who had arrived during the transition to a new government.
I reported back to the CIA, after having also briefed the Ambassador and embassy officials in Niamey, and went back to my private life.
In January, 2003, the President in his State of the Union address, uttered the now infamous sixteen words: 'The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.' At the time, I was mildly curious about the assertion but, given that three other countries produce uranium ' South Africa, Namibia, and Gabon ' I did not immediately conclude that the President had been speaking about Niger. I did take the initiative to call the State Department Bureau of African Affairs to remind them of my trip and to suggest that if the President had been speaking about Niger, either he had information about which I was not aware or else the record needed to be corrected. I was told that perhaps he had been speaking about another country. Unbeknownst to me, the State Department, in December, 2002, had published a paper in which it claimed that Saddam had failed to come clean on his efforts to purchase uranium from Africa in the declaration submitted to the United Nations as required by UN Security resolution 1441. However, the Niger claim was quickly removed from subsequent iterations of the US bill of particulars against Iraq, because it was not credible.
After the publication of the State Department paper, and again after the President's State of the Union address, it has been reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asked the US government for information related to the charges made. After the second request, documents purporting to be the memorandum of sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq were delivered to the IAEA.
In March, 2003, Dr. Mohamed El Baradai, the Director General of the IAEA testified to the UN Security Council that the documents had been deemed by that agency to be forgeries. His Deputy, Jaques Baute, had been even more candid, commenting that they were so replete with errors that a two hour search on Google would have sufficed to discredit them. The US government, in response, was a statement that 'We fell for it.'
It was at that point that I became aware that the President's State of the Union assertion was based on the Niger claim.
For the next three months, I privately urged the administration through contacts and third parties to correct the record. I also shared what I knew with Nick Kristof of The New York Times and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post, as well as with several Democratic Senators and I met with the staffs of the House and Senate Intelligence committees. I took the initiative for one simple reason. It is my firm belief that the most solemn decision a government in our democracy has to make is that decision to send our soldiers to die and to kill in the name of our country. In making that decision we deserve a debate based on facts, not on information that is thrown into the debate, not because it is true but because it supports a political decision that has already been made.
In mid-June, Condoleeza Rice, in response to a question from Tim Russert asserted with respect to what the White House knew about the Niger matter that maybe somebody in the bowels of the Agency knew something about it but nobody in her circle.
It was clear to me then, and later confirmed by a senior State Department official, that if the truth were to come out, I would have to write it myself. I did so in an article published in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, entitled 'What I Did Not Find in Africa.' In it, I wrote 'The question now is how that answer (to the question of Niger uranium sales to Iraq) was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (thought I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses' At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.'
I further wrote in the same article: 'America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor 'revisionist history,' as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.'
The next day the White House acknowledged to The Washington Post reporter, Walter Pincus, that 'The sixteen words did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address.' Within days it became clear that the Director of Central Intelligence had warned the administration nearly four months before the State of the Union not to use the Niger claim and that the President not be a witness of fact because, as he subsequently testified, the case was weak and the American intelligence community believed the British had exaggerated the claim. Indeed, at roughly the same time Mr. Tenet was sending faxes and telephoning the White House, in early October, 2002, his Deputy was telling the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the American Intelligence community believed the British had stretched the case on African uranium sales to Iraq. Steven Hadley, then the Deputy National Security Adviser offered to resign when the evidence of the phone calls and faxes from the DCI became public and Rice even offered an apology to Gwen Ifill of PBS.
At the same time, of course, the administration launched a campaign to defame and discredit me by compromising the identity of my wife as a CIA operative. Whatever damage the administration and its allies in the Republican National Committee and the right wing echo chamber have done to my family and me, however, it is nothing compared to what has been done to our soldiers and their families with this war. Now with the publication of the so-called Downing Street memo, as well as the subsequent documents that have appeared in the British press, it is increasingly clear that 'the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy' and that we sent our troops to war under dubious pretenses.
We are having this discussion today because we failed to have it three years ago, in the run up to the war. It would appear from the information that has been made public over that past two years, including the Downing Street memo, that the administration may have been less that candid with Congress as it considered that most important of decisions ' voting to go to war. Even today, however belatedly, it is an important dialogue as it touches on everything a democracy stands for. It used to be said that democracies are difficult to mobilize for war precisely because of the nature of debate required in the run up to such a decision. Indeed that is one of the reasons often put forward for championing progress towards democratic governance. If the administratoin circumvented that requirement for open debate before going to war with Iraq, then the American public needs to understand why if we hope to avoid making the same mistake again.
At the same time we must not take our eye off the ball in Iraq. The situation is a mess, and by all accounts not soon to improve. We were told in the run up to the war that there would be fewer than 30,000 troops in Iraq within a year of the invasion. There are four times that many there now. We are now told that we must stay lest the country fall into sectarian violence. But it is in the midst of sectarian strife as we speak and there is no reason to believe that our departure now or five years from now will change the nature of that violence. Our continued presence will, however, guarantee more American deaths and more people who hate us for what we have done and from whose ranks increasing numbers of terrorists will be drawn. I don't have the answers but I do believe that the time has come for us to ask the question: Is our presence in Iraq part of the solution or part of the problem? And in answering that question, I believe we should elicit the views of Iraq's neighbors, our allies, the international community at large and experts in this country and not just the same cabal of ideologues whose policy prescriptions foisted upon a frightened nation in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy of 9/11 have been shown to be terribly flawed. Thank you.
Posted on Sun, Oct. 13, 2002
San Jose Mercury News
How Saddam thinks
By Joseph Wilson
President Bush has made his preference clear: He wants Saddam Hussein's scalp, or at least wants him run out of town -- an approach that virtually ensures a bloody American invasion and long occupation of Iraq. And Congress late last week gave the president broad authority to launch that war, with or without United Nations involvement.
The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, is pursuing a business-as-usual policy, reluctant to put any teeth into the possible resumption of weapons inspections until Saddam cheats yet again.
Both the U.S. and U.N. approaches are dangerously flawed. They ignore crucial lessons we learned in the Persian Gulf War about how Saddam thinks.
If history is any guide, ``regime change'' as a rationale for military action will ensure that Saddam will use every weapon in his arsenal to defend himself. You need look no further for evidence than his use of chemical weapons to repel Iranian invaders during the Iran-Iraq war. As the just-released CIA report suggests, when cornered, Saddam is very likely to fight dirty.
But history also shows that the less-confrontational approach favored by some on the Security Council -- France and Russia -- isn't likely to work, either. Saddam has, after all, repeatedly flouted U.N. resolutions and ignored its demands to let weapons inspectors back into the country for almost four years.
Twelve years ago, I was in charge of the American Embassy in Baghdad. On Aug. 6, 1990, four days after the invasion of Kuwait, I met with Saddam for nearly two hours and listened to him gloat at the overthrow of the Kuwaiti government and threaten to ``spill the blood of 10,000 American soldiers in the sands of the Arabian desert'' should we counterattack. Over the next several months, my staff and I worked day and night to try to persuade him not just to leave Kuwait, but also to allow Americans in Kuwait and Iraq to go home and to release the hundreds of foreign hostages, including Americans, whom he had taken as ``human shields.'' The lessons we gleaned during that period are applicable to today's looming conflict.
What we learned firsthand is what the CIA psychiatrists have said for years: Saddam is an egomaniacal sociopath whose penchant for high-risk gambles is exceeded only by a propensity for miscalculation. Those psychiatrists, who study the characters of world leaders, believe that he suffers from what is popularly called ``malignant narcissism,'' a sense of self-worth that drives him to act in ways that others would deem irrational, such as invading neighboring countries.
But the trait also makes him highly sensitive to direct confrontation and embarrassment, even as he is contemptuous of compromise.
`In your face' approach
Shortly after the invasion, I met with my senior staff to game out possible outcomes, given the history of Iraq in times of conflict. When the monarchy was overthrown in 1958, foreigners, including Americans, had been dragged from their hotels and hanged in public. At the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, a visiting delegation of Iranians disappeared in Baghdad, never to be seen again. Our conclusion was that some of us attending that meeting would not survive.
We also recognized that the traditional diplomatic methods had not worked; Ambassador April Glaspie had been severely, albeit unjustly, criticized for not being tough enough in her meeting with Saddam just days before the invasion. What she did at that meeting was follow longstanding instructions from Washington to urge, but not demand, that Iraq's dispute with Kuwait over border and oil issues be settled diplomatically. She then left for official business in Washington.
After the invasion, those of us still at the embassy opted for a confrontational ``in your face'' approach opposite to diplomatic convention, but well-suited to Saddam's understanding of the world. Whenever Saddam tried to garner international sympathy or support, we pushed back hard. Saddam would never yield to traditional diplomatic persuasion, because he equates compromise with weakness. Therefore, we let no action go uncriticized and sought to embarrass him whenever possible, to shame him into concessions.
The first test of this approach came when Saddam tried to portray himself as a host rather than hostage-taker when he appeared on television with a young British boy and his terrified family. We immediately issued statements that true Arab knights, as Saddam liked to be called, did not hide behind women's skirts -- mocking his masculinity. Our comments were broadcast to the world and repeated by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in a speech. Just days after Thatcher chided him, Saddam released all women and children. While we could never prove cause and effect, we knew we had succeeded.
Later, when the Iraqi government circulated a diplomatic note threatening to summarily execute anybody harboring foreigners -- at a time when the embassy was providing refuge to 125 Americans stuck in Baghdad -- I wore a hangman's noose in lieu of a tie to a news briefing. I shared the note with the international media and told them that if the Iraqis wanted to execute me for protecting Americans, I would bring my own rope.
The Iraqis were furious at my black joke and harangued me publicly. Then they withdrew the diplomatic note -- another indication that Saddam was thin-skinned in the face of aggressive opposition.
At one point, Saddam sought to justify the invasion of his neighbor as a step toward the liberation of Palestine and, in a particularly ludicrous assertion, he claimed to be the champion of the Muslim world against the Christian infidel capitalists. We countered that several hundred thousand Muslim Pakistanis, Indians and Sri Lankans were languishing in Iraqi refugee camps. Within days, Saddam released all of them.
As we applied these tactics to the task of attempting to reverse the invasion of Kuwait, we understood that the only way to try to avoid a war was to be credible in threatening one. Saddam had announced the annexation of Kuwait on Aug. 8, but by the end of September he was squirming, trying to retain as much of his conquest as possible as we kept beating the drums of war.
We told Saddam that the United States had accepted the fact that the men he was still holding hostage would be killed and convinced him that they were not of any worth to him. On the contrary, we said, they were a liability; if the Iraqis brutalized any of them, American outrage could well trigger a war to avenge the mistreatment.
He released the hostages in early December. Our entire embassy staff and virtually all other foreigners who wanted to leave also were allowed to go before the start of war.
In each case, taking a tough stand worked.
In the end, of course, the United States didn't succeed in peacefully dislodging Iraqi troops from Kuwait. But in the days leading up to Operation Desert Storm the United States again took a confrontational approach that may well have prevented an even deadlier war.
A week before the United States launched the assault on Iraqi forces in Kuwait, Secretary of State James Baker met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Geneva. Throughout December it had become clear that Saddam would fight a military battle that he knew he would lose, calculating that in defeat he could still win the political war. In a region that feels deeply the humiliations it has suffered over centuries at the hands of imperialists, conquerors and more recently Israel, merely standing up to the West is considered a victory.
It fell to Baker to try to deter Saddam from using chemical or biological weapons. In the meeting, Baker made it clear that if Iraq attempted to defend itself in Kuwait by using weapons of mass destruction, the United States would respond by ``eliminating the current Iraqi regime'' -- a not-so-veiled reference to a nuclear strike.
During the war, Saddam launched Scud missiles against Saudi Arabia, set fire to the Kuwaiti oil fields and did everything he could to draw Israel into a broader conflict. But he did not use chemical or biological weapons against our troops. In the end, he prized his own survival above all.
You could argue -- and some liberals have -- that deterrence alone could work again now, and that neither war nor tough inspections are needed. But effective deterrence requires that world leaders issue ultimatums backed by the credible threat of force, which they have not been willing to do so far.
Build on experience
So the question remains: Can we disarm Saddam this time without risking a chemical attack or a broader regional war that threatens our allies?
The answer, I think, is yes, but only if we reject the approaches favored by many in the Bush administration and by France and Russia, and build instead on the experiences of the gulf war.
An aggressive U.N.-sanctioned campaign to disarm Iraq -- bolstered by a militarily supported inspection process -- would combine the best of the U.S. and U.N. approaches, a robust disarmament policy with the international legitimacy the United States seeks. Secretary of State Colin Powell is pushing the Security Council to adopt such an approach.
But he will have to overcome French and Russian concerns that other harsh demands in the U.S.-British draft resolution leave Saddam little room to save face and avoid war.
One of the strongest arguments for a militarily supported inspection plan is that it doesn't threaten Saddam with extinction, a threat that could push him to fight back with the very weapons we're seeking to destroy. If disarmament is the goal, Saddam can be made to understand that only his arsenal is at stake, not his survival.
Our message to Saddam can be simple: ``You are going to lose your weapons-of-mass-destruction capability either through the inspections or through a sustained cruise-missile assault on the 700 suspicious sites the United Nations has already identified. If you rebuild them, we will attack again. And if you use weapons of mass destruction or attack another country in the region, we will destroy you and your regime.'' The decision to live or die then becomes his to make.
The ultimate lesson of the gulf war may be that when offered the choice, Saddam will sacrifice almost everything before sacrificing his own life or grip on power.
JOSEPH WILSON was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 1988 to 1991. He also served as special assistant to President Clinton at the National Security Council and as ambassador to Gabon. He wrote this article for Perspective.
July 6, 2003
What I Didn't Find in Africa
By JOSEPH C. WILSON 4th
Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as charg' d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and S'o Tom' and Pr'ncipe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.
It was my experience in Africa that led me to play a small role in the effort to verify information about Africa's suspected link to Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs. Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake ' a form of lightly processed ore ' by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.
After consulting with the State Department's African Affairs Bureau (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the United States ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the C.I.A. paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.
In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90's. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.
The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq ' and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.
I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.
(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors ' they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government ' and were probably forged. And then there's the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)
Before I left Niger, I briefed the ambassador on my findings, which were consistent with her own. I also shared my conclusions with members of her staff. In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the C.I.A. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.
I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. (I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion.) In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam Hussein and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.
The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.
Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.
The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.
I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program ' all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
Joseph C. Wilson 4th, United States ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.