By Citizens for Legitimate Government
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.
CLG: Do you think that the Bush Administration pressured the CIA, as the 'Downing Street Memo' put it, to "fix" the facts around the policy about the war in Iraq?
JW: Absolutely. 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.
CLG: If you answered yes to the above question, do you think the Bush Administration lied to justify the invasion of Iraq?
JW: It 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.
CLG: If you answered yes to this latest question, what, if any, consequences should follow?
JW: That 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 two elections.
CLG: As Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about male domination in the late 18th century, "[n]o man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, which is the good he seeks."
Does this explain the push for war in Iraq by the Bush team? Did they really believe they were doing the right thing for the US and the world? Or, was there some less noble objective in mind from the start? In short, what do you think was behind Bush's obsession with Iraq? Was it Bush's personal antipathy for Hussein? Was it oil? (After all, maps of Iraq's oil fields were part of the Cheney secret energy team papers that were finally turned over, thanks to Judicial Watch's suit.) Was it a broader geopolitical objective--privatizing water rights, gaining oil and protecting Israel? Did it involve allowing key contractors to make a tremendous amount of money that could not - and will likely never - be accounted for? Was it all of the above or something else entirely?
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.
CLG: Halliburton recently was awarded a $72 million-dollar 'bonus' for its 'no-bid' work in Iraq and a 30-billion dollar contract to build another prison at Guantanamo Bay. Do you think Halliburton's ties to Dick Cheney could have been one of the motivating factors behind the Bush/Cheney push to invade Iraq, or is this just an added bonus, a fringe benefit? Or, are some Democrats merely making this contract into a political hotcake when there is no 'there there,' as Halliburton officials claim?
JW: Whether 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.
CLG: It was reported on 21 June 2005: $2.4 billion in $100 bills was sent to Baghdad. What do you suppose happened to this money? Is this simply part of the spoils of war, or do you think the recipients of this money were connected to the contractors, who are (however tangentially) connected to the administration?
JW: Wherever 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.
CLG: Did you know about the "Downing Street Memo(s)" prior to its/their release?
CLG: What do you think of that part of the 'Downing Street Memo' that focuses on the revelations that the Bush Administration was trying to make the 'evidence' fit the 'crime' (a term suggested by CLG Founder and Chair, Michael Rectenwald, Ph.D., back in 2003? "The only WMDs are those of the so-called 'coalition' forces, exploding like the evidence in search of the crime.") [*See: March 30 Anti-W-ar Rally Pittsburgh Speech, by Michael Rectenwald.]
JW: 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.
CLG: Why do you think the mainstream media, the cable news networks and the pundits waited until the *middle of June 2005* to report on the 'Downing Street Memo,' which was published by The Sunday Times on 01 May 2005? (CLG reported this story early on 02 May 2005.) Was this just pure laziness,
lack of interest, or as the Washington Post claimed, 'old news?' Or was it something else? Did the White House try to cover it up with some sort of threats to the media outlets?
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 wing.
CLG: OK, getting to some of the nitty-gritty of the matter: What was your personal feeling about Robert Novak illegally revealing the job function of your wife, Valerie Plame? You must have been understandably very angry. Did you fear for your wife's life? Did you fear for your own life?
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.
CLG: Who did you think was the source of the leak to Novak? Did you think that Rove was involved prior to the latest news? Do you think that Rove was indeed a source or the source?
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.
CLG: Do you feel that reporters Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of The New York Times should have turned over their documents regarding the Plame affair? Do you think Novak is more to blame, since he actually revealed the identity of a covert operative's name? Or are the sources the only ones to blame? (I don't want to drag you into a 1st Amendment discussion here, just your general sense of the matter).
JW: No Comment.
CLG: What punishment if any would you recommend for the person(s) who leaked
the memo, if they are found guilty?
JW: The law calls for ten years and a substantial fine. I think that is appropriate.
CLG: Do you think Rove should explain his role in the outing of Valerie NOW, as some House Democrats are insisting, rather than hiding behind lawyers even before any legal charges are brought (if indeed they ever are)?
JW: Absolutely. He is a senior adviser to the President of the United States, after all.
CLG: Do you think that Rove will really ever face any consequences for the Plame outing (or for anything else for that matter)?
CLG: I can't let this moment pass without asking you about 9/11 and the Bush Administration. Do you notice any oddities about how the Bush Administration handled the events, the aftermath or the investigation of 9/11? Do you see any holes in the government's explanation of events? (Obviously, we at the CLG do. See our page: http://www.legitgov.org/9_1_1_oddities.html .)
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.
CLG: When all is said and done, do you see the Bush Administration as a run-of-the-mill Republican Administration, or do you see it as something different, something a bit more 'sinister?' A lot of us are of the opinion that the Bush 'regime' is illegitimate and we feel that Republicans stole the election for George W. Bush in 2000. And many people think that the Republicans stole Ohio and therefore the election for Bush in 2004. If you look at the independent research, statistics indicate a pattern of serious incongruities between exit polling and the official results in key states that used electronic voting. Do you care to comment?
JW: This 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?
JW: It 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 breath.
CLG: Thank you so much, Ambassador Wilson, for your time.
--Lori Price and Michael Rectenwald, Ph.D.
Update from Joseph Wilson, 06 July, 2005 3:23 PM EST
Statement of Joseph Wilson on the sentencing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller
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.
Lori R. Price is General.Manager, Citizens For Legitimate Government.
Michael D. Rectenwald, Ph.D., is Founder and Chair, Citizens For Legitimate Government.
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