Ambassador lashes out against Bush administration

Joe Wilson will accept both credit and praise for his work as an ambassador in Africa.

But when former Hinckley director J.D. Williams called him a national hero for blowing the whistle on the Bush administration’s logic for going to war in Iraq, Wilson said he was only exercising his civic responsibility.

The former ambassador and husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson encouraged one of the largest crowds the Hinckley Institute of Politics has seen in recent years to stand up for their beliefs-whether those beliefs are opposing the city’s approval of a bar down the street from an elementary school or against an administration taking a country to war on what he called twisted intelligence.

“Good citizenship makes democracies more vibrant,” Wilson said, adding that good citizens are responsible for confronting the government on decisions that are antithetical to the Constitution and for exercising patriotism.

Going into Iraq

On July 6, 2003, Wilson wrote an editorial for The New York Times titled “What I didn’t find in Africa,” after investigating, in 2002, the supposed exchange of uranium yellowcake-ore that can be used in nuclear weapons-from Niger to Iraq in the late 1990s.

Though Wilson reported he was unable to confirm such an exchange, the administration and the country went to war with Iraq. Bush announced in the 2003 State of the Union address that shipments of aluminum tubes-which can sometimes be used in centrifuges to nuclearize uranium yellowcake-had been intercepted and Iraq was trying to purchase certain ingredients from Africa.

It was then that Wilson lost the respect of the executive branch. He quickly transformed from the “hero” George H. W. Bush had labeled him after returning from Africa in the ’90s, to an outspoken George W. Bush critic.

“We’ve squandered 45 years of leadership in this fiasco,” Wilson said of the Iraq war, warning that we may now be at the beginning of the second 100-year war characterized by sectarian violence. “Bush betrayed the armed services of America who were killed and wounded as our reputation collapsed.”

Wilson added that the United States’ standing is now so low in some countries that it’s below the statistical margin of error, which he said makes it impossible for the United States to lead because, “if you hope to exercise leadership, you better have followership.”

Wilson, the last U.S. diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein, said the Iraq invasion was organized under five false justifications: Saddam had weapons of mass destruction; there were ties between Saddam and al-Qaida; Saddam could give WMDs to terrorist organizations; America had the responsibility to bring democracy to the Iraqi people; and overall national security was at stake.

“We needed a debate based on facts, not on bits of information to support a political position,” Wilson said. “That’s where the administration let down?the world at large.”

Bush has classified chemical and biological weapons as WMDs, but Wilson challenged that mentality, saying only nuclear weapons should qualify.

“One would decimate an entire metropolitan area, and the administration understood that and built their case,” Wilson said, referring to the White House Iraq Group-an organization that was established to enhance the public awareness of Saddam’s threat and spin the war in a positive way.

Wilson said the administration began using scare tactics, repeating the slogan “We cannot afford to wait for the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

After he retired, General Tommy Franks was quoted in Cigar Aficionado magazine saying a nuclear attack in a metropolitan area could result in military rule.

“One would undermine 240 years of Constitution rule-the best experiment in self-government the world has ever known,” Wilson said. “The administration knew if they could make the nuclear case credible, they’d have all the support they wanted.”

Wilson also questioned the Bush administration from its inception and said it was focused on overthrowing Saddam before it even came into power.

He classified the administration as having three schools of thought within-a Wac-a-Mole mentality that sees a threat, bombs it back to the stone age and waits for a re-emergence (Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney); neo-cons who want an international force and to project power militarily (Paul Wolfowitz) and “delusional utopians” (Bush) who believe in democratizing with armed forces, which Wilson joked is difficult after angering off a population with shock and awe.

Though he’s upset at the Bush administration’s premises for war, Wilson said it’s premature to set a timetable for withdrawal, though the topic is important for long-term debate.

Where do we go now?

“We need to stop the bleeding first,” Wilson said. “We need to define the tasks and assign them. There needs to be a secure environment for rebuilding, and we can transfer control to civilians as it becomes safe.”

Wilson added that the administration needs to quit putting Americans in harm’s way unnecessarily and quit putting soldiers in a position where they unnecessarily target Arabs. He said the United States is currently killing Sunnis at the behest of Shiites-for our archenemies, the Iranians.

“I hope Iraq can field a national army. The U.S. shouldn’t take sides in what is becoming an Iraqi civil war,” Wilson said. “Unilaterally, we can’t bring the Sunnis and Shiites together. We need patrons,” the Iranians for the Shia and Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia for the Sunnis, along with Condoleezza Rice from Washington.

“If these people are not at the political table, you can be sure they’ll be in the camps of factions of militaries as the second coming of the 100-year war.”

Executive Director of the College Republicans U Chapter Brad Anderson said he thought Wilson’s assessment was naive.

Anderson said chemical and biological weapons are WMDs because of their widespread physical and psychological impact and added that today’s wars are fought in metropolitan areas, not on battlefields such as Gettysburg. He added that more rural areas are not immune to biological attacks because people infected with smallpox may travel across the country.

Executive Director of the State Federation of College Republicans Danielle Fowles said she wanted to hear a motive behind the lies Wilson accused the administration of telling.

She said Wilson’s assessment of aluminum tubes and yellowcake being exaggerated was unfair because, at the time, intelligence said it could be used for enriching, and it wasn’t until after the war commenced that the administration learned otherwise.

“That’s not a lie,” Fowles said. “That’s mistaken intelligence, and every other nation had the same intelligence.”

She said Wilson contradicted himself in saying we had a responsibility to train the Iraqi Army but should let them fight their own fight.

Former Hinckley Director Ted Wilson said he liked Joe Wilson’s style and his lesson in civic engagement.

“He was tough and showed you’ve got to be strong and stand up for what you believe,” Ted Wilson said. “That’s an important message for students to hear.”

U professor Tim Chambless said Wilson’s speech was a gift for U students because all the politicians he talked about are real people with whom he’s communicated and worked.

[email protected]