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When, Where Joe Wilson Changed His Story

On Saturday, March 8, 2003, CNN’s Renay San Miguel interviewed Joe Wilson:

 

CNN SATURDAY

Interview With Joseph Wilson

Aired March 8, 2003 – 15:00 ET

SAN MIGUEL: How could this happen? It is the perception that documents like these are vetted to within an inch of their life by intelligence agencies. How do you think this managed to slip by?

WILSON: Well, this particular case is outrageous. I actually started my foreign service career in Niger and ended my foreign service career doing — in charge of Africa in the Clinton White House. We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger, and for something like this to go unchallenged by U.S. — the U.S. government is just simply stupid. It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an embassy there since the early ’60s. All this stuff is open. It’s a restricted market of buyers and sellers. The Nigerians [sic] have always been very open with us.

For this to have gotten to the IAEA is on the face of it dumb, but more to the point, it taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq.

SAN MIGUEL: I was just going to ask you, I mean, I got the idea from your answer about this, but just how damaging is this to the U.S. case with the stakes being as high as they are?

WILSON: Well, you know what it’s like when you go into court. A prosecutor comes up with some evidence that is obviously false, it casts doubt on every other bit of evidence that he produces. And I think it’s safe to say that the U.S. government should have or did know that this report was a fake before Dr. ElBaradei mentioned it in his report at the U.N. yesterday.

SAN MIGUEL: There’s also another courtroom saying that, you know, lawyers like to say, never ask a question that you don’t know the answer to. That could play into this as well.

But Mr. ElBaradei did tell our Richard Roth today, during an interview, that the intelligence isn’t just coming from the U.S., that there were other countries involved. Which other countries do you think, and how is it that all of these intelligence agencies or intelligence agencies from these countries that were involved could be taken in by these forgeries?

WILSON: Well, the report I saw said that the Brits were involved. Maybe it was the British that passed this report on. I don’t know who else might have been involved, but I can tell you this: The report in "The Washington Post" today said — quoted a U.S. official as saying, "we just fell for it."

That’s just not good enough. Either he’s being disingenuous, or he shouldn’t be drawing a government paycheck.

SAN MIGUEL: So how do you play this, then? I mean, what, do you admit it, do you just move on? Do you try to get these things verified if you do believe, indeed, that Iraq was trying to buy this material from Niger? I mean, how do you handle this? What’s the damage control on this?

WILSON: I have no idea. I’m not in the government. I would not want to be doing damage control on this. I think you probably just fess up and try to move on and say there’s sufficient other evidence to convict Saddam of being involved in the nuclear arms trade. But Dr. ElBaradei yesterday was pretty clear. He doesn’t see that this is happening.

SAN MIGUEL: We’ll have to leave it there. Joseph Wilson, former acting ambassador to Iraq for the U.S., thank you very much for your time.

WILSON: Good to be with you.

That’s right. Even after the Nigerian forgeries were discovered, Wilson was saying there was "sufficient other evidence to convict Saddam of being involved in the nuclear arms trade."

And mind you Wilson said this also after Bush’s State of the Union Address, where he uttered those famous 16 words.

Now read Wilson’s rewrite of this CNN interview as presented in Vanity Fair’s loving profile of Wilson and Plame, " Double Exposure ":

On the weekend of March 8, a U.S. official admitted, "We fell for it," about the Niger documents. A signature on one letter, dated October 10, 2000, was that of a foreign minister who hadn’t been in office for nearly 11 years. Wilson appeared on CNN and told news anchor Renay San Miguel that he believed that if the U.S. government looked into its files it would find it had known a lot more about the Niger uranium story than it was now letting on.

As the transcript above shows, Wilson never said any such thing. Why did Wilson feel the need to lie about this to Vanity Fair?

As the record shows, on March 8, 2003 Wilson believed that the US had been fooled by the forgeries but that there was other evidence to indicate that Niger was selling uranium to Iraq.

(Oddly enough, Wilson does not list this March 8th, 2003 CNN appearance on his painfully detailed list of on-camera credits.)

Continuing the VF article:

Wilson has since heard from someone close to the House Judiciary Committee that it is believed that Cheney’s office started to do a "work-up" on him at that moment. (An official in Cheney’s office says, "That is false.")

Wilson claims his CNN interview was the impetus for Cheney’s plot to expose his (non-covert) wife. The trouble with this theory is that Wilson did not say anything that would have hurt the administration whatsoever.

In fact, up to this point in time Wilson had never complained about Bush’s State of the Union address nor any of the administration claims that Saddam was dealing in uranium or that he had weapons of mass destruction. Despite having had numerous opportunities on TV and in print to do so.

Such as in this interview with PBS’s Bill Moyers:

NOW with Bill Moyers

Transcript. Bill Moyers Talks with Joseph C. Wilson, IV. 2.28.03

MOYERS: President Bush’s recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute, he said, let me quote it to you. "The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away." You agree with that?
 
WILSON: I agree with that. Sure.
 
MOYERS: "The danger must be confronted." You agree with that? "We would hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed. The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat." You agree with that?
 
WILSON: I agree with that. Sure. The President goes on to say in that speech as he did in the State of the Union Address is we will liberate Iraq from a brutal dictator. All of which is true. But the only thing Saddam Hussein hears in this speech or the State of the Union Address is, "He’s coming to kill me. He doesn’t care if I have weapons of mass destruction or not. His objective is to come and overthrow my regime and to kill me." And that then does not provide any incentive whatsoever to disarm. 

Notice that Wilson had no complaints with Bush’s State Of The Union Address. He made no mention of the "16 words." In fact, it’s clear he still believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, Wilson claimed to be opposed to the war in Iraq only because he was certain Saddam would use weapons of mass destruction on our troops if we invaded.

As he spelled out again in this February 6, 2003 editorial in the Los Angeles Times:

A ‘Big Cat’ With Nothing to Lose

Leaving Hussein no hope will trigger his worst weapons, U.S. envoy in historic ‘90 meeting warns

By Joseph C. Wilson
February 6 2003

There is now no incentive for Hussein to comply with the inspectors or to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction to defend himself if the United States comes after him.

And he will use them; we should be under no illusion about that.

And this was still Wilson’s view apparently up until the beginning of May 2003. In fact, Wilson’s first public mention of anything to the contrary occurred on May 2nd.

As noted by the Washington Post:

Probe Focuses on Month Before Leak to Reporters

The first public mention of Wilson’s mission to Niger, albeit without identifying him by name, was in the New York Times on May 6, in a column by Nicholas D. Kristof. Kristof had been on a panel with Wilson four days earlier, when the former ambassador said State Department officials should know better than to say the United States had been duped by forged documents that allegedly had proved a deal for the uranium had been in the works between Iraq and Niger.

The Vanity Fair piece picks up the thread:

In early May, Wilson and Plame attended a conference sponsored by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, at which Wilson spoke about Iraq; one of the other panelists was the New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof.

Over breakfast the next morning with Kristof and his wife, Wilson told about his trip to Niger and said Kristof could write about it, but not name him. At this point what he wanted, Wilson says, was for the government to correct the record. "I felt that on issues as important to our whole society as sending our sons and daughters to kill and die for our national security we as a society and our government have a responsibility to our people to ensure that the debate is carried out in a way that reflects the solemnity of the decision being taken," he says.

Kristof’s column appeared on May 6.

So what happened between March 8th and May 4th to make Wilson change his tune about the Iraq’s WMD and re-write his findings from his trip to Niger? (A version in direct contradiction to what he told his CIA debriefers, according to the 9/11 Commission.)

The answer is easy. The US invaded Iraq in March, and after searching for two months, admitted they had not found any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

But it was only after this admission by military and administration officials that Wilson decided it was safe to step forward with his newly invented claims that Bush had lied us into war.

Sadly, we have no details as it would seem all records of this May 2nd conference have been expunged from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee’s otherwise thorough website.

Every other conferences, including those immediately before and after this date, are listed. But there seems to be no extant record of this historic meeting.

However, a few months later this same Senate Democratic Policy Committee conference would be taking up the weighty issue of the "outing" of Joe Wilson’s wife by a vindictive administration.

From the SDPC’s website:

It is a testament to the committee’s desire for truth that they happened to call before them three members of Ray McGovern’s crackpot Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The mission of VIPS is to encourage intelligence officers to break their oaths and the law, and leak secrets to hurt our efforts in Iraq and our national security in general.

From the Associated Press:

Ex-CIA Accuse Bush of Manipulating Iraq Evidence

Monday, March 17, 2003

WASHINGTON — Invoking the name of a Pentagon whistle-blower, a small group of retired, anti-war CIA officers are accusing the Bush administration of manipulating evidence against Iraq in order to push war while burying evidence that could show Iraq’s compliance with U.N demands for disarmament.

The 25-member group,  Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, composed mostly of former CIA analysts along with a few operational agents, is urging employees inside the intelligence agency to break the law and leak any information they have that could show the Bush administration is engineering the release of evidence to match its penchant for war

It’s is also telling to see Senator Rockefeller in attendance. One would suspect that Christopher Mellon, the reputed author of the " Rockefeller Memo," was there as well.

Anyway, it is clear on the evening of May 2, 2003 at a Senate Democratic Policy Committee conference, Joe Wilson changed his tune.

Within days he would be working working for the Kerry campaign as a senior foreign policy adviser. There were even reports that he would be Secretary of State in a Kerry administration.

Alas, this was not to be, as Wilson was dropped from the Kerry camp and his "Restore Honesty" page expunged from the Kerry website on the very day the 9/11 Commission Report came out, which called Wilson a liar.

But do note what Wilson said on his "Restore Honesty" blog:

But I wasn’t ready to keep quiet when this President misled the nation in his State of the Union Address. Because of that, leakers in the Bush White House illegally revealed that my wife worked in the CIA – endangering her life and that of my family. They tried to intimidate me and others who were willing to speak up and tell the truth.

Bush delivered the State of the Union Address January 29, 2003. After it, Wilson gave several interviews, including the one noted above, where Bill Moyers asked him directly about the SOTU address. Wilson said he agreed with Bush.

Then we he had the CNN interview on March 8th, where he was directly asked about the lack of evidence of WMD in Iraq and the Niger forgeries. Wilson replies that there is sufficient other evidence that Saddam was dealing in nuclear materials.

Wilson never got around to giving voice to his outrage at Bush’s misleading of the country until three months later.

Only after the US had admitted it hadn’t found any WMD in Iraq. And only after he had met with top Democrats in the Senate and appeared before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. And days before he signed on with the Kerry campaign.

It seems very likely some powerful Democrats promised Wilson he would get some high level position in a Kerry administration. And Wilson was willing to lie his head off and play along, hoping to be the next Secretary Of State. (Or, failing that, at least to get him and his wife some ridiculously overpaid book deals.)

And just as the "Rockefeller Memo" foretold, the Democrats used Wilson’s lies to damage the administration’s efforts in Iraq.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Monday, May 8th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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