Ambassador Joseph Wilson spoke about his life and the difficult times he has had to endure since the war in Iraq began at a speech given at the University Student Union Performing Arts Center.
He talked about his life since he wrote his New York Times op-ed piece, entitled “What I didn’t find in Africa,” and since the public disclosure that his wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent.
Wilson spoke the same day it was revealed President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney allegedly authorized Lewis “Scooter” Libby to leak top secret intelligence estimates on Iraq to reporters before the war in Iraq.
“What was revealed today was troubling to say the least,” Wilson said during a press conference before the speech. “The idea that the president or the vice president of the United States would authorize a leak of information for political purposes ought to be troubling to all Americans.”
After the press conference, Wilson moved into the PAC, where a large crowd of students and professors welcomed him. He shook hands with several attendees before his speech April.
After generating laughs from the audience when he joked about Cheney shooting his friend, Harry Whittington, Wilson talked about his experience in Iraq from 1988 to 1991, which included negotiating the evacuation of 2,000 Americans who were in Iraq before the beginning of the first Persian Gulf war.
“Every American who wanted to get out of Iraq did,” Wilson said.
Wilson also told the story about how President George H.W. Bush called him a hero.
After working for the government, Wilson retired and went to work in the private sector, where he joked about the amount of money he made and the possessions he obtained. The joke that received the most laughter from the audience was this Jaguar that appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair.
Wilson said he enjoyed the private sector. He used the time to get married, having twins and developing a golf game. All that, however, changed in 2002.
“The drums of war were beating strong,” Wilson said. “They were beating with people who didn’t know squat about the region.”
Wilson went back into government work to offer his expertise in Iraq, he said. He felt he owed it to the soldiers to make everyone understand the consequences of war.
“It is not enough to tie yellow ribbons around oak trees and ‘say I support the troops,'” he said, adding that supporting U.S. troops really means not sending them into a war unless it threatens national security.
During the discussions about Iraq, Wilson offered an exit strategy for American involvement in Iraq. His first suggestion for the government was to “define the task.”
Wilson said he believes it is unacceptable for troops to be put at risk in this stage of the war. He suggests that the Department of Defense should figure out how many troops are truly needed.
One of Wilson’s main suggestions was that American troops stop killing Arabs. He said he believes it does no good and believes that the United States is essentially caught in a civil war between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
“It is not effective to bring freedom with an M-16 (rifle),” Wilson said.
Wilson also recommended that the United States be more focused on training Iraqi soldiers, offer legislative support, assist Iraq with intelligence and develop a system to find Al-Qaeda.
During the press conference, Wilson also gave his suggestions on how the United States should deal with Iran. Wilson said America needs to be “intensively diplomatic” with the Iranians.
“We also need concrete nations of support,” Wilson said. “Not just to take sides.”
After discussing Iraq, Wilson went into the “sexy stuff,” meaning he was going to talk about the story of how he and his wife became well known.
He discussed the reasons the Bush administration used for going to war, all of which he said were lies.
Wilson then talked about how he went to Africa to investigate the claims that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from Niger. He said those claims were untrue.
Wilson said he felt he had been ignored by the Bush Administration to the point where he had to write his now-famous op-ed piece in the July 6, 2003 edition of the New York Times.
Eight days after writing the article, Wilson’s wife, who is publicly known as Valerie Plame, was revealed as a CIA agent in a column written by Robert Novak.
Wilson said he believes the administration had three reasons for leaking this information. He said the first reason was to change the focus of him not finding any evidence of WMD’s to him being a disruptive and unpatriotic American.
The second reason, he said, was to scare other people so that they do not disagree with the administration, and lastly, for pure revenge.
Because of all the actions that this administration has taken, and because the Republicans control both the House and the Senate and are not doing anything about the war in Iraq, Wilson said he plans to campaign for Democrats in the fall.
“This administration has highjacked the Republican party,” Wilson said at the press conference. “Until otherwise, I will most likely vote for a Democratic candidate. I will not even vote for a Republican to be a dog catcher.”
Justin Satzman can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.