Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld Guilty of War Crimes – Ambassador Joe Wilson’s Last Interview pt2/6

On Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay:

Amb. Joe Wilson says the militarists that ordered the Iraq war should be prosecuted in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In this segment, Wilson tells the story of the lies behind the famous 16 words of Pres. Bush’s State of the Union.

Wilson says he believes it possible that Bush/Cheney knowingly allowed 9/11 to happen.

Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA officer by VP Cheney’s office after Wison exposed lies that lead up to the Iraq War. The story was depicted in the movie “Fair Game”, Wilson was played by Sean Penn. Joe Wilson died Sept. 2019 PT (02/06)

Transcript

Paul Jay

Welcome back to Reality Asserts Itself I’m Paul Jay. We’re continuing our discussion with Ambassador Joe Wilson. So, Ambassador, in the days leading up to the Iraq war, the U.N. passes resolutions to find out if there are, in fact, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There’s some evidence that Saddam actually wanted people to think there was. It turned out it was a bluff. The inspectors do go in, and they start saying we’re not finding anything.

 And Hans Blix is saying to the CIA and the U.S. government that, you know, if you know where they are, because you say they do, will then tell us and we’ll go find them. And it’s getting clearer and clearer that there aren’t any, and there, in fact, is no imminent threat to the United States. So where are you when this is happening? And as you start to see what’s unfolding, how do you decide what your role is in this? 

Joe Wilson

Well, I was in the middle of the debate. I got in the debate  in June of 2002. And again, my sort of position was, if we’re going to go to war, we have to have a reason to go to war. There’s got to be a real threat to our national security. That’s just the way we’re supposed to do wars. We’re not supposed to be parading our troops around the world willy nilly.

Paul Jay

 It’s also international law. 

Joe Wilson

It is also international law. And so during the run up in this debate, we got the inspectors back in, and they were producing their reports. And anybody who sort of followed Iraq from the Gulf War on knew that we had known from the mid 90s that there was nothing to the nuclear program that that had all been destroyed. I think there was a reasonable basis to assume they still had a chemical weapons program because we’d seen their use of chemicals during the Iran-Iraq war and mustard gas and chlorine. It’s not that hard to manufacture.  I think it was reasonable to worry about a biological program.

     But certainly on the nuclear side, which is the one real strategic weapon that everybody knew, there was nothing to it. So I thought at the time, because they were clearly pounding the drums of war.

Paul Jay

 They being– 

Joe Wilson

They being the neo conservatives and Cheney and his acolytes and the juggernaut that ended up producing this war. And I thought that, one, we didn’t have an international consensus on the use of all possible means to engage Saddam Hussein this way. If you recall at the end, Tony Blair came to the White House, and I don’t know, March or April, and they were in the Rose Garden. And Bush said to Blair that after we’re done with Iraq, we’ll focus on the Palestinian crisis. And I happened to be on CNN at that moment. They asked my reaction. I assume they’re not going to go to the U.N. to get a second resolution, that basically that’s the deal that was cut. Bush would support what Blair needed, which was to be able to tell his people that we were still concerned about Arab-Israeli issues in an exchange that we didn’t have to go to the U.N. to get a resolution for the use of all appropriate means to achieve our objectives, which would allow– 

Paul Jay

 And without that resolution, the war is illegal. 

Joe Wilson

And without that, the war was essentially, it was illegal. 

Paul Jay

Are you in government at this time? 

Joe Wilson

No, no. I was out of government. I left government ’98.  I got into a debate really as a concerned citizen. I thought I was doing, exercising my responsibility as somebody who knew something about the issue and who had a point of view that I thought was relevant to the discussion. 

Paul Jay

 So you had a particular credibility because in the end, you had supported the intervention in the first Gulf War.

Joe Wilson

Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. I would send that to my dying day. I mean, I think what we did in the first Gulf War was was exactly the way that you would manage an international crisis. It was an existential in nature, but using the international community, the U.N. system and an alliance of like minded allies to achieve your goals.

Paul Jay

And we’re going to talk about more about that in a future segment. 

Joe Wilson

Yeah. 

Paul Jay

 So you find yourself in this public debate. And then you get a call. 

Joe Wilson

No,  The call to go to Niger? That was before I got in the debate. I am in early 2002, there was all this intel that was being generated, that was being run up and down the stovepipe. And there was some talk that Saddam had somehow tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger. And I had a very special relationship with the Nigerian government at that time. I’d help them through a coup d’etat, an assassination of a president and restoration of their of their civilian government

Paul Jay

 You’d been posted there. 

Joe Wilson

I’d been posted there in ’76, but I was also in the White House when there was the overthrow military overthrow other governments in the—

Paul Jay

 Clinton White House and

Joe Wilson

 Clinton White House. And so I’d helped  the Nigerians work through that  process. And it’s a little bit arcane; but we’ve passed laws and European Union have passed laws that if there were the military overthrow of civilian governments, U.S. development assistance stops. And if you’re a Nigerian, you can’t survive without international assistance. And so they had the military coup, a military sort of established himself over the civilian government and they sent the civilian government off to see us to try and get their aid restored. And so I got into the process of helping them through the restoration of civilian government and took about three or four years. So my relationship was rather special. So when it came up that that that there was a document out there suggesting that they, the Nigerians and the Iraqis, you know, the Iraqis had tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger I was asked to go out there and talk to my the people I knew about it. In fact, at the meeting was all the kind of technical experts this was at the CIA. Anybody who knew anything about uranium,  and anybody who knew anything about Nigir and anybody who knew anything about Iraq. And one of the guys there was a Greg Thielman from the State Department, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the one bureau that actually had the best information on the threat that Iraq did not pose to the United States. And the memo that came out afterwards, which later was was used to to betray my wife’s identity as a CIA officer, also contained a rather telling sentence, which was there were two people in the meeting who said there was no need for me to go out to Niger because the embassy had understood everything that was going on in the uranium business there from the time that they’d opened their first mines in the early 70s. And those two people were Greg Thielman and myself. So we all  understood going into this that the trip out there was basically we were answering a question posed by the vice president because of some document that had come to his attention outside of normal, normal channels, 

Paul Jay

which was supposed to be like an invoice or something?

Joe Wilson

 It was sort of a memorandum of agreement and between the Iraqis and Niger 

Paul Jay

 or yellowcake.

Joe Wilson

 Yeah. And it was based on a trip taken to Niger by the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, a man who I had known for many, many years, a man by name, of  Wissam al-Zahawie,(?) who when I was in Baghdad was the deputy secretary, deputy foreign minister, and he went to the Vatican as his retirement posting, even though as the great diplomat he was, he could have had his choice of post.

     But he was also a world class opera singer and a huge fan of the opera. And so where else to have your retirement post then in the land of opera? And so he was at the Vatican and Iraq, like many countries say, they accredit their ambassadors to a number of different posts and have them based in one location. So we saw it happen to be accredited to all of West and Central Africa. And he made a trip down through West and Central Africa in two thousand, two thousand one, something like that. And the reason for the trip was to encourage African chiefs of  state to visit Sudan, to come to the international fair that they had there every year, because part of the restrictions that we tried to impose on Sudan after the Gulf War was international travel to Baghdad. And so he was trying to get chiefs of state to violate what we, the travel ban we’d imposed and try and give them some some status. And somehow during the course of that, a lot of people decided they would try and use that to suggest he was trying to buy uranium in Niamey.(?)

Paul Jay

This document, which is supposed to be this memorandum of agreement. You called and others have called forged. 

Joe Wilson

Yeah. 

Paul Jay

Who forged it? 

Joe Wilson

I don’t know. I don’t know.

Paul Jay

And then after you come back from Niger saying there’s no evidence that these documents are real, or there ever was such an agreement— 

Joe Wilson

And so I came back from Niger  and said there’s nothing to this story. That in fact, when I talked to the minister in charge of the nuclear business, of the uranium business, he said, “Yeah, that was an Iranian delegation that came by at one time and showed some curiosity, but that didn’t go anywhere. And the prime minister said, “Look, I was before I was prime minister, I was foreign minister. And before I was that, I was on the board of the uranium company. And if there’s one thing I know it is that we could not sell uranium to the Iraqis because of all the sanctions that were imposed. And and, in fact,  just wanted the president to go visit Sudan. That’s all the trip was about. But it got ginned up. And as it turns out, the memo on my trip, but mention that the minister had said the Iranians at one point expressed some interest, casual interest in the uranium business, and that ended up somebody in the system decided that I-R-A-N really meant I-R-A-Q, and it ended up being published in The Washington Post. That I’d come back and said that the Iraqis had, in fact, asked for uranium and I had to go in and correct them a little bit on that. That was really the Iranians, not the Iraqis. 

Paul Jay

So it was clear that this yellowcake thing was false. 

Joe Wilson

What I told the government when I came back was,”Look, you don’t have to take my word for it, but if you want to know anything more about this, don’t go back to Niger, go to France, because they’re the ones who are the managing partner. They’re the ones who are the operating partner

 of the Iranian, of the Iranian line. They’re five partners. They’re two different consortiums and five partners in each one. And in each one, the managing partner, the guys who actually have their hands on the uranium from the time it comes out of the mountain until the time it gets to the buyer are the French. So I said, “Go see the French. You know, they will know– they will have all the accounting.They will know all the books, will be able to to do everything. Because we were talking at that time about a 20 percent annual increase in the production of the mines in order to accommodate the so-called order that the Iraqis, that they were claiming the Iraqis were trying to execute. Now, in a place like Niger, a 20 percent increase in in the main sector of their economy is huge. It means more trucks on the road. It means more barrels. It means more shipping through the port cities of the coast of Benin and Togo. It means more revenue into the Ministry of Finances. That translates into more new cars for the bureaucrats and just more wealth flowing through the economy. You can’t hide that.

Paul Jay

So you come back. It’s clear to the CIA now that there’s this yellowcake thing. 

Joe Wilson

So I told him, go see the French. And about six months later, an old French friend of mine, a diplomat with intelligence ties comes to Paris or comes to Washington. And he’s saying at the French ambassador’s residence. He calls me and says, “I’d like to come by and see you. I said,”Sure. Come by for breakfast.” He comes by for breakfast the next day. He goes, “I just want you to know that after you made your trip to Niger, the CIA asks us what we thought about it, and we did exactly the same investigation you did, and we came to exactly the same conclusion. And we told the CIA that.

Paul Jay

Larry Wilkerson told me that when he was working for Colin Powell and State, they got to see President Bush’s next State of the Union. Saw those 16 words referring to the yellowcake and advised to take them out. And then Bush makes the speech,  and they’re in.

Bush

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” 

Paul Jay

Which is one of many absolute knowing lies.

Joe Wilson

Yep. 

Paul Jay

Now, perhaps a million people were killed in this Iraq war, and the devastation is not over today. Perhaps the biggest migration crisis on the planet. A society that’s been essentially destroyed. There’s been no consequences for any of these people that out and out lied the way to war. 

Joe Wilson

Yeah. They should be in The Hague. Basically. They should be being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. There’s no doubt in my mind, and I can tell you that, that some of my deepest friendships have been broken over the willingness of my interlocutor to cut these guys some slack. As I’ve said to people, you want to ride with war criminals, you don’t get destroyed.(?) This globe with me. It’s as simple as that. And they are. 

Paul Jay

And one of those war criminals is now the national security adviser to the president, the United States. 

Joe Wilson

Yeap.

Paul Jay

John Bolton.

Joe Wilson

Yep. And when he was at the State Department running his little Neo-Conservatives cell in his spare time, he was engaged in a in a ruthless character assassination campaign against me and my good name.

Paul Jay

When you got back and the yellow cake, after or after the story broke. Yeah. Greg Theilman, who you mention reported to Bolton, and Theilman told me a few years ago that three times, Bolton brought him in and says, “Where’s the weapons of mass destruction? And three times Thielman says, “Well, there aren’t any as far as we know. We’re pretty convinced there aren’t any now. And eventually, Bolton says to him.”Well, then we don’t need you at the briefings anymore.”

Paul Jay

 Bolton was there to make a fictitious case. 

Joe Wilson

Yep, that’s exactly right. 

Paul Jay

I’ve always had this idea that they weren’t,  they being the neo cons, weren’t entirely sure if Saddam didn’t have biological weapons, that maybe there were. And one of the things they needed to know before the invasion was to make sure there actually wern’t any, and one of the things the inspections did, by proving that there weren’t any. It said it’s actually OK to invade. What do you think of that? 

Joe Wilson

Oh, I think they were going to invade anyway. I think that the whole thing was just a ruse. I I don’t think anybody ever thought that the biological program, if there was one that existed, was big enough to get outside the sort of the experimental laboratory and biological weapons. There is a, there is sort of a natural limit to biological weapons effectiveness. If you unleash a biological weapon, you’re going to be sure you’re upwind. And there’s sort of a limit. You know, you can contain it. And the same thing with chemical weapons. 

Paul Jay

But the idea that they had. Colin Powell says they have Scud missiles pointed at Israel with biological weapons. They knew that was B.S. 

Joe Wilson

It was a juggernaut. They knew what they wanted to do from day one. I think Dick Clark’s got it exactly right when he talks about the first meeting and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld try and shift at first meeting after 9/11, and they try and shift from from Afghanistan to Iraq and Rumsfeld famously says, “Well, there’s nothing to bomb in Afghanistan. So we have to go to Iraq.”  And they were, and Wolfowitz, when they were up at Camp David that first weekend, Wolfowitz, with every step of the way changed the subject to Baghdad and Iraq. They had this in their mind from the get go.

Paul Jay

 The 9/11 created the context for it. 

Joe Wilson

It created the opportunity? Yeah.

Paul Jay

 So I interviewed Senator Bob Graham, who says outright, this is the senator who’s the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who was co-chair of the congressional investigation into 9/11. And he now out and out says that he thinks Cheney/Bush slash let it happen. They knew something was coming, and they had very close relations with Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States. And the 28 pages that finally got released from the congressional investigation, Bandar is all over these pages and his connection. There’s a fair chance, I mean, Graham certainly thinks Bandar had a direct connection.

Joe Wilson

Look, I have, I have enormous respect for Bob Graham. And he and have gone over this several times when we were both in Washington. And I have no reason to doubt his judgment.I just can’t take you that far.

Paul Jay

 If you are right that Bandar knew this was going on, then he’s sitting, meeting with his friend, President Bush, regularly in the days leading up to 9/11 and either not saying anything or somehow does. I mean, I know, you know, there’s a lot of theory, and, I think, a lot of evidence that it would at least require an inquiry. That was a deliberate attempt not to know. It’s not just lack of, it’s not just incompetency. I mean, to believe that it’s just incompetency, then you have to think it’s like the Keystone Cops of intelligence agencies. They’re just tripping all over each other.That seems hard to believe. 

Joe Wilson

Well, and also the fact that it was so pervasive, that virtually all of the agencies of the federal government were moving in the same direction from a customs agent at an airport in Orlando who was chastised when he denied entry in the United States, to a Saudi, to the president of the United States authorizing large numbers of Saudis to leave the country, possibly denying us, forever, important insights and information on what happened. You don’t have everybody moving in the same direction without there being a head coach somewhere who is giving them instructions as to where he wants them to move.

Paul Jay

So that includes before and after the events.

Joe Wilson

Primarily before the event. After the event it shifts from being in an action that supports the activities of the Saudis to actions that cover up the results of that permission given to the Saudis to act. 

Paul Jay

So could you explain, particularly this last  two couple of sentences, primarily before the event? After the event, it shifts from being an action that supports the activities to the Saudis, to actions that cover up the results of that permission given to the Saudis to act. So can you elaborate on that?

Joe Wilson

 Well, and and I’ll get to the why question. Why would the U.S. government have done this? And let me say, I no longer use the word, “cover-up” to describe what’s going on. I find more accurately the words, “aggressive deception.” The federal government has attempted to rewrite the narrative of 9/11 in order to exclude the role of the Saudis from that horrific story. And why did they do it? If you’ll recall, at the World Trade Center after 9/11, the president with a bullhorn said words to the effect that we are going to follow anyone who was found to have been in any way connected to this murder, and that we will follow them to the ends of the earth. Pretty strong words. And certainly shortly thereafter much of the information that you have outlined became available to the president.  Problem. The president wanted to go to war with Iraq, and he is painted at the site at the site of the crime, a path that looks like it’s going directly to the Saudis, but that’s not the destination he wants. So what do you do? You have to suppress all the information that would cause people to think that the Saudis were the people that he was talking about with a bullhorn at the World Trade Center and get the country prepared and willing to go to war against a country which was subsequently found out to have virtually, if not totally nothing to do.

Paul Jay

 Right. Bob, I know you have to leave. But so I just want to focus on this line. You don’t have everybody moving in the same direction without you being a head coach somewhere who’s giving them instructions as to where he wants them to move. And that’s in reference to me talking about the various examples of American intelligence agencies that, in fact, did generate intelligence that could have prevented 9/11 if it had been followed up. And I had asked you if there was a deliberate culture created to the American intelligence agencies of not wanting to know which which in itself could prohibit the sharing of information that people talk about. You mentioned to me in this interview that in the famous memo, bin Laden plans to attack the United States, that in the subsequent memo that usually goes out the heads of agencies, that that was admitted. Which one would think would have gone to head of agencies in order to take precautions. You mentioned the immigration, the border official who’s chastised. This was because there’d been a guideline handed down from the White House, if I understand it correctly, not to stop Saudis from coming into the country, even if under normal protocol, you would have stopped them. So who’s the coach?

Well, I think the coach is the president of the United States. He’s the only one who could have commanded the agencies from the Department of State, the Treasury Department, the intelligence community, to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to all act in the same manner because they are all ultimately responsible to the president.

Paul Jay

Let me ask you this, because when I’ve told people this, what Graham says and we’ve reported on this story, I get, most people react with. “Oh, come on. A vice president would never allow the killing of American citizens.” 

Joe Wilson

Yep. And I’m one of those who would have said that ten years ago, fifteen years ago.  I’m not sure. I can’t see that anymore. All right. Please join us for the next segment of our discussion with Ambassador Joe Wilson on Reality Asserts itself.

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