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Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV
Colonel W. Patrick Lang (Retired)
Acting U.S. Ambassador to Iraq during “Desert Shield”
and presently CEO of JC Wilson International Ventures Corporation
“A Conversation between a Military Strategist and a U.S. Ambassador on Post-War Developments in Iraq”
October 31, 2003

JOSEPH C. WILSON: The first line of my obituary used to read the last American Diplomat to meet Sadaam Hussein and of course it now reads the husband of the CIA spy who was outed by her own government and that is one of the three interesting debates that is swirling around me in Washington. It is the one over which I have no control whatsoever. The crime, if there was a crime committed was a crime against the national security of my country. It just happens to have my wife’s name associated with it. It happens to be an act that was done, an act that was taken either to make a political point or to defend and protect a political agenda at the expense of our national security.

It is also the one of these three debates where I take considerable issue directly with the President of the United States for his apparent non-chalance in dealing with this. It is not enough to say well, the Justice Department is looking into it or leaks happen all the time and we have a lot of Senior Administration officials and we might not find the leaker. This is not a bit of information. This is a person’s life and a person’s career. It is also the national security of our country and in particular, in the case of my wife, it is an individual who has spent a long career dealing with issues that are of very high priority to this administration and to me personally. Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue states or non-state actors, it is in fact it seems to me to be an issue that ought to be addressed as we address any other counter espionage type problem. It should not be fogged off as just another one of these Washington leaks. Because at the end of the day, if you look at this, the person who decided that they were going to make a political point at the expense of the national security of our country, that person or persons are still in place. If they were willing to do that yesterday, what is to discourage them from doing it again tomorrow?

The breach of trust and the people at the agency will tell you this, is between those who risk their lives to get the information necessary for us to do the sorts of analysis that Pat did in his distinguished career and do the sort of consuming of product I did during my less than stellar career to quote Casper Weinberger.

They really need to have their identities and covers protected. Otherwise, we will not be able to recruit people to do that job. So, I would encourage everywhere I go, the President and the senior officials in the Administration to get serious about this. Not necessarily because my wife is in danger or I am in danger, but because the national security of our country is compromised by this.

The other two great debates that are going on right now, I call them how do we get in this mess in the first place and how do we get out of it? Let me talk a little bit about how we got in this mess in the first place.

I believe that this administration has materially misled the US Congress, the International Community and by ascension, the American people. The little piece of this that I own of course is the trip to Niger and the infamous sixteen words that showed up in the President’s State of the Union address.

I went and undertook this trip in February of 2002, just to refresh everyone’s memory. It was long before I ever contributed to John Kerry’s campaign. I undertook the trip at the request of my government. I undertook it because a question had been raised at the highest levels of our government as to whether or not Sadaam had perhaps broken out of his box and was seriously trying to reactivate a program designed to develop nuclear weapons. It was a legitimate question. It deserved a legitimate answer. I was asked to go because I have a unique set of experiences to bring to the table on this issue. I had served there in the mid 1970’s. I had retained many ties and friendships including with the Niger Ambassador to the United States for the subsequent twenty-five years. When I was senior director for Africa at the National Security Council in the mid 1990’s, the government that was in place at the time of these purported documents covering the memorandum of agreement for the sale of Uranium from Niger to Iraq, that was the government that was in place when I was in the White House. I had worked very closely with them to try and move what was at the time a military’s dictatorship back to the Democratic side of the ledger. So, I knew these guys intimately. They were in Washington all of the time. I was out there both in government and in African government helping them. In fact after the President, the military dictator had been assassinated, I went to see his successor and at the request of some of my friends there and some of the colleagues with whom I had been working, I went to see the new military dictator and I told him in no uncertain terms, that the only way he was going to get out of this mess, not just alive, but perhaps with a chance to restore his own personal honor, and the honor of his organization, the Presidential guard that had been responsible for the assassination of his predecessor. The only chance he had was to get out and effect a change back to democratic rule as quickly as possible. I told him, I said, that you need to understand from my experience in Africa that your successor president probably will not be very comfortable with you standing watching his back after you have effected the transition. After all, your organization was responsible for the assassination of your predecessor shooting him in the back. Therefore, I said to him, I think that you probably ought to leave the country for a while. Those are pretty strong words to walk into a military barracks and tell a guy who has assassinated his predecessor and has assumed responsibility for his country.

I came back a year later during the course of the transition and the president met me at the airport. He was on his way to Nigeria. He was still present as the transition had not taken place although the elections had taken place. He called me into the Presidential Suite while all the other diplomats were out there having their canopies and cocktails. He called me into the Presidential Suite which made the hair on the neck of the Liberian Ambassador stand up. He said to me, “Remember that conversation we had last year?” I said, you bet, sure do. He told me that he had done everything that I had suggested that he do. I told him yes and that I was proud of him for having done it. Then he told me that he was off to Nigeria on this official visit, but he wanted me to know that he was also picking up the keys to his new house down there because I will be moving there for that decent interval to allow my new successor to get established and get his new regime established, his administration established without fear that somehow my presidential guard organization with me at the head of it will come back and do to him what happened to his predecessor.

So, that is the level of confidence that I enjoyed with the group of people who were accused of having signed this document which was purported to be the sale of uranium to Iraq.

So, for those of you who have not followed it that closely, these are the qualifications that I bring to the table. So, for those of you that read Cliff May, or who read Casper Weinberger, or you read some of these hacks who have never done anything serious in their lives taking whacks at me, that sort of is the scene setter for you.

Now, I went out there and I spent eight days out there and I talked to everybody who knows anything about the business. I looked at two pieces of this. I looked at how the uranium business operates. Could it happen? I found that there is a consortium of international partners. The managing partner of this is the French and that means the French own the product from the time that it is in the ground until the time that it gets to the consumer. Nothing could happen in this regard without the French knowing and abetting it.

I looked at the bureaucracy and I found that because of the nature of the agreement and participation, nothing could happen that did not have the signatures of some key ministers in the government.

Neither of those conditions were met. This thing simply did not happen. I went back and I reported that back to my government at the most senior levels. If not the President of the United States, certainly the office of the Vice President received a copy of my report.

There were two other reports that were done at the same time as mine. One was the Ambassadors on the scene report and one was a report made by a fourth star marine corps general who made his way down to Niger and had taken a look at it. All three of us had concluded the same thing. It did not happen. We have information to the contrary. It cannot be authentic unless it contains three signatures. None of which were on those documents.
All those reports were in the US Government files and yet eight months later, the President of the United States, in the most important speech of his administration, in a speech to the world, to the US Congress, and to the American people detailing why we had to go to war with Iraq, contains sixteen words which were on the surface of it, a lie.
Now, people sort of accuse me of being partisan and having made my opinions based on these. But, let me make one thing clear on that. Had the President of the United States or those people advising the President of the United States read our documents, three reports, then that lie would never have been in the State of the Union address. Instead, they based that lie in the State of the Union address on forged documents that were so obviously forged that the IAEA had said that a twenty minute search on Google would have told a lay person that these were forgeries. The forgeries were so bad that they could not make it into an Italian weekly tabloid which was perfectly comfortable publishing the bare breasts of Italian women inside its folds. This could not even pass the smell test for that and yet somebody allowed this to get into the President’s speech.

Now people ask the question or people say now Joe Wilson did this because he is partisan. No, Joe Wilson made the trip out there and reported back because he is a loyal American. Joe Wilson did not betray his President. The person who betrayed his President and by extension his country, was the person who allowed this lie to get into the President’s speech.

Why is it important? It is important for two reasons. First of all, because when a democracy goes to war, which is the most solemn decision a government can take and I was in Baghdad when we made the decision on Gulf War I and I was on the phone to our Congressional leaders telling them why sanctions in and of themselves would not work and why if we were going to get Sadaam out of Kuwait, we were going to have to do it militarily or at least have the threat there to do it militarily. So, I am no peacenik on this. But, when we have a debate on issues as solemn as sending our sons and daughters off to kill and die for our country, we have a right and our Congress has a right to debate based upon a set of commonly accepted facts. When those facts are not facts at all, but bits of information that are put into play, put into the debate simply because they support a political decision that has already been made, we have been denied that solemn debate on an issue so important as war and peace.

Now, three hundred American dead later, and one hundred thirty thousand troops out there, and we are still having this debate.

Now, the next issue, finally to conclude on that as I said in my first appearance on Meet the Press, you have to ask yourself two questions. If they lied about this, what else might they have lied about? For two, who is going to believe the President of the United States next time when he goes before the world and when he goes before the American people and when he goes before the Congress of the United States and says we have a real weapons of mass destruction problem here. Who is going to believe him?

The other debate and I will conclude with this is of course the way ahead. Now, I have come to believe now that we are there, there are certain things that we need to do to get out of this with our honor, our dignity and our leadership somewhat restored and that includes staying there. I think the most dangerous thing that we could possibly do for our own interests going forward is to cut and run. Now, I would not have us in there the same way that we are in there. I always argued that if you had to take military action, it ought to be focused on the real national security threat which the international community has determined is weapons of mass destruction and that is a much different military action from invasion, conquest and occupation. But, I always understood that we may have to take military action and I argued that if we had to take military action, it should be smart military action for the right reasons in response to the internationally accepted disarmament threat and not dumb military action for the wrong reasons or for reasons that we had not debated. Redrawing the political map for the Middle East comes immediately to mind.

But, we are there now and the President articulated a vision in an American Enterprises Institute speech in February in which he talked about Iraq as a democracy beacon for the rest of the region. Now, that is an enormous undertaking. If anyone has ever done democratization, and Pat knows this having watched it as long as I have or longer, this is tough sledding. It is not easy. It is even more difficult at the point of a gun. Somebody once said, and I have forgotten who it was, although it was somebody famous. I don’t attribute it to them anyway. Democracy is not unlike an English lawn. In order to get it to look really good, you have to seed it, water it, fertilize it and then roll it every day for six hundred years.

Now, anyone who has been involved in the battles of democracy in our country for the last two hundred and twenty five years will know that we get up every morning and we fight these battles. We fight them at the City Planning Commission. We fight them at the Board of Education. We fight them in county government. We fight them in state government. We fight them with the Federal Government. It is tough. We have parameters within which we fight these battles.

Over there, frankly, politics is blood sport. So, it is going to be very tough to do it. It is even tougher to do it if those responsible for it are doing such a bad job of managing it. So badly in fact that I think the cynics could be excused if they believed that failure for these people might be success. By that I mean that far from achieving the President’s articulated vision of a single nation state which is a democracy in Iraq, the people who are bringing the reconstruction would find acceptable the vulcanization of Iraq and essentially a sore in the middle of the Arab world which is unstable for the foreseeable future. And that is what we will come up against if we do not do this right.

So, my way ahead on all this is to take a look at it or try to describe it as one would describe any failing business venture. If you have a vision and you think the vision is still good, but you don’t have quite the resources that you need to achieve that vision, what do you do? Well, you go back into the market and you seek outside equity partners.
Now, in order to attract that equity, you generally have to give up seats on the Board, staff and line positions, and you have to harmonize your position to match that of the vision of the outside equity partners. I think that is where we are and we are getting there, but way way too slowly. We can’t afford a lot more ICRC or UN buildings being blown up because every time something like that happens, the cost of money goes up. The cost of attracting new partners into this failing business venture goes up. We only have a limited amount of time to internationalize this and it does not mean that we give up a lot of responsibility or authority, but it means we get a lot of different faces and a lot of different languages out there because at the end of the day, you want to change attitudes in Iraq. You want the Iraqi’s to believe that in fact what they are seeing is a global effort to help them through these bad times that have been brought about by thirty years of tyranny, three wars and Shock and Awe. As it stands now, they see this as a foreign occupation for whatever reason. You ask an Iraqi and he will give you five different reasons from Israel to oil to American business to US interests.

We need more faces in there. It has to be something more than the UN flag by the way because the UN is about as the manager of the sanction program, viewed about as positive as we are.

We need to bring the Iraqi’s much more into it and transfer as much sovereignty to them as they can accept at any one time. We need to be much more aggressive in providing for the basic human needs and the basic services. That essentially means that we are going to need a different configuration of the military to ensure that we can restore public safety, to ensure that we have safety and security around those civilian organizations that are in fact going to be doing the public services, whether it be sanitation, water, plumbing, electricity, things like that.

We probably need to recreate these little liaison units that you see Jerry Bremmer heading in Baghdad in some of the other metropolises. So, because democracy essentially is a ground up exercise at least as much as it is a top down exercise.

So, those are some of the things that I think we need to be thinking our way through. Now, let me turn it over to Pat.
Thank you.

W. PATRICK LANG: Joe and I have a disadvantage in talking to you about Iraq because we have both been there so much. This makes it difficult you know.

I went to Iraq a lot during the Iran Iraq war, which was kind of a combination battle that went on for seven or eight years with horrendous casualties on both sides. I used to go over there periodically to visit the Embassy that he later ran. We had a defense attaché then that I would go over and visit with this guy and schmooze with the Iraqis. They would take me up and show me their units and their lines so that I would have some idea of what they were like.
I did that for a long time and then along came the cease -fire after the Iraqis essentially defeated the Iranians. There was a period of peace and then came the first Gulf War where we got to put all that knowledge we had to work in a useful way. There is no doubt that in the run up to the first Gulf War, they had chemical weapons on a massive scale. We watched them in the Iran Iraq war progressively learn to use them with greater and greater sophistication on the battlefield to say nothing of their use against the Kurdish insurgence.

But, on the battlefield, they learned to integrate chemical fires with conventional fire in a way which has not been seen since World War I. They were really inventing a new military methodology for all intents and purposes and they used that with great success.

We knew they had biological warfare laboratories they were working on, but those were fairly common in the Middle East. I mean the Syrians had similar things and a lot of people like to play with that because all you need is a lab and a few scientists and you can tell everyone how you are a serious player in this field.

But, it was really in the nuclear area and ballistic missiles that they got to be really impressive and pretty scary. There was a great argument inside the US intelligence community before the first Gulf War that never gets reported correctly in the press. On the one hand, you had the regional people like me, what the scientific people called the ring leaders. On the other side, you had what we call the technical people like nuclear scientists, engineers, things like that. We used to have these tremendous fights that were knocked down agency lines between CIA, DIA, and others. But split amongst these two populations, were the ones that did not fit into either category. We insisted from the available evidence that they were within a year or so of their first detonation.

The nuclear scientists kind of gently waved us off and said no, no that can’t be. Surely these people cannot be that close. It turns out we were right or close enough for government work anyway.

In the ballistic missile area, they were doing some very interesting things. They were building new kinds of weapons. In particular, I don’t know if you know this, but they had a space program. In this space program, they had managed to build a two stage missile rocket which stood one of these things on top of one another and in which they repeatedly achieved separation and the top stage went to one hundred miles. It was unbelievable. When you thought of these two capabilities together, the possibilities were really frightening.

So, in some ways when Sadaam Hussein went nuts and he was going to invade Kuwait, it was almost a relief because if he had kept his mouth shut and kept plugging away at this stuff until he had achieved a nuclear detonation out in the desert, I don’t know. I suppose you realize that changes everything. I mean everything changes then in terms of what is possible and what you can do to people or about people.

I mean look at North Korea. They have not even blown anything up yet and they are being treated with undue respect.
So, that was his first big mistake in that he did that. His second mistake was that in having invaded Kuwait, instead of just rearranging the deck chairs in the Kuwaiti royal family and finding some compliant prince you know, that he could rent for a while to run the place. He instead abolished Kuwait and the Kuwaiti monarchy and integrated Kuwait into Iraq.
I think this was probably they key thing that influenced the Saudi’s to decide to let us into the country. I was not at all that confident in fact that they were going to allow us into the country. None of their previous behavior indicated anything but that they would probably roll over and play dead and the Iraqi’s would get anything they wanted. That seemed the most likely thing at the time.

In any event, that war was fought and in the aftermath, the UN weapons inspectors received a great deal of help from the United States. It has been long enough now and I don’t think that it is any great secret. There were so many people coming out of Iraq that knew where everything was that it was easy to tell the UN guys where to go look.
So, in many cases, the UN inspection teams in the first couple of years could go to the exact building and the exact room and look in the right safe. They could pick the right safe drawer and say I want these files and take them away. As a result of that, if you remember they went around the countryside just tearing the Iraqi nuclear program to bits.
In finding their nuclear weapons plants, which were grossly unsafe anyway, but nevertheless they worked and destroying their stocks of the stuff went on for several years.

In 1998, there was a crisis involving the UN people and they all left. When this all started to heat up again a year or two ago, I thought about this. They could not have much of a chemical weapons capability left. Chemical weapons are a battlefield weapon anyway and they are not persistent. They would be nasty in a subway station as the Japanese found out. But, basically, it is not a strategic weapon anyway. Their biological stuff, it was clear to me, would be very unlikely that it would be extremely effective.

The one thing that really worried me when we started talking about this stuff was the nuclear thing because I knew that they had five thousand or so scientists and engineers and maybe they had really gotten busy over the last four or five years and got this thing running again and at some point down the line here in four, five or six years may have a deliverable nuclear weapon. Now that would be a real serious matter. In fact, that would not be a small thing. We are talking about city killers here instead of things that are just a terrible, tragic nuisance.
I was quite willing to go along with that until we got closer and closer to the war. I was real sure the war was coming. I noticed that in fact the case being made by the administration for the war or the existence for these things, instead of being based on things that were specific or direct evidence, were things like this was bought which can only be used for this particular purpose. It should be this chain of evidence leads you to this. Instead, you had them constructing the same kind of grandiose, inferential case to prove their point about the Iraqi programs that I would have constructed were I still in that job and had to make the case with insufficient evidence.

The conclusion I had reached was that they probably did not have it anymore. They probably still had programs, but they did not have the stuff.

Having said that, you may think that I am really against the war. Well, I am against war generally having been a participant a number of times. Nevertheless, I think that this government was beastly enough that if you want to make a case for invading Iraq and removing Sadaam’s regime just on the basis of his beastliness, I will buy that. I have bought it and I will still buy it. It is OK with me. It may not be OK with all the Iraqis, but it is OK with me.

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