Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Joseph Wilson fights the Machine!

Former diplomat Joseph Wilson used to tell reporters he felt certain how his obituary would read. It went: "Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was the last American diplomat to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, died . . . "

But "it seems to change," Wilson said yesterday, smiling across his desk in his Washington office. He has kept mentally revising the obituary to keep up with the political maelstrom over Iraq policy and White House leaks that is swirling around him.

A recent version began: "Joseph C. Wilson IV, the Bush I administration political appointee who did the most damage to the Bush II administration . . . "

The current version goes: "Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of the spy the White House outed, . . . "

Wilson, 53, is also now known as the man the CIA sent to Niger in February 2002 to investigate rumors that Hussein was trying to buy uranium there -- and who came back with denials from Niger officials. As President Bush repeated the allegation -- most prominently in the so-called 16 words in the State of the Union address Jan. 28 -- Wilson said, he grew increasingly perplexed. And by July, he was annoyed enough to say publicly that U.S. officials had exaggerated the public case for invading Iraq.

At the time, he said he feared that the White House would retaliate. It allegedly did when administration officials called reporters to identify Wilson's wife as a clandestine CIA operative. ...

But last summer, in the run-up to the Iraq war, he became a persistent critic of the current President Bush's policies, appearing on TV and writing opinion pieces that argued against a rush to war. "I felt it was important to correct the record," he said. Most recently, he has accused the White House -- loudly -- of blowing his wife's CIA cover in retaliation.

Wilson makes no secret of being a left-leaning Democrat and said yesterday he intends to endorse Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for president. Wilson, a former ambassador to Gabon who served as an Africa expert in the second Clinton administration, has long been friendly with leading Democrats. ...



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