Published on Thursday, March 18, 2004 by the San Jose Mercury News (California)
Arabs Will Blame US 'Forever' if Iraq Falls Apart, Critic Says
by Laura Kurtzman
BERKELEY - Joseph Wilson, the former diplomat who clashed with the Bush administration over its use of faulty intelligence to justify the war in Iraq, said Wednesday that the United States would be blamed ``forever'' by the Arab world if it failed to create a functioning democracy in Iraq.
``The mess that's left over is our mess,'' Wilson said in a speech at the University of California-Berkeley. ``We own it.''
Wilson, who spoke at a conference on media coverage of the war, said journalists failed to ask hard questions about the administration's justifications for going to war, particularly Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Security Council in 2003, in which he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and should be disarmed.
``Did anybody bother to go out and ask an inspector his interpretation of what Powell said?'' asked Wilson, who was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 1988 to 1991. ``Did anybody go out and ask an expert on disarmament about the meaning of what Powell said? If they did, I certainly didn't see it in any newspapers.''
Wilson said he spoke with a weapons inspector after Powell's speech and the inspector told him, ``Powell's got nothing.''
Wilson has been an outspoken critic of the administration's decision to go to war. In particular, he challenged President Bush's claim in last year's State of the Union address that Iraq had purchased uranium from Africa to make nuclear weapons. The year before, Wilson traveled to Niger to investigate the claim for the CIA and found that it was false.
In July, after Wilson publicly criticized the administration, a newspaper columnist revealed the name of his wife, Valerie Plame, who is a CIA operative.
Wilson blames White House adviser Karl Rove for the leak, in violation of federal law, and says Rove was acting out of revenge for his criticism of the administration. Rove has denied being the source of the leak. An investigation is under way, and the White House has received subpoenas from a federal grand jury seeking records.
Wilson, who was also an ambassador to Africa and a senior foreign-policy adviser during the Clinton administration, is backing the presidential campaign of Democrat John Kerry, who is now a critic of the war in Iraq.
Wilson said Iraq is in danger of civil war. He acknowledged that a recent poll by ABC News showed more Iraqis support the U.S. invasion than oppose it -- 48 to 39 percent. But he said the support was due to ``euphoria'' among Kurds. When Arabs are surveyed alone, support for the invasion drops. The poll showed that 87 percent of Kurds surveyed supported the war, compared with 40 percent of Arabs.
The Kurds are likely to be disappointed, Wilson said, because the United States will abandon their cause out of fear of alienating its ally, Turkey.
``Why are the Kurds happy? Because they don't realize they may be on the eve of the third great betrayal of the Kurdish nation in the last century,'' he said. ``So the euphoria there is very short-lived.''
© Copyright 2004 Knight-Ridder