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Just who does Joseph Wilson work for?


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By Jack Cashill

© World Net Daily November 19, 2005

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson is a man of many interests. Although some of these interests defy easy analysis, Wilson has surely done some extraordinary work to advance them. The quality of that work and the motivations behind it, one best learns from Wilson himself. He likes to talk. Besides, in his book, just about everyone else is either a liar or a butcher of his words.

In October 2003, in an event that would seem comic were it not for its consequences, the openly leftist Nation magazine gave Wilson the first ever Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling. For the record, Ridenhour blew the whistle on the My Lai massacre. This proved to be a high point in the Nation’s history in that its editors had an actual crime that they could pin on the United States. As the Wilson award suggests, they now settle for contrivances.

Upon receiving the award from his wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, Wilson wept openly. "If I could give you back your anonymity," he said before choking up, then continuing, "You are the most wonderful person I know. And I'm sorry this has been brought on you."

In this, the therapeutic age, circumstances are “brought on” people, and the only real heroes are victims like the Wilsons. “ We have tried to avoid giving the impression that we thought of ourselves as victims,” Wilson would later say of himself and his wife with something like a straight face. “We thought that the country was the victim.” In fact, however, he has gone on record a hundred times with claims of a “hate campaign” against himself and Plame. In a May 2004 interview with Nation magazine, he traces this campaign to a March 2003 meeting in Dick Cheney’s office, nearly a year after Wilson began his attack on the administration, but months before he went public with his claims about trumped up WMD evidence.

“ Wilson doesn't have proof,” Nation concedes of this very serious charge about Cheney. “He is essentially sharing hunches and leads.” Proof or no proof, true or not true, Wilson describes the imagined “intelligence operation” against him as “appalling.”

This carelessness is indicative of the way he and Plame have lived their lives since their first meeting in 1997. Although Plame had moved back to Washington because of likely exposure by the double agent Aldrich Ames in 1994, as well as an inadvertent CIA leak in Havana, the greatest threat to Plame’s identity may have been Ms. Plame herself.

Wilson tells Vanity Fair magazine that he and Valerie were in the middle of a "heavy make-out" session, when she grew anxious and insisted that there was something she had to tell him, namely, that she “was undercover in the CIA.” This admission did not come after they were married or engaged, but rather, as Wilson admits, “on the third or fourth date.”

Plame had been divorced for some years by this time. One has to wonder how many other dates learned her secret in a make-out session. Wilson found it something of a turn-on. "It did nothing to dampen my ardor," he says slyly. Even if Wilson were the only beau in the know, Plame’s admission does not speak at all well for the state of her “tradecraft.” Indeed, it might have gotten her booted from the CIA had Wilson kissed and told, as he has proved capable of doing in Niger case.

Complicating their affair was one other factor that might well have compromised Plame’s undercover status. Wilson was still married. All morality aside, the best undercover agents working in the U.S. today are divorce lawyers and their private investigators. Wilson and Plame would date for at least a year before Wilson divorced his second wife to marry Plame. Given the open way Wilson conducted this affair, a private dick could have smoked out Plame’s identity on a half day’s commission.

At about this time, Wilson also came back to Washington, where he served as President Clinton’s senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council. According to one of Vanity Fair’s sources, “ Wilson was not universally popular, because of what was perceived to be too strong sympathies for the interests of the Africans and Europeans.” The source was actually praising Wilson for his outspokenness—all comments about the Wilsons in the Vanity Fair article are positive—but in light of what would soon transpire, the comment does raise questions about Wilson’s loyalties.

After a year at the National Security Council, Wilson left the government. He and Plame hoped to start a family, and Wilson wanted to make money enough to support the family in style. This seems an honest enough admission. As he notes in his book, The Politics of Truth, he set himself up in a “boutique” consulting business to “help American and international companies invest in Africa” and took an office in downtown Washington within the headquarters of the Rock Creek Corporation.

Much has been made about the Rock Creek Corporation and its wheeler-dealer maestro, Mohammed Alamoudi, a member of the Saudi-Ethiopian Alamoudi dynasty. Alamoudi and his colleagues were heavily invested in the African and middle-Eastern economies that Wilson was scouring for clients. Within a degree or two of separation from Almoudi were just about every terrorist financier, gunrunner, and oil-for-food scammer in the third world. Vanity Fair was aware enough of Almoudi’s reputation to insist that Wilson did not actually work for Rock Creek but “merely rents space and facilities there.”

In any case, there is no reason to believe that Wilson participated in any illegal ventures. He seems at this point rather a garden-variety DC “consultant,” one who trades in his government experience and connections for some healthy contracts with “international” companies. Almost assuredly, these companies would have hired Wilson not for his mining or investment experience, those being negligible, but for his access to political decision makers.

As Wilson relates in his book, the Clinton administration had been aggressive in encouraging private investment in Africa. Wilson cites the late Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown, as the front man on this deal. Even if all were above board, which it rarely was with Brown, the Clinton approach to foreign trade raised the value of well-connected Democratic lobbyists. Wilson took advantage of that opportunity by leaving government more than two years before Clinton’s term expired.

Given his profession, one has to believe that Wilson donated $1,000 to the George W. Bush presidential campaign to hedge his bets should Bush prevail in 2000. Lobbyists routinely do such things. All prior evidence suggests that Wilson identified his interests with the Democratic Party. On a congressional fellowship earlier in his career, for instance, Wilson had worked for Al Gore, then a United States senator, and Tom Foley, then House majority whip.

Like Bill Clinton, however, Wilson insists on lying even when he does not have to. In a Nation interview, he claims that he had been attracted by Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” In his book, he specifies that “Bush’s rhetoric of conservative compassion appealed to me” and thus gave Bush money “before the South Carolina primary.”

Only when Bush allegedly “tacked hard to the right” and “started spreading malicious rumors” to beat McCain in the South Carolina primary did Wilson realize that Bush was “not a good choice.” Wilson apologizes to the Nation readers for making the donation.

He might better have apologized for deceiving them. In the book, Wilson claims that “after the South Carolina primary,” he made a donation to the Gore campaign and joined his foreign policy group. In fact, Wilson had donated his $1,000 to the Bush campaign nearly a year before the South Carolina primary and in the weeks prior to that donation gave $2,000 to Al Gore and $1,000 to Ted Kennedy. Plame had also donated $1,000 to Gore’s campaign in 1999, using her married name “Valerie Wilson” and listing her employment as an "analyst" with Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a CIA front. As to his working for both Gore and Foley, both prominent Democrats, Wilson writes that off to “happenstance.”

As a private citizen, Wilson reports that he made three trips to Niger, a landlocked hellhole in the Sahara, culminating the fateful trip of February 2002. The only reason he cites for his first trip in 1998 was to “participate in a cultural festival,” at best a half-truth.

It was in 1999, according to the Senate intelligence committee report, that Plame first recommended her husband be sent on a fact-finding trip to Niger. Wilson “was selected for the 1999 trip,” reads the report, “after his wife mentioned to her supervisors that her husband was planning a business trip to Niger in the near future and might be willing to use his contacts in the region.”

In his book, however, Wilson claims that he went at the request of a former prime minister to give a “crash course” to a new president who had just taken power after the murder of his predecessor. He makes no mention of Plame or the CIA. The story changes in the preface to the paperback version with Wilson now claiming he went to Niger in 1999 “at the request of the CIA to look into other uranium-related matters.” He does not offer specifics on the mission or on Plame’s involvement.

Although little is clear about this 1999 trip to Niger, the rationale for sending Wilson seems no more sinister than a fortuitous bit of nepotism. Wilson’s clients had interests in that part of the world, and Wilson’s traveling on behalf of the CIA had to enhance his business credentials and, ideally, the Wilsons’ income.

“What possible benefit accrued to either [Plame] or me from my pro bono time away from her and our twins?” asks Wilson rhetorically of his 2002 trip to Niger. Good question. Either Wilson went in both 1999 and 2002 to enhance his business prospects, or he went as a selfless act of public service. The dispassionate observer would suggest “enhance his business.” To be fair, it is highly unlikely that Wilson went to Niger in 2002 with the intent of undermining the Bush administration. That seems to have been a later improvisation.

In his book, Wilson makes an unnecessary fuss about the accusation that “Valerie might have improperly influenced the decision to send me to Niger.” He adds in high dudgeon, “Were [the Bush people] suggesting that my wife had somehow influenced a decision to send me to the middle of the Sahara desert?”

Yes, actually. Whether she initiated the action or not is not particularly relevant. That she was involved--and more than just as the “conduit” that Wilson originally allowed--is undeniable. After the publication of the book, a February 2002 CIA memo surfaced. In the memo, Plame had written, “My husband has good relations with both the PM [Prime Minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” Wilson writes it off as a harmless response to a supervisor’s request, but it absolutely involves Plame in the decision.

Plame’s approval of the mission is noteworthy for at least two reasons. For one, she had to know just how deep was her husband’s animus towards George W. Bush. By Wilson’s own account, Bush’s “malicious” campaign in South Carolina had soured him on his candidacy. He went to work for Gore immediately thereafter and would soon come to describe Bush’s seemingly moderate first term as “shameless pandering to the most venal and least tolerant elements of our society.” This contempt would surely cloud his objectivity.

A second possibility should have warned Plame off as well. As will be seen, Wilson almost surely had clients and associates in Francophone West Africa who wanted Saddam to remain in power, as indeed did the French government. Plame may not have known this, but given that her business is intelligence, she should have suspected.

What prompted the February 2002 Niger trip was a report of a sale of a form of uranium known as yellowcake to the Iraqis. The CIA’s Directorate of Operations, the branch that employed Valerie Wilson, issued this report, its second. The report included “verbatim text” of an agreement, allegedly signed in July 2000, for the sale of 500 tons of uranium yellowcake per year.

In his book, written before the Senate committee released its findings, Wilson is maddeningly vague about the report. He is not sure whether it was an actual “memorandum of sales” or a report on the same. In any case, he did not see it, nor was the reporting officer present when Wilson got his assignment.

If the Bush administration were cherry picking information, as Wilson claims, its people would likely have accepted the report as Gospel and run with it. They did not. As Wilson admits, Vice President Cheney’s office “tasked the CIA to determine if there was any truth to the report.”

In his 2002 Niger trip, Wilson talked to a variety of people, both American and Nigerian, only one of whom offered much in the way of insight. That was an unnamed source who told Wilson that in 1999 he had met an Iraqi he later identified as Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, better known to American TV fans as “Baghdad Bob.” According to the source, Saeed al-Sahaf “might have wanted to talk about uranium.” As Wilson relates the story, the source was discreet and indirect.

On this trip Wilson neither proved nor disproved the sale and, if anything, reaffirmed the Iraqi interest in Niger’s uranium. Although Wilson would later claim on CNN’s Late Edition that it was “probably the Vice President himself” who initiated the CIA investigation, he had no way of knowing that Cheney commissioned the Niger trip or ever saw any report about it. Cheney denied any knowledge of Wilson or his trip. CIA Director George Tenet called Wilson’s trip an internal CIA operation, and Wilson wrote no report upon returning to the United States. The fact that he debriefed a CIA agent about his findings “over Chinese takeout” suggests either the carelessness of the CIA or the larger irrelevance of this mission or, more likely, both.

Nothing was heard from Joseph Wilson for the next few months until he began speaking publicly against the impending war with Iraq. “Before the war,” the Nation interviewer asks Wilson, “you were one of the few former diplomats--establishment types--who were out there vigorously and consistently opposing the Bush administration on the question of war in Iraq. Why were there not more?”

This is a fair question. Wilson gives a long-winded answer in which he identifies himself as among those few people “who acted on their own consciences and on their own sense of what was doable.” In other words, he was just a good citizen speaking out on behalf of his country. In his book, he suggests that he did this against his own best financial interests. He elaborates that with his new business “seeking out investment opportunities for select international clients,” the last thing he needed was the “notoriety that might result from stating my views publicly.”

It is the rare businessman who speaks out in any forum against the best interests of his clients. Much more common is the businessman who advances his clients’ causes through the various public relations vehicles available to him, the less self-serving those vehicles appear, the better.

To discern Wilson’s motives, it pays to revisit the nature of his early protest. One would think that his trip to Niger had proved to him the emptiness of Saddam’s WMD boasts. No, that would come later. When he first put his anti-war sentiments in writing for the San Jose Mercury News on October 13, 2002, he argued that threatening to oust Saddam “will ensure that Saddam will use every weapon in his arsenal to defend himself.”By every weapon, of course, Wilson meant the soon-to-be mocked WMDs. “As the just-released CIA report suggests,” Wilson continues, “when cornered, Saddam is very likely to fight dirty.”

Wilson had reason to be concerned. Two weeks earlier, the CIA had published a National Intelligence Estimate titled Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction. “ Iraq [has been] vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake,” reads the report. “Acquiring either would shorten the time to produce nuclear weapons.” Plame was a WMD specialist at the CIA. Her husband’s trip eight months earlier had obviously failed to persuade Plame and her colleagues that Iraq was not seeking yellowcake.

In his Mercury News article, Wilson proceeds to make an elaborate and unconvincing argument that Saddam will desist from using his WMDs only if he is assured of keeping his job. “One of the strongest arguments for a militarily supported inspection plan,” continues Wilson, “is that it doesn't threaten Saddam with extinction, a threat that could push him to fight back with the very weapons we're seeking to destroy.” Unlike the U.S. Senate under Clinton which had voted unanimously to make “regime change” official U.S, policy, Wilson wants nothing to do with it. He makes the repeated case that Saddam should remain in power.

One does not have to be a cynic to question Wilson’s motives. He has had a long and deep involvement with French interests. In an article for the American Thinker, “Joseph Wilson IV: The French Connection,” James Lewis makes a strong case for French manipulation of the entire Plame affair. He notes that Wilson met his first wife at the French Embassy in Washington, that his second wife was a “cultural attaché” in Francophone Africa, that Niger’s mines are owned by a French consortium, “which operates cheek-by-jowl with the Quai d’Orsay,” and that Plame herself boasted of her husband’s numerous “French contacts.”

To be sure, the French government and hundreds of its key industries wanted to keep Saddam in power. Along with the Russians, they were the primary beneficiaries of the shamefully corrupt United Nations Oil-for-Food program. The Times of London estimated that from 1996 to 2003 French firms earned $3.7 ill-gotten billions from the program. As CIA chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer would later report, Oil-For-Food kept Saddam awash in funds, corrupted the debates over Iraq, undermined sanctions and allowed Iraq to contemplate rebuilding its nuclear program. Even if Wilson had no involvement with the ill-concealed scandal, he had to know how it benefited his clients and potential clients.

The convergence of Wilson’s business interests and political biases may have encouraged him to go public, but he would have remained a minor irritant were it not for an unusual sequence of events. These events began four days before the appearance of Wilson’s initial anti-war article when Italian journalist Rocco Martino walked a set of documents into the American embassy in Rome. These documents detailed an Iraqi purchase of uranium from Niger. The embassy promptly turned them over to the State Department and the CIA. Although at least one analyst at the State department suspected a forgery, no one at the CIA who saw the documents raised any objections.

On January 28, 2003, in his State of the Union speech, President Bush famously claimed, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Bush attributed the report to the British only because the CIA suggested he do so lest its own sources be compromised. The CIA did not object to the language itself. These famous “16 words” might have been more significant were they not part of the more than 1400 words the President dedicated to the Iraqi threat in general, a threat that at the time Wilson thought more ominous than did Bush.

About a week later, the U.S. government honored a request from the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to review its documentation on the uranium transaction. Among the documents given to the IAEA were those brought to the Rome embassy by Martino. On March 3. 2003, the IAEA announced that the Martino documents were such transparent forgeries that anyone with access to Google could have broken them in 20 minutes.

The following day the French announced that their own belief in an Iraq-Niger transaction was based on the same documents. “Somebody deliberately let something false get in there,” a high level source tells reporter Seymour Hersh, who repeats it breathlessly in a New Yorker article a few weeks after the forgeries were exposed. On the left, not surprisingly, the rumors began spreading immediately that this “somebody” was either British intelligence or the Bush administration.

Wilson immediately smelled an opportunity. He began planting the seed with sympathetic reporters that the forged documents, about which little was still known, were the very same ones that he had allegedly discredited in February 2002. “The envoy’s debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted—except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway,” wrote Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times on May 6, 2003, the first article to result from a Wilson leak.

In the preface to the paperback edition of his book, Wilson denies any claim to having debunked the forgeries and dismisses the Kristof remark as a “badly worded reference.” This protest would carry more weight if several other reporters to whom Wilson leaked had not made comparable claims. On June 12, 2003, Walter Pincus of The Washington Post reported that upon his return from Africa “among the envoy’s [ Wilson’s] conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because the ‘dates were wrong and the names were wrong.’”

The New Republic, with whose reporters Wilson also talked, would write, “He returned after a visit to Niger in February 2002 and reported to the State Department that the documents were forgeries.” In this version of the story, Vice President Cheney had received the forged documents from the British before Wilson’s trip and received the report from the CIA debunking them immediately afterwards. The fact of the matter is that no one at the CIA had seen the forged documents until eight months after Wilson’s 2002 trip to Niger.

Given the damage such false reporting could cause, it is no wonder that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove sought to set the record straight. And that brings us back to Valerie Plame. Wilson makes a stunning admission to Vanity Fair that has been heretofore overlooked. He tells the reporter that in May 2003 he and Plame had attended a conference sponsored by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee at which he spoke about Iraq. On his panel was Kristof of the Times. Over breakfast “with Kristof and his wife,” Wilson told Kristof about the Niger trip and said he “could write about it, but not name him.” If “his wife” refers not to Kristof’s wife but to Plame, which it almost assuredly does, Wilson has implicated Plame in a serious transgression. “As an employee of the CIA,” he writes in the preface to the paperback, “she could have no contact with the press without prior approval.”

In August 2004, the British Telegraph online service reported that Rocco Martino admitted in an Italian court that he “was in the pay of France” when he delivered the forged documents to the American embassy. According to the article, Italian diplomats claimed that France was trying to "set up" Britain and America “in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.” One has to be wary of characters like Martino, but the French surely had more to gain by inserting such clumsy forgeries into the mix than did Wilson’s hated “neoconservatives.”

Indeed, as I reported earlier, as late as July 2003, Wilson was not denying the presence of WMDs in Iraq. He was arguing instead that the Iraq war was waged for no nobler purpose than “to make Sharon’s life easier.” By “easier” he means that the removal of Saddam among other forced changes in the region would “provide the Israeli government with greater wherewithal to impose its terms and conditions on the Palestinian people.” On the left, “neocon” has become code for “Jew.”

One other bit of evidence sheds light on Wilson’s likely motives. In his May 2004 Nation interview, Wilson spells out what his strategy would be for resolving the ongoing situation in Iraq.

“ My own sense,” says the always-surprising Wilson, “is that the first countries we should go to are countries capable of projecting military force such as--and I hate to say it-- France. France can project military force, and it has the political will and can take casualties.” Wilson’s motives in making the unlikely France “part of the solution” soon become clear. “We should get rid of this idea that the reconstruction contracts are primarily for the United States,” he adds, “and see what these other nations can bring to the table.”

James Lewis makes the case that Wilson may very well be an agent of the French government and involved in the plot to plant false documents. Although intriguing, it seems more likely that Wilson is just one hell of a public relations operative with a grudge against Republicans. Indeed, his work on behalf of his clients deserves its own Harvard case study. Consider what is known beyond doubt:

  • Wilson finessed at least two all-expense paid trips to Niger from the CIA.
  • He used his newfound authority as a weapons inspector to argue publicly against a war that would harm his clients’ interest.
  • Initially, he waged the argument that Saddam had to remain in power lest he use his arsenal of WMDs against American troops.
  • When the forged documents were exposed, he insinuated to at least three different publications that he was the one to debunk the forgeries.
  • He used his CIA operative wife to enhance his credibility with the first of those reporters, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, despite the risk to her career in so doing.
  • Once his wife was exposed, and his own fame heightened as a consequence, he used his visibility to argue that the French ought to be cut in on Iraq reconstruction contracts.
  • He used his celebrity to repeat the canard that there never had been any WMDs and that the Bush administration lied about them to seduce the nation into war. This too had the effect of making his “French contacts” seems less immoral and more worthy of the spoils and his Democratic clients more likely to regain the Congress and the presidency.

If anyone needs further proof of Wilson’s consulting skills and his understanding of the media, consider that the government is now prosecuting Scooter Libby and not him and Mrs. Wilson.


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