- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, once lauded by the president’s foes as a nonpartisan critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies, said his endorsement of a Democrat for president shouldn’t undermine his credibility.

“I did that because I think [Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat] is the best man for the job,” Mr. Wilson said in a wide-ranging interview with reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast yesterday. “Obviously, my endorsement has not helped him significantly so far, and we’ll see if that works better in the future.

“If people want to make me a partisan character, that’s fine,” he added. “I have no shame in participating fully in the political debate and supporting one candidate or another. I gave 25 years of my life to defending the Constitution of the United States in some of the toughest places in the world.”

Mr. Wilson gained national attention this summer when he contended a sentence in Mr. Bush’s State of the Union address in January should not have included a reference to a British intelligence report that concluded Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein had recently attempted to procure materials from Niger to restart his nuclear-weapons program.

Public attention on Mr. Wilson intensified this fall when Democratic congressional leaders became determined to find out who leaked the name of his wife, a CIA employee, to veteran Washington columnist Robert Novak.

Mr. Wilson later announced that he felt “betrayed” by the leak, an event he characterizes as a “crime against the national security of our country,” not just against him and his wife.

He suggested that any number of “a half-dozen” senior Bush administration officials exposed the name of his wife, Valerie Wilson, to the press as a form of political payback.

“I don’t understand,” Mr. Wilson said. “Would the Bush administration really feel so threatened by me that they would expose a national-security asset just because I contributed $2,000 to the Kerry campaign?

“Where does that set the bar for future exposures of national-security assets? Is it now OK if somebody’s spouse is in a clandestine position to go ahead and ‘out’ her because her husband contributed to another campaign, exercising his right as a U.S. citizen? It’s just beyond me,” he said.

Mr. Wilson’s view of the Iraq war comports with that of Mr. Kerry. He said that when the United States amassed troops on the border of Iraq in preparation for an invasion, Saddam dismantled and scattered his program to build weapons of mass destruction.

With the threat to the United States duly reduced, there was no need to invade, Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Kerry said he voted to give Mr. Bush the authority to invade Iraq, but only intended his vote to send a message of deterrence, not as the go-ahead for war.

Mr. Wilson also discounted a report in the latest Weekly Standard that showed that various U.S. intelligence services had documented close ties between al Qaeda’s hierarchy and leaders of Saddam’s government that stretched back to the early 1990s.

Michael Ledeen, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said many of the Bush administration’s harshest critics, like Mr. Wilson, choose to ignore facts that contradict the view that the war in Iraq was justified.

“You can quibble about this piece of intelligence or that piece of intelligence, but I’m not aware of any Western government that has any doubts about Saddam’s collusion with terror organizations,” Mr. Ledeen said.

“If you don’t want to hear about it, you can close your ears and hide,” he said.

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