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Rep. Joe Wilson Interview - 2003-03-19


Congressman Joe Wilson recently returned from a visit with the troops in Kuwait. The South Carolina representative is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and has spent 30 years in the National Guard, so he knows the Iraqi military situation quite well. On VOA-TV’s NewsLine program, Congressman Wilson spoke with Jim Bertel about President Bush’s ultimatum delivered Monday night and the Iraqi situation.

MR. BERTEL:
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Wilson, thank you for joining us today on Newsline.

REP. WILSON:
It's an honor to be with you.

MR. BERTEL:
I want to begin by asking the question that many people around the world are asking. And that is, why is it acceptable for the United States to lead a military attack against a nation that has not attacked the United States?

REP. WILSON:
Well, from the perspective of many of us in the United States, we are in a war against terrorism. Our country was attacked on September the 11th, 2001. To me that's the equivalent of Pearl Harbor. And that's the view of my constituents. And we feel that the situation with Iraq is a continuation of the war against terrorism, because you have a brutal dictator who has weapons of mass destruction, who could provide them to terrorists, who could use them against the American civilian population, and, indeed, against the civilian population throughout the world.

MR. BERTEL:
We have troops on the ground, American and British troops in Kuwait. They are perhaps hours away from going into combat. You were visiting with them just a few weeks ago. Are they ready to go?

REP. WILSON:
The morale is high. And I appreciate our British friends; the Australians are there. I appreciate the representatives from the Czech Republic. We have people from all over the world who are supporting the United States to, first, liberate Iraq, but equally important to the war against terrorism, as I indicated, is to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological weapons, which would be used against the civilian population of the world.

MR. BERTEL:
Last night President Bush spoke to the nation and the world. He gave an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein: Leave Iraq or face war. If Saddam Hussein was to go into exile, would the United States and Britain and Australia still send troops into Iraq? And if Saddam Hussein goes into exile, will he face prosecution for war crimes?

REP. WILSON:
I believe that we still have a possibility of peace. And that is if Saddam Hussein and his immediate consorts would leave the country, there would not be the need to invade the country and liberate the country. Additionally, when he is captured, he will be brought before a war crimes court.

MR. BERTEL:
If war becomes necessary, one of the greatest concerns of military leaders is the use of chemical or biological weapons, his weapons of mass destruction. How will the United States respond if that occurs?

REP. WILSON:
We have the training, first of all -- and I am a member of the National Guard myself. I've had 30 years of training. I have three sons in the military. So, I'm very familiar that our troops are prepared. We have the equipment. We will be able to survive and then go after the people who did this. And if anyone uses chemical weapons, they will themselves be brought before a war crimes court. And the President made it very clear last night that following orders is no excuse.

MR. BERTEL:
Following the war or a peaceful solution, the top Army general has said it is going to require several thousand troops to keep the peace, to maintain stability inside Iraq for the next few years. Is the U.S. committed to a long-term presence in Iraq?

REP. WILSON:
I believe that President Bush has indicated very clearly, as in Afghanistan, that we will work to see democracy truly take hold, so that indeed the people in the country of Iraq, they have the ability, with the resources that it has, of having a thriving country. And so we want to see a thriving democracy. And we will have limited troops there. But they will withdraw, as we have done throughout the world, whether it be in the occupation of Japan or whatever you may want to equate it to. America simply wants Iraq to be a free country, with the people of that country running their country and benefiting from the phenomenal resources of oil in Iraq.

MR. BERTEL:
Briefly, does the U.N. have a role following the war in Iraq?

REP. WILSON:
It does, but I'm afraid it's more as a debating society. And I really regret the U.N.'s failure to enforce its own resolutions. It has made a mockery of 17 different resolutions over the last 12 years. And so it's very difficult to take seriously. And I appreciate President Bush protecting the American people but, equally, protecting the people of the world. Because these terrorists are after the civilian population of the world, not just the United States.

MR. BERTEL:
Congressman Joe Wilson, thank you very much for taking time to be with us.

REP. WILSON:
Thank you very much.

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