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Wilson Interview - 2003-03-25


MR. BORGIDA:
Joining us now, Ambassador Joe Wilson, with J.C. Wilson International Ventures Corp., and also associated with the Middle East Institute here in Washington. He is a former U.S. diplomat in Iraq. He has been a frequent guest on our program..

Thanks for being here again, Ambassador. I appreciate it.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Good to be here with you.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk some politics and diplomacy in the region first. The Iraqis have criticized some of the Arab foreign ministers for not supporting Iraq strongly enough. I wonder what your take on that is. How does that impact on the politics of the region if Iraq is just lashing out at Arab foreign ministers?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, I don't think it helps Iraq's case in any way. At the end of the day, no Arab government is going to be seen or going to want to be seen as the last friend of Saddam Hussein. And what you are seeing, I believe, in the Arab world is a lot of empathy for the plight of Iraqi citizens and nationals. And that's where it becomes important for the United States and the coalition forces to address the humanitarian aid issue that you just reported on in Basra. But with respect to the Iraqi Government lashing out at Arab foreign ministers, it's too late for that.

MR. BORGIDA:
And there appears to have been, at least from some reports, a Saudi peace plan, although the State Department is now saying it has not received any at least credible or official offering of that kind. Is it too late to offer something like that at this point in the sixth day of the war?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
I think the President made very clear yesterday, or the day before yesterday, that the option of Saddam going into exile was off the table, and that it was every intention of the administration and of the coalition forces to take Baghdad and remove him from his regime by force. The fact that we have troops literally on the edge of Baghdad suggests that we're not going to stop until that task is accomplished. So, whatever the Saudis may be coming up with, it probably is too little, too late.

MR. BORGIDA:
Tariq Aziz, whom we saw in one of our previous reports, was saying very emphatically that Saddam Hussein is firmly in power, responding I guess to speculation that perhaps he is either wounded or unavailable and not authorizing military action in terms of the Iraqi side. What do you make of that?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, I know Tariq Aziz, of course. And what I can say is that it may be in fact true that Saddam Hussein is in charge, but not because Tariq Aziz has said so. Tariq Aziz is very articulate and very erudite, but the bottom line on him from my perspective is, would you buy a used car from that man? And I wouldn't. He has lied to me on many occasions on issues pertaining to the lives and the welfare of American citizens being held hostage in Iraq during the Gulf War, and also just being forbidden from traveling outside of the war zone at that time. So, I don't trust a thing that Tariq Aziz has to say.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's move to the chemical weapons threat, because this is something that is clearly on the hearts and minds of the soldiers out there as well as families and loved ones in the United States. Would you expect that, in these next few days, in the press to go to Baghdad, that chemical or biological weapons might be used by Saddam at this point?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, this is actually one area where I might believe Tariq Aziz, because he told me quite emphatically in 1988-89, in a meeting dealing with the Iran-Iraq War, that the Iraqis reserve the right to use every weapon and any weapon in their arsenal when they were invaded. Now, they clearly are calling the American action, the coalition action, an invasion. And when he says they reserve the right to use every weapon in their arsenal, I assume that to mean chemical and biological weapons, if they have them and can use them. So, our military planners ought to be anticipating that they will, if they can, use chemical weapons and/or biological weapons.

MR. BORGIDA:
That is very, very disconcerting at the least. Let's talk, in the last minute or so we have, about another disconcerting point. And that is a potential humanitarian and refugee problem in Basra, where it appears that some of the efforts to get food into that port are being blocked. Are you concerned about that?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, stuff will come up either through Kuwait, by land, or else through Umm Qasr, which is the port facility. Basra has been silted for many years, so it will have to come overland to Basra anyway. But the fact that there is still violence going on there and the fact that we don’t believe that it’s secure enough to begin moving humanitarian assistance in there is troublesome. Apparently there has not been fresh water since last Friday. You are getting now on to a length of time that it becomes dangerous for the population. It’s difficult to win the hearts and minds of the population if they’re hungry and thirsty and are getting sick.

MR. BORGIDA:
Ambassador Joe Wilson, of J.C. Wilson International Ventures Corp., and associated here in Washington with the Middle East Institute. Thank you, Ambassador for joining us once again.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Thanks, David.

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