Accessibility links

Interview with Ambassador Joseph Wilson


MR. BORGIDA:
And now joining me, Ambassador Joe Wilson, former U.S. diplomat in Baghdad, who has helped us since the war began to sort through some key issues.

We've just come out of a report about antiwar protests around the world, including quite a large one in Indonesia. What is your sense in the Arab and Muslim world, Ambassador, about day 10 and how the war is playing out?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, I think there are two things that I would comment on. One is this sense that Arabs and Iraqis are being killed needlessly in Baghdad. And every time that you have a market hit, that just inflames the passions of those in the rest of the Arab world.

MR. BORGIDA:
The sense, you say, as perceived by ??

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
As perceived by the rest of the Arab world.

And then the second one that I've noted is a sense of pride that the Iraqis are defending themselves against these foreign forces as well as they have. When you juxtapose pictures of the bombing of Baghdad with two Iraqi peasants who have shot down an Apache helicopter, well, Saddam's propaganda machine has won.

And lost in all of this is really how bad a tyrant Saddam Hussein really is.

MR. BORGIDA:
Has won? There are also pictures, though, we see occasionally of U.S. soldiers and British troops handing out candy or other humanitarian aid. And our network and others are reporting the fact that the coalition is trying to do the best they can to provide humanitarian aid. Is that just not getting through?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
It's not getting through nearly as well as pictures of bombs hitting Baghdad are getting through and dead bodies in marketplaces.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk about the view from some of those capitals in Syria and Saudi Arabia and neighboring Arab countries. Any change that you have detected from foreign capitals in the last week or so?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, certainly in both Tehran, which is not Arab but it's a neighbor, and in Damascus, there was some consternation, to say the least, at Secretary Rumsfeld's comments yesterday, which, to the Syrians, bordered on a declaration of war if they continue to supply, provide these supplies to the Iraqi military.

Elsewhere, I think that what you are going to see, you're seeing the street fomenting. You're seeing a lot more protests and a lot more anger in the Arab street. But I think where this really plays out is in the aftermath, in the ensuing years, the occupation period. I have a feeling that we run the very real risk of a lot of deep-felt and deep?seated resentment in the rest of the Arab world at this action.

MR. BORGIDA:
I think the Islamic Jihad, which claimed credit for a bombing in the Middle East, in a statement I believe, actually linked that attack to support for their Iraqi comrades. Clearly, this is an expanding problem or issue.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Yes. I think one of the things that you're going to see as a consequence of this is a willingness on the part of small, underpowered states and asymmetrical actors, non-state actors, to use asymmetric warfare against American interests.

MR. BORGIDA:
How do you see, Ambassador Wilson, the extent of antiwar protests in the United States, in this country, and the state of public opinion here? There are new public opinion polls which show that Americans, now that U.S. troops are in harm's way, as Americans often do and certainly their lawmakers, gather together shoulder to shoulder and support them. You're not a public opinion specialists and I understand that, you're a diplomat, but what is your sense of how the American public opinion is gathering at this point?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, clearly, once we have made this decision and once we have launched the war, the campaign, there is a rally around the flag effect. And that's what you're seeing now. And after we saw the pictures of the first American POW's in Iraq, I think you saw even more determination on the part of the American population to support their President in the action that he has taken. So, I would not expect that in the short term to erode.

If we have one of two things, either a large number of American casualties or if it comes across that we are in fact inflicting high casualties on civilians in Iraq, then you might see some of the support for the military action erode. That's not the case yet, and I wouldn't expect that to be the case.

MR. BORGIDA:
Now, an area you are familiar with certainly is events and personnel and people in Baghdad. You have been a diplomat in Baghdad. We haven't heard much in the last few days on Iraqi state television -- we haven't seen Iraqi state television, it was bombed -- but there is continuing discussion about Saddam and where he is and is he in control in the last few days. That has been percolating a lot around Washington and London. Any thoughts about that at this stage?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
I think it behooves in our prosecution of the campaign to assume that he and his central command structure are still alive and still in charge. There is nothing to suggest that they are not. The disorganization that you saw is probably more systemic to the military than it is to the lines of communication with the central command.

Clearly, you have not seen the country rise up in the aftermath of his demise. So, within the country, they don't think he's dead. There have been videotapes of him at meetings and I think that those have been carefully scripted to send certain signals.

The two that I have not seen actually since the decapitation strike in any of the videotapes have been Uday, his older son, and Izat Ibrahim, who is one of the leading members of the regime and actually in charge of the northern quadrant, the defense of the northern quadrant of Iraq.

MR. BORGIDA:
What does that tell you about what's going on there? Is this potentially that they are hurt, wounded or under cover, incognito, or something else?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
Well, typically what happens is if the U.S. Government hasn't seen a key figure and wants to see him, rumors will go out that that person is perhaps dead, and then they will show up at a press conference. So, maybe Mr. Ibrahim or Uday will show up if somebody says, we haven't seen him in a long time, maybe he's dead.

MR. BORGIDA:
With a closer look at the world of diplomacy and politics in the region, we talked with our analyst, Ambassador Joe Wilson. Thank you, Ambassador, for spending some time with us. We appreciate it.

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
My pleasure.

XS
SM
MD
LG