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VOA-TV Interview With Ambassador Joseph Wilson - 2003-04-14


VOA-TV Host David Borgida talks with Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Iraq and a member of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. Mr. Wilson provides insight into the Syrian situation.

MR. BORGIDA
And now joining me, Ambassador Joe Wilson, a former U.S. diplomat in Baghdad, who has been a guest with Newsline in the past.

Thanks so much, Ambassador, for joining us again. This Syria question is looking to be quite serious, but I want to get your sense, serious as serious defined, or is this a warning shot that perhaps the United States is not going to be real patient with Syria if, in its view, it continues to do what it accuses it of doing?

AMBASSADOR WILSON
Well, I think one thing we've seen from this administration is it doesn't fire warning shots. It will tell you what it wants, what it expects from you, in terms of behavior.

The President said that repeatedly. And then it will act in whatever fashion it sees fit to do in the event that you don't respond positively to its entreaties.

MR. BORGIDA
Now, if it believes these charges are accurate, that in fact Damascus is providing safe haven to former members of the regime, how serious would that be and what could the United States do?

AMBASSADOR WILSON
Well, I think that's quite serious, but I think more serious are these allegations that Syria was providing support to Iraq, in terms of shipping equipment to the Iraqis during the war, and also that Syria has and has been testing chemical weapons. That is a red flag in Washington.

MR. BORGIDA
And there is anecdotal evidence that we're hearing that some of the marines who were in some firefights are suggesting that they are engaging in these firefights with Syrian soldiers.

AMBASSADOR WILSON
The question on that, it seems to me, is whether or not, one, the participation of these Syrian nationals in Iraq was sanctioned by their government or if they were volunteers and/or, two, the extent to which they may have been possessing false identity cards. They may have been other nationals with Syrian papers.

MR. BORGIDA
Saudi Arabia is also calling for a meeting of some of Iraq's neighbors, I believe this Friday, to discuss what is going on there and presumably a post-war Iraq. What can they do about things at this point?

AMBASSADOR WILSON
Well, it strikes me, as we move from this, the war phase, into the nation-building phase, it's in the interest of everybody to be involved.

Now that the war is over, the reconstruction of Iraq, of a new Iraq, becomes paramount to everybody.

And I believe that there is a role for Iraq's neighbors in this, as there is a role for other regional organizations, including NATO, and of course including the United Nations.

So, this may be a step to try and get back into the game, the reconstruction game, in the Arab world.

MR. BORGIDA
And how difficult is this period going to be? With all the different factions inside Iraq, with the sense of lawlessness that is ebbing and flowing at the moment, at the moment not particularly bad but it could always get worse one might speculate, talk to us a little bit about the politics of Iraq and how difficult it may be in this new phase.

AMBASSADOR WILSON
I think democratization, or democracy in any nation, is a difficult process. It's much like an English lawn.

You have to seed it, you have to water it, and you have to roll it every day for 600 years, and then it looks perfect. We've been working on our own democracy for 230 years, and we're still working on it.

So, it seems to me unreasonable to assume that we are going to get to a democratic utopia in Iraq in the near future. It's a project.

Just like a house, it has to be built brick by brick. And we're not even at the foundation level yet.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's take it just a step further, though. I realize that that's the case.

But Tony Blair, for one, is suggesting that perhaps there be an election inside Iraq about a year or so after this interim authority completes its work. Is that too idealistic to hope for?

AMBASSADOR WILSON
I think it depends on the elections that he's talking about. If you're talking about local and regional elections, then it might not be too much to ask for.

But it really depends on whether you're looking at imposing this democracy from the top down or building it from the bottom up. Top-down democracies have a tendency to easily be subverted from the top.

MR. BORGIDA
The views of former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, a former U.S. diplomat in Baghdad, with a sense of politics and diplomacy inside Iraq. Thanks so much, Ambassador, for joining us.

AMBASSADOR WILSON
A pleasure.

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