Seven years after top officials in the Bush administration turned their world upside down in an attempt to convince the public to support the war in Iraq, Amb. Joseph Wilson and outed CIA agent Valerie Plame said they still have not received an apology from anyone involved.
"No, in a word," Plame laughed and told The Huffington Post when asked if she or her husband had heard from any Bush officials. She said the closest thing she has received to an apology is when Richard Armitage, the former No. 2 at the State Department, publicly said it was "foolish" of him to leak Plame's undercover CIA identity.
The movie "Fair Game" is hitting U.S. theaters on Nov. 5, based on the real-life story of Plame and Wilson, who were at the heart of the debate over the Iraq war. In 2003, Plame was a covert officer in the CIA's counter-proliferation division, and Wilson was sent to Africa to investigate the alleged sale of enriched uranium from Niger.
The Bush administration, of course, ignored his findings and told the American public that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. On July 6, 2003, Wilson penned an explosive op-ed entitled, "What I Didn't Find in Africa."
"Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?" he wrote. "Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. "
What ensued was the leaking of Plame's covert identity -- in an effort to discredit Wilson -- to journalists including columnist Robert Novak, the conviction of top aide to Vice President Cheney Scooter Libby and prison time for a New York Times journalist. But nothing ever happened to others involved in the leak, including Armitage and Cheney.
"One of the things that we have always tried to say is that whatever has happened to us as a consequence of the battles we've been involved in over the last seven years, and however painful it may have been for us, it is nothing compared to what has been done to our country -- and particularly the service people and their families -- by the ill-conceived war in Iraq and by confusion of what the mission was in Afghanistan," Wilson told The Huffington Post in an interview on Friday.
Wilson said that a few weeks ago, he went back to Iraq for the first time in 20 years, when he was in charge of the U.S. embassy there. "I was slack-jawed by what I saw," he said, adding, "To get from the Camp Victory to the embassy, which is a six-mile drive, it took 24 hours preparation, I had to travel in a five-armored car convoy...and I had to wear full-body armor, including a helmet."
He described Baghdad as a city that's now completely segregated and reinforced by concrete barriers and checkpoints. "[A]nybody who comes from a city knows that one of the services a city provides to a culture is it obliges people of different faiths and backgrounds and ethnicities to get along," he said. "They have to get along. That urban fabric has been destroyed. And I don't know how it comes back. My great hope for a country where I lived for almost three years is that they will find a way to sort out their political differences, but whether they do or not, we should not be in the middle of it."
Wilson was torn on the controversy over Wikileaks, a whistleblowing website that has published classified material but brought to light troubling aspects of the Iraq war. "I'm not a person who is comfortable leaking classified information," he said. He added, however, that the government has tended to over-classify information to the point that there's too little transparency.
"The trouble they [government officials] have is if you classify everything, you're going to get these sorts of things where the things that shouldn't be released are released in the mix of releasing stuff that should never have been classified in the first place," he noted.
Plame expressed concern over the need for reform in the intelligence community, pointing to a recent Washington Post series on the topic. She said that the federal government is stuck in a mindset where it believes that "throwing more money at something will solve the problem" and noted the Director of National Intelligence as an example of bureaucratic waste. She said she hasn't spoken to anyone who believes the office adds any value.
"In addition to that, the entire intelligence community is so bloated and so reliant on contractors. There's no question there's many tasks that make sense to outsource," Plame said, adding, "And yet, we have followed blindly this dogma that if it's private contracting, it must be better."
Regarding the war in Afghanistan, Wilson said he agrees with those arguing against a drawn-out withdrawal. "I think the administration should be making these decisions on what is best for the troops, rather than what is best for the egos of the generals, and it's not clear to me the decisions are being made based on that," he said, adding, "At least, I would like to be reassured by the administration that when they make these decisions on either troop increases or troop withdrawals, they actually overtly tell the American people that the fate of the troops has been taken into consideration as they have thought their way through the decision."
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