Bush Critic Contradicts 'Downing Street Memo' Charge

Randy Hall | Staff Writer/Editor | Friday, June 17, 2005

Bush Critic Contradicts 'Downing Street Memo' Charge

(CNSNews.com) - A former diplomat who has criticized President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq Thursday appeared to contradict one of the main charges leveled by those who point to the "Downing Street Memo" as proof that the administration knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction but went to war with Iraq anyway.

The Downing Street "Memo" or "Minutes" originated at a secret July 23, 2002 meeting, where Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top British officials discussed the situation in Iraq.

Bush critics have seized on the memo as proof that the president was determined to invade Iraq in July 2002, regardless of what intelligence efforts uncovered.

One paragraph of the Downing Street Memo reads: "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

But on Thursday, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson admitted that "we all believed" Saddam had WMD.

"I believe the threat to the United States posed by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction -- which we all believed he had -- could have been dealt with using something less violent than the invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq," Wilson said in a response to a question from Cybercast News Service following a Democrat-sponsored hearing on the matter.

Wilson's comment, that "we all believed" Saddam had WMD, appeared to contradict the memo itself and whether "intelligence and facts" would need to be "fixed around the policy" of invading Iraq if the general consensus was that Saddam possessed WMD.

Nevertheless, the former ambassador told Cybercast News Service that the Downing Street Memo "clearly indicates that well before the president leveled with the American people, he leveled with the British government about his determination to go to war with Iraq."

When asked what impact Thursday's Democrat-sponsored hearing would have on the troops and operation in Iraq, Wilson replied: "I would hope that the political leadership would begin to think through exactly what we have done and what it is we should do" in that country.

The former ambassador added that despite "ideological ranting" from officials in the Bush administration, "no one has thought through how to quell the insurgency -- or if we can quell it."

Much of Wilson's commentary during the hearing dealt with his investigation into claims that the West African nation of Niger had sold "a significant amount of uranium yellowcake" to Iraq.

After his investigation found it was "highly unlikely that such a transaction had ever taken place," Wilson was "mildly curious" to hear the president say in his January 2003 State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The career diplomat wrote an article for the New York Times disputing the claim, and the White House later acknowledged: "The sixteen words did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address."

"At the same time, of course, the administration launched a campaign to defame and discredit me by compromising the identity of my wife as a CIA operative," Wilson charged.

In addition, "those of us who know something about the region and American national security policy allowed ourselves to be driven from the public square by a coterie of ideologues who used smear tactics and character assassination to mask the feebleness of their ideas."

After accusing Congress of getting "swept up in the post-9/11 need to confront the enemy, any enemy, even the wrong enemy," Wilson criticized the press for utterly failing "to hold the administration to account."

Wilson said, "We must not take our eye off the ball in Iraq," a situation he referred to as "a mess, and by all accounts not soon to improve." While "not advocating one approach over another," he said, "our continued presence will, however, guarantee more American deaths and more people who hate us for what we have done."

To resolve the situation, the former ambassador concluded that "we should elicit the views of Iraq's neighbors, our allies, the international community at large and experts in this country and not just the same cabal of ideologues whose policy prescriptions foisted upon a frightened nation in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy of 9/11 have been demonstrated to be terribly flawed."(Cybercast News Service Correspondent Jered Ede contributed to this report.)

See Earlier Story

Bush Critic Suggests White House Used Dirty Tricks to Discredit Him (Sept. 30, 2003)