DOBBS: My next guest, ambassador Joe Wilson, a distinguishes former ambassador, who served this country in Africa and in Iraq. Ambassador Wilson, is also, of course, an outspoken critic of the intelligence used by the Bush administration to justify the onset of the war against Saddam Hussein. Wilson has just published a book. It's called "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Lead to War and Betrayed my Wife's CIA Identity"
I talked with Ambassador Wilson and began by asking for his assessment of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq.
JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER AMBASSADOR: When this administration decided the only way to deal with the disarmament issue was to unilaterally or with a small coterie of coalition partners invade, conquer and occupy, it led us into a disastrous situation. I believe the fruit of that is being harvested now, regrettably, and I hate it.
But -- but with respect to the Republican Party, I have a lot of respect for the two-party system, and I have a lot of friends who are Republicans. And I have voted Republican in the past.
DOBBS: Is -- given the past year's experience, given where we are today, is it your judgment that democracy in Iraq, democratization in the Middle East, is possible, a viable foreign policy for this country? WILSON: Bringing democratization at the barrel of an Abrams A1 tank or an M-16 is extraordinarily difficult. And even in the best of circumstances democratization is something that takes a lot of time and a lot of work and is not something that is brought to a society through the military.
DOBBS: What would you have the United States do now in Iraq?
WILSON: Anything I say about that now is likely going to be overtaken by events within the next 48 hours. I believe, as a former Reagan official and good friend of mine said just the other night, we are on the eve of a strategic catastrophe.
Now, if we don't have a plan already off the shelf which basically involves putting in massive amounts of military soldiers and material and heavy armor -- one of the big problems in this is not the lack of body armor. It is the lack of Bradley fighting vehicles and M-1 tanks to protect our forces out there.
You contrast what we did in Baghdad with what we did in Bosnia, where we took no battlefield deaths during the eight years that we did that, to the 700 deaths we're taking now.
But in order to recoup the situation, you've got to quell the insurgency. You've got to shock it, and at the same time you've got to demonstrate to the international community that you are serious. And the only way you can demonstrate that is through this massive new investment of military and material.
DOBBS: You are siding with Senator John Kerry. The president, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose resignation you've called for, all are basically saying the same thing. But those are not wide separations between these two candidates for the highest office in the land.
WILSON: Well, you're right now. And in fact, with Secretary Rumsfeld, I actually called for his resignation on your show and was delighted to do so.
But the difference is, if you want to go back and take a look at this, Senator Kerry has been talking about the internationalization of this since the middle of last year, at a time when the administration, Don Rumsfeld included, were still very unilateralist in their perspective, not willing to share either the duties of the reconstruction or even take a hard look at how you encourage other nations to go in and participate in the national police force, in the reconstruction effort, in the static guard border patrol.
DOBBS: The politics of truth, the truth of politics. We are still months into the investigation into who in the administration leaked to Robert Novak the -- revealed the CIA identity of your wife.
Are you surprised at the length of time, first, that it has taken to -- to carry out this investigation?
WILSON: I am, because there are not hundreds of officials who sit at the nexus between foreign policy, i.e. have a national -- a secret security clearance, and politics, where they would have a political agenda that they might want to defend by exposing a CIA national security asset.
DOBBS: You initially put -- suggested strongly that Karl Rove was responsible. In your book, you suggest also Libby. You suggest Abrams. You have in your -- do you feel that you know who revealed her identity?
WILSON: Well, let me be very clear on this. In the book, what I try and do is bring together all those sort of little bits of information that have been circulating around Washington, many of which have been published. One just published last Saturday in the "New York Daily News," which says sources close to the grand jury fingers Libby and Rove for this.
Because I think it's been underreported. Journalists have told me, and I've put it in the book, that they've been intimidated by the White House. They're afraid of Rove -- they'll end up in Guantanamo, which is a metaphor for being -- having their access cut off. Or they'll lose their jobs if they print this.
DOBBS: Robert Novak, your personal feelings today on -- on Robert Novak for having published the information that he was given.
WILSON: As an officer in the government for 23 years, who swore on oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, I would defend his right to publish.
The questions I have for Novak are what did her name add to the story? Didn't add anything. And secondly, when you went to the CIA and the CIA told you not to print the story, not to print her name, what part of no didn't you understand?
Now with respect to another part of Novak's comportment, which I lay out in the book, he was telling strangers on the street, one of whom happened to know me -- I don't know how many other strangers he told. But he told a stranger who happened to know me two days after my article appeared that my wife worked for the CIA. This was before he had a second confirmation. This was before he was prepared to go to press with this.
I find that ethically challenged, to say the best -- to say the least. I find it repugnant. And frankly, to be doing that puts people unnecessarily at risk. Who knows who you might be talking to on the street? For that, I harbor no affection for Mr. Novak, to say the least.
DOBBS: The politics of truth. We are, in every respect in this country right now, challenged, both as reporters, as government officials, public servants, in really every quarter to both discern the truth, to report the truth, to understand it and to create policy around it.
WILSON: I have lived in dictatorships, from Franco's Spain to Saddam's Iraq and many African dictatorships in between. I have looked at what the founding fathers did in creating a system of government that was based on a healthy skepticism of the power of the executive branch.
And as a consequence, you have checks and balances in terms of institutions, the Congress and the Supreme Court, in rights and privileges that accrue to the press, including Novak's right to publish what he and his editors see fit, in order to provide another check on the power of the executive branch.
And then finally, the right of the individual to call his government to account. And that is a civic duty. When you know that your government has passed false information, particularly in a debate as important as war and peace, sending 130,000 kids to kill and to die for their country, it is imperative that that debate be held on a set of commonly accepted facts.
That was not the case here. I knew that not to be the case. I challenged my government to do that. That was a civic duty. That was not courageous or heroic. That was a civic duty.
We need more of that in a democracy, particularly when the institutional -- the institutions that are supposed to be providing these checks and balances seem to be temporarily enfeebled.
DOBBS: Ambassador Joe Wilson, thanks for being here.
WILSON: Good to be with you, Lou.