[PBS TV host Bill Moyers is a well respected journalist. Here is part of an insightful interview between Moyers and Ambassador Wilson* conducted in February 2003, when the main pretext for the invasion was still the destruction of Iraq's WMD, which later became 'Liberation of Iraq'. Those who STILL believe the US invasion was for the liberation of Iraq should have their heads examined.]
MOYERS: Knowing this about - why do you think knowing this that the President Bush is so eager for war?
WILSON: Well, that's a - I think that's a very good question. I think that there is a sense in the administration that the time has run out for Saddam Hussein and the only way that they can achieve the disarmament objective that they want is to go in. But more importantly.
MOYERS: And you agree with that, don't you?
WILSON: Well, no, I don't think that that's the only way. That's where I disagree. I mean, I think that there are several other steps that can be taken before you have to go to total war for the purposes of achieving disarmament.
WILSON: But I think disarmament is only one of the objectives. And the President has touched repeatedly and more openly on the other objectives in recent speeches including this idea of liberating Iraq and liberating its people from a brutal dictator. And I agree that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator.
And I agree along with everybody else that the Iraqi people could - would well be far better off without Saddam Hussein. The problem really is a war which has us invading, conquering and then subsequently occupying Iraq may not achieve that liberation that we're talking about.
MOYERS: So this is not just about weapons of mass destruction.
WILSON: Oh, no, I think it's far more about re-growing the political map of the Middle East.
MOYERS: What does that mean?
WILSON: Well, that basically means trying to install regimes in the Middle East that are far more friendly to the United States - there are those in the administration that call them democracies. Somehow it's hard for me to imagine that a democratic system will emerge out of the ashes of Iraq in the near term. And when and if it does, it's hard for me to believe that it will be more pro-American and more pro-Israeli than what you've got now.
MOYERS: Tell me what you think about the arguments of one of those men, Richard Perle, who is perhaps the most influential advocate in the President's and the administration's ear arguing to get rid of Saddam Hussein. What do you think about his argument?
WILSON: Well, he's certainly the architect of a study that was produced in the mid-'90s for the Likud Israeli government called "a clean break, a new strategy for the realm." And it makes the argument that the best way to secure Israeli security is through the changing of some of these regimes beginning with Iraq and also including Syria. And that's been since expanded to include Iran.
MOYERS: So this was drawn up during the '90s.
WILSON: Right. During the '90s, absolutely.
MOYERS: By men outside of all this?
WILSON: Outside of all this, yeah.
WILSON: Now, Richard Perle's been outside of office since the Reagan years.
MOYERS: And this, you're saying that this has become a blueprint for the Bush Administration?
WILSON: Well, I think this is part of what has been the underpinning of the-- of the philosophical argument that calls for basically radically changing the political dynamics in the Middle East and.
MOYERS: To favor Israel?
WILSON: Well, to favor American national security interests and Israeli national security interests which are tied. I mean, we have.
MOYERS: How so?
WILSON: We have an important strategic responsibility to ensure the territorial integrity of Israel. It's one that we've accepted since 1948. It's one that's been increasingly close. There are those who believe that perhaps we've confused our responsibilities with the slavish adherence to the Likud strategy.
MOYERS: Likud, the party.
WILSON: It's the party in power right now. And certainly when the President or when Sharon comes - the Prime Minister comes to Washington and says that George Bush is the best friend that Israel ever had. And George Bush calls him a man of peace, calls Sharon a man of peace, there are those who wonder about the depth of our ties and the extent to which our national security responsibilities may somehow be confused with our support for the current government in Israel.
MOYERS: So help us understand why removing Saddam Hussein and expanding that movement, throughout the Middle East which would benefit Israel?
WILSON: Well, I think those are the sorts of questions that you need to ask Richard Perle. The argument that I would make.
MOYERS: We asked him but he didn't want to come on the show.
WILSON: Yeah. The argument that it seems to me - I've done democracy in Africa for 25 years. And I can tell you that doing democracy in the most benign environments is really tough sledding. And the place like Iraq where politics is a blood sport and where you have these clan, tribal, ethnic and confessional cleavages, coming up with a democratic system that is pluralistic, functioning and, as we like to say about democracies, is not inclined to make war on other democracies, is going to be extraordinarily difficult.
And let me just suggest a scenario. Assuming that you get the civic institutions and a thriving political culture in the first few iterations of presidential elections, you're going to have Candidate A who is likely going to be a demagogue. And Candidate B who is likely going to be a populist. That's what emerges from political discourse.
Candidate A, Candidate B, the demagogue and the populist, are going to want to win elections of the presidency. And the way to win election is enflame the passions of your population. The easy way for a demagogue or a populist in the Middle East to enflame the passion of the population is to define himself or herself by their enemies.
And the great enemy in the Middle East is Israel and its supplier, the United States. So it's hard to believe, for me, that a thriving democracy certainly in the immediate and near-term and medium-term future is going to yield a successful presidential candidate who is going to be pro-Israel or pro-America.
MOYERS: So you anticipate many unanticipated consequences to a war with Iraq?
WILSON: Not to anticipate unanticipated consequences is a dangerous thing to do. And my military planners used to always tell me, "Hope is not a plan of action." So you don't want to base things on how you hope the outcome is going to turn out.
MOYERS: Talk to me a moment about the notion of preemptive action and regime change. Preemptive action means an attack.
WILSON: That's right. That's right. We have historically reserved as part of our right of legitimate self-defense the authority to go in and take out an enemy before that enemy has an opportunity to take us out. Now what I worry about most is that we've lost focus on the war on terrorism where we've actually gone after al Qaeda and where we should continue to go after al Qaeda both in militarily as well as with our intelligence and our police assets.
We've got lost focus on that. The game has shifted to Iraq for reasons that are confusing to everybody. The millions of people who are on the streets of our country and of Europe, as I said the other day, it strikes me as - it may prove that Abraham Lincoln is right. You cannot fool all the people all the time.
They have been sold. We have been sold a war on disarmament or terrorism or the nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction or liberation. Any one of the four. And now with the President's speeches, you clearly have the idea that we're going to go in and take this preemptive action to overthrow a regime, occupy its country for the purposes, the explicit purposes of fostering the blossoming of democracy in a part of the world where we really have very little ground, truth or experience.
And, certainly, I hope along with everybody that the President in his assessment is correct. And that I am so wrong that I'm never invited to another foreign policy debate again.
MOYERS: You're not likely to be after this. (LAUGHTER)
WILSON: Because if I am right, this could be a real disaster. If I am wrong and the President is right, and you do have the democratic state that emerges, and you do have the power of the United States there as an arbiter, and you have a renewed commitment, as the President suggested in his speech to moving the Israeli-Palestinian process forward, then it could go well.
But I do believe - and it could be good for Israel. But I continue to believe that the path to peace in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem far more than it goes through Baghdad.
MOYERS: To a peaceful settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
WILSON: Not just that. But that is the thorn that has to be pulled from the region in order for, in my judgment, the evolution of other governments in a more modern way. So long as you have the Israeli-Palestinian problem there, any of these governments can use that.
WILSON: .as the external enemy against which they mobilize their own populations.
WILSON: And avoid responsibility for their own destinies.
MOYERS: Yeah. Joseph Wilson, thank you very much for this conversation.
WILSON: It's my pleasure.
*Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council from June 1997 until July 1998, responsible for the coordination of U.S. policy to the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. He was a principal architect of President Clinton's historic trip to Africa in March 1998 and a leading proponent of the Africa Trade Bill.