Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson was the last American official to meet with Saddam Hussein before Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Wilson criticized Bush administration claims that Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Africa. An administration official leaked to journalists that Wilson's wife was a covert CIA operative. Here are excerpts from his remarks at Wednesday's breakfast:
"It is in the interests of everybody to look at this as a national security crime and so I am a little bit surprised at the lack of attention paid to this by senior Republicans. It is not a partisan issue. The mission I undertook for the president (investigating Saddam's alleged purchase of uranium from Niger) was at the request of the administration. ...I have said repeatedly that I have confidence that the government will do what the government needs to do. And I hope that they will do it before Nov. 4th (election day 2004)."
"The problem I had with this administration, as I tried to articulate, was that if you had to use military force you ought to do it in supporting your national security objective. In other words, it ought to be the right military action, the smart military action for the right reasons rather than something dumb. It struck me that the invasion, conquest, and occupation of Iraq was neither necessary nor even desirable to achieve that disarmament objective. In fact it seems to me always that it was the highest risk, lowest reward proposition."
"It seems to me that what you are beginning to see is the administration changing the terms to define victory from what the president has articulated as being a thriving democracy that serves as a beacon for the Middle East to a definition that goes more or less as follows: we have killed the tyrant, we have killed his two sons, we have given the Iraqis the tools they need to recreate the country in their image. Now it is time to bring the boys home."
"Democratization is really tough sledding. It is tough business. ...the best term I have ever heard for democratization is that it is like an English lawn. You have to seed it, you have to fertilize it, you have to water it. And if you really want it to look good, you have to roll it every day for 600 years.... We still wake up every morning and we fight in our democracy. We fight at the planning boards, we fight at the PTAs, we fight at the school boards, we fight at the city council, county government...why should we assume that because we wave a magic wand and an M-16 and an Abrams tank that suddenly some form of idyllic democracy is going to form in a society whose traditions are much different from ours? ... I also don't think that you can bring democracy at the point of a gun."
"I did this because I think John Kerry is the best man for the job. Obviously my endorsement of him has not helped him significantly so far."
"There is a problem within the Republican party and the problem is who owns the Republican party. Is it the Republicans who listened to George Bush when he debated Al Gore ... or is it this neoconservative crowd that has decided that the best foreign policy for the United States is that which is articulated by the Project for the New American Century (an educational group led by William Kristol)."