This book has another, much longer, subtitle, “Inside the Lies That Put the White House on Trial and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity”. It is a solid contribution to my project of understanding the history I lived through. I was born the same year as the author, who died in 2019.
The US Foreign Service hired Wilson because he was fluent in French, and possibly because he was “handy”, having worked as a carpenter. They initially assigned him to administer aid in Niger, which suffered from drought.
Wilson was gregarious, in the best sense, forming friendships readily. He grew to love Africa, and wished Americans understood it better.
Wilson’s diplomatic career spanned service in six different sub-Saharan countries, two of which he served as ambassador. He later worked in Iraq as leading US government representative during the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait, risking his life to get Americans safely away before the first Iraq war (Desert Storm) exploded in 1991. He retired from the Foreign Service in 1998.
Given his breadth of experience and his political visibility after retirement, a memoir was certainly to be expected. But Wilson is one of those men best known for the person he married. He was “Mr. Valerie Plame”. Why did the administration of President George W Bush “blow the cover” of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative (spy) whose specialty was weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? I reviewed Ms. Plame’s memoir at the link below.
Long story… Bush wanted to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein. He told the American people that Hussein had WMDs, and we went to war (Operation Iraqi Freedom) in 2003. THE WEAPONS WERE NEVER FOUND. Wilson was very public about the fact that President Bush knew they didn’t exist. Bush allowed Plame to be “outed” as a way to discredit Wilson, an unethical and destructive action.
Wilson was convinced that action short of war (diplomacy, sanctions, airspace interdictions, UN pressure, etc) could have led to regime change in Iraq without invasion and occupation. After all, two major “revolutions” of immense global importance had taken place in the preceding decade. The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 and South Africa ended apartheid and embraced democracy in 1994. During each of these radical changes, war was avoided.
Wilson was not a pacifist. He said he was opposed to “stupid war”. He approved of Desert Storm because it was conducted by an international coalition, supported by the American public and had a clear, limited goal – to get Iraq out of Kuwait. Operation Iraqi Freedom was preemptive (against an unconfirmed threat), unilateral and without a clear goal. Only once in the book does he use the “Q-word”, quagmire.
Contemporary note… Wilson points out that a major red flag in the run-up to the second Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom) was lack of an occupation PLAN. Sound familiar?
Wilson would be furious about our current struggles with the Covid pandemic and the recent insurrection. Certainly he would not be silent.