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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Former Ambassador Wilson

Aired March 17, 2003 - 10:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, joining us now this morning to talk about these developments as well as this, perhaps, this proposed speech from President Bush this evening is Joe Wilson. He is a former U.S. envoy to Iraq, and he was there at the time of the 1991 gulf war.
He joins us this morning from Washington. Good to see you again, Ambassador Wilson.

JOE WILSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Hi, Leon.

HARRIS: Quite a bit to talk about this morning. First of all, let's begin with this announcement about the draft resolution being taken off the table. Are you surprised by that? What does this mean to you?

WILSON: Not at all. The United States didn't want this draft resolution from the very beginning. They supported it only because Tony Blair needed it for some political cover in the U.K. When the president came out last week and provided Tony Blair the other fig leaf, which was a commitment to the Middle East peace process, that was done clearly because the resolution was dead in the water.

What I am surprised about is playing the blame game. It is -- the fact that there were a number of countries that opposed it is just one of those facts of life. There is no particular need to go out and start blaming anybody for standing in the way of this juggernaut.

HARRIS: Well, we've heard heavy blame being laid at the feet of France on this one. You're surprised by that?

WILSON: Well, I find it really unnecessary and undignified. Particularly by the Americans, in view of the fact the president made it very clear he didn't feel any particular need to go back to the United Nations in the beginning. Obviously, he didn't feel the need because it wasn't clear that he would get a second resolution. So his thinking on that was verified.

HARRIS: Well, you were saying here that this is -- and this has been the view by many, that this whole idea of the second resolution was to offer cover for Tony Blair.

WILSON: Absolutely.

HARRIS: With there being no vote, what actually was accomplished then?

WILSON: Well, I think that by there being no vote, legally the United States and its allies in this war will be able to revert to 1441 and a serious consequences phrase as justification for taking the military action they are about to take. Had they gone for another vote and it had been voted down, then it would have called into question the legality of this war operation.

HARRIS: All right. Well, speaking of operations, one operation that perhaps is underway even as we speak now is the evacuation of all U.S. personnel -- and those who are called nonessential personnel who may be within that region, either in Kuwait or any other country in the region. Can you explain to us what that process is all about?

WILSON: Sure. When we did the Gulf War, we evacuated nonessential personnel from everywhere from Tanzania to Mauritania. It is basically getting dependents, the wives and children of American diplomats, as well as diplomats who are not essential to the day to day functioning of a smaller, reduced size embassy in a wartime situation. Trying to get people to safety, essentially.

HARRIS: Now, as we heard just moments ago, we did hear the word that something of a tipoff as to what President Bush may come out and talk about this evening, is he may be coming out and saying that Saddam Hussein has only a matter of days before -- to leave the country. A matter of days in order to avert war. I'm assuming that you don't believe that is in any way likely?

WILSON: Well, I don't think that we are going to avert war, and I think a matter of days is probably right. If you look at the shock and awe strategy of somewhere between 48 and 72-hour bombing, and you back it up a little bit, we could be at war as early as, say, Wednesday. My guess is that they will not want to bomb Baghdad heavily on the Friday holy day, but maybe they will.

HARRIS: Well, we haven't been able to predict almost anything in this whole entire process, so who knows about that.

WILSON: Actually, Paula -- Paula suggested the other day that I predicted almost everything.

HARRIS: Oh, is that right? In that case, you are coming back for sure. Ambassador Joe Wilson, always good to have you.

WILSON: Thanks, Leon. Bye-bye.

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