The last American official to confront Saddam Hussein before the start of the 1990 Gulf War, Joe Wilson was the acting U.S. Ambassador in Iraq throughout Operation Desert Shield. During his 20-plus year career in international relations, he held numerous senior government appointments, including Special Assistant to President Clinton and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. President George H.W. Bush called Wilson “a true American hero” for his efforts to free more than 100 American hostages in Iraq after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Wilson’s highly decorated diplomatic career also included service as Political Adviser to the Commander in Chief of U.S Armed Forces in Europe during the military activities in former Yugoslavia; and as the first President Bush’s Ambassador to Gabon and to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.
In 2002, the Bush Administration asked Wilson to investigate reports that Saddam was seeking to acquire uranium from the West African nation of Niger for Iraq’s nuclear program. Wilson reported back to Washington that there was no truth to the claims. Notwithstanding Wilson’s report, President Bush asserted in his 2003 State of the Union address that “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” identifying the British as the source of this bogus intelligence.
In a New York Times article in July, 2003, Wilson publicly stated his conclusions resulting from his trip to Niger, and charged that the Bush Administration skewed the British intelligence to exaggerate the threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons development. Eight days later, as retaliation for his article, his ex-wife’s identity as a covert CIA officer was revealed by senior White House and State Department officials. The betrayal of Valerie Plame’s identity was a crime, and resulted in the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff on four counts of perjury, lying to federal investigators, and obstruction of justice.
Among Ambassador Wilson’s many awards are the Physicians for Social Responsibility Peacemaker Award (2007), and the ACLU’s National Civil Liberties Award (2007). In October 2003, Wilson received the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize (which is awarded to an individual or organization that has brought an important issue to light) from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. Wilson’s additional honors include: the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the University of California/Santa Barbara Distinguished Alumnus Award and the American Foreign Service Association William R. Rivkin Award.
A California native and graduate of UC-Santa Barbara, Wilson managed JC Wilson International Ventures, a consulting firm specializing in strategic management and international-business development. He resided in Santa Fe, New Mexico.