Joseph Wilson IV: The French Connection

There are an amazing number of French fingerprints all over the Plame—Wilson affair. While it is not easy to penetrate the dark fog of lies, there is a highly consistent pattern pointing to French government involvement with a Watergate—style assault on the American Presidency, fronted by Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

In 2002 French intelligence forged the notorious document claiming that Saddam tried to obtain Niger uranium. The Italian middle man, Rocco Martino, later confessed to French involvement in open court. Rocco Martino might sound like a small—time mafia hood from the Sopranos. Actually, he works at times for Italian military intelligence. The truth about the French connection came out when Martino confessed in court that the French had given him the forged document to peddle to various intelligence agencies. The Italians and French have had a furious war of words ever since then about who was responsible for the forgery.

The FBI just leaked a claim that Rocco did it just for the money. That is very doubtful. The French naturally deny any responsibility, but the forged document was dropped on the public at exactly the time that Dominique de Villepin, then Foreign Minister, was in New York trying to make Colin Powell believe that France was prepared to help overthrow Saddam. The French forgery was a stink bomb, designed to be exposed in public as soon as Colin Powell publicly accepted it.

At the very same time the Niger forgery showed up, France's Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, was sand bagging Secretary Powell at the UN by pretending to support American efforts against Saddam — even as he got ready to pull out the rug in a surprise press conference. Reporter Kenneth Timmerman told Brit Hume for FoxNews that:

"Our administration thought that the French were with us, that French had dispatched their top general to Centcom, Chirac had promised the president (to support the United States against Saddam). Villepin the foreign minister had promised Powell. They said they were with us, and they weren't. ..."

"So then de Villepin goes outside at noontime. ... Powell is actually watching Fox News... as de Villepin goes on TV ... And that's when he announces to the world that France will never ever support the use of force against Saddam Hussein. ... Powell's jaw dropped to the floor...."

It was a carefully planned ambush. Timmerman summed it up by saying that

"Chirac lied to the president of the United States, and then he ordered his Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin to do the same thing with Colin Powell."

And then, they pulled the plug.

De Villepin's ambush triggered a giant anti—American firestorm in Europe and around the world. Germans, French, Brits and Swedes were foaming at the mouth for months and months. France was therefore extremely successful in discrediting American policy against Saddam.

But that was not enough, because Saddam was quickly knocked over by the US—led coalition forces. Somehow the media fires had to be kept alive.  The "Bush lied us into war" slogan had to be kept going in the minds of the public.  

Enter our hero, Joseph C. Wilson, from stage left. The French forgery about Niger led straight to Wilson's bogus trip to Africa. Wilson supposedly went there to find out the truth for the CIA. But every government involved already  knew the truth about the bogus document, because it showed incorrect names of Niger officials. A single telephone call to Niger would have established that fact.

The reason why Wilson had to travel to Niger in person to "investigate," while drinking mint tea with his uranium mining friends, was to establish his bona fides — to make him an instant "expert witness" on Saddam's dealings with Niger. Did French intelligence urge Wilson to make his trip and enlist his wife Valerie to propose him? Without that trip, Joseph C. Wilson had no special claim to any expertise about Saddam's weapons. It was Valerie Plame who was the CIA WMD expert, but it was Wilson who became the front man.

Notice that the modus operandi for the Wilson trip was much the same as for the Niger forgery: a classic con game. Find a sucker, tell him what he wants to hear, and use that credulous embrance by the mark to destroy your enemy. In the first case the sucker was Colin Powell. In the second case it was the New York Times Op—Ed page.  In both cases the enemy to be shafted was George W. Bush and the administration. This is how disinformation is supposed to work.

Joseph Wilson had intimate French connections for many years before his mint tea—sipping journey to Niger. In fact, he met his first wife at the French Embassy in Washington. His second wife, Jacqueline, to whom he was still married when he took up with Valerie Plame, was a former French diplomat.  There is even a report that she was a 'cultural attach in Francophone Africa, a post often used as cover for intelligence operatives, though this remains quite a murky point, as tradecraft suggests it should. 

Today Wilson claims to be a business agent for "African mining companies."  But Niger's mines are owned by a French consortium, which operates cheek—by—jowl with the Quai d'Orsay. Niger itself is a semi—colony of France. No uranium sales go on there without the full knowledge and consent of the French government. Valerie Plame was quoted in a CIA memo as saying that "my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts)..." Lots of French contacts, indeed.

Wilson exploded into public view, and spent two years barnstorming around the country, giving outraged speeches to publicize the idea that he had found the smoking gun to prove Bush had lied. and their friends were happy to believe him.

Wilson was interviewed on PBS and NPR, and wrote a book, now thoroughly discredited, to push his anti—Bush agenda. In the process he told so many lies that he lost track of them himself.  But that made no difference. The media and the Left leaped on the story like manna from heaven; or, possibly, like fine champagne from France.

Well, hypothetically just suppose for a moment that Wilson's strings are being pulled by the French. What motivates the French government? They have been very clear about that.

Jacques Chirac and his close ally Dominique de Villepin have long proclaimed France to be the strategic enemy of American power. Paris openly yearns to lead the European Union to superpower status, in order to undermine American "hegemony," and above all for the eternal grandeur of la belle France. De Villepin has written books vilifying the United States; he is an open French imperialist, who conceives of himself as a world—historic figure in the mold of his personal heroes Napoleon and Niccolo Machiavelli.

France's short—term aim for the Niger forgery was to block US actions against Saddam Hussein, or at least to discredit America in the run—up to the Iraq war. The long—term strategic purpose was to drive a wedge between the US and Europe, so that the European Union — guided by France — could be persuaded to revolt against fifty years of US leadership of the West.  

This strategy succeeded, but not completely. The American action in Iraq provoked massive public fury in Europe, whipped up by the government—owned media and the Left. It caused a rift in public opinion that continues today. Had Tony Blair not gone along with President Bush against Saddam, the EU might now be going on its separate way, aiming for world domination, just as de Villepin has fervently advocated. If the EU Constitution had been approved, as the media confidently predicted it would be, Jacques Chirac might now be running to be the first president of Europe.

For decades France has conducted major industrial espionage in the United States. Having Wilson as a source on Clinton's National Security Council would be an obvious boon for that purpose. Had John Kerry won the 2004 election, Wilson might now be back in the White House, perhaps helping his good friends abroad. He was therefore a very good prospect for French intelligence to cultivate, especially given the lax security standards of the Clinton years.  And if Wilson and Plame do succeed in bringing down George W. Bush, Chirac and de Villepin would be overjoyed.

French hatred of American power is the reason why France pressured Turkey (anxious to enter the EU) to block the US IV Infantry  Division from crossing Iraq's northern border to help knock over Saddam Hussein.  Had the IV ID hit Saddam from the North while Tommy Franks attacked from the South, the current Iraqi insurrection might have been crushed even before it got started, the Baathist hardcore unable to flee north to the Sunni Triangle and entrench itself among the small percentage of Iraqis who benefited from Saddam's rule. The original plan envisioned just such a pincer movement. We therefore owe many of our 2,000 soldiers' deaths to deliberate and malicious French sabotage, with thanks to Dominique de Villepin and Jacques Chirac.

There is every reason to believe that France desperately wants this White House to be weakened or overthrown. They would be happy with Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat as president, because the Euro—socialist, non—interventionist base of that party is compatible with French policies and strategies. European emphasis on the United Nations as the forum for handling international conflicts plays to France's strongest asset in world affairs, its veto—wielding Security Council seat, and its large number of Francophone former colonies, each with a vote in the General Assembly. A strong America wielding its mighty military force is de Villepin's worst nightmare.

What about France and Wilson? While we do not know all the facts, there is no question that Joseph Wilson has acted precisely as we might expect from an agent provocateur. He worked fervently to undermine the Bush White House with plainly false accusations, putting the Niger forgery to very good use. Joe Wilson calls himself a business agent for unnamed "African mining companies." We can reasonably guess that he made those contacts during his several postings in Francophone West Africa, possibly when he was Ambassador to Gabon, another former French colony, at the culmination of his State Department career. 

Wilson claims credit for persuading Bill Clinton to make a heavily hyped trip to French Africa, tossing millions of US aid dollars to the local dictatorships, including, possibly, some of Wilson's friends. So Wilson apparently works as a consultant for French—owned mining companies in Africa, which would allow him to be openly paid by those companies.  None of this makes for a smoking gun, but it is certainly, at minimum, an interesting coincidence that a man with such extensive and intimate French connections should be conducting a ferocious nationwide crusade against the President of the United States, who also happens to be hated by the French government.

Was Wilson acting on his own in planting the Times Op—Ed? Were Valerie Plame and her friends at CIA pulling strings?  Or was it other Democrats? There is plenty of evidence for CIA backing of Wilson and Plame, as many have previously noted. There may be nothing more to it than a failed CIA WMD intelligence group covering itself with a manufactured diversionary scandal.

But for someone with Wilson's ego, simple flattery by the "sophisticated" French might be a powerful tool of manipulation. He has all the appearance of a wounded narcissist, someone who needs the attention of the world to make up for his inner deficiencies. When the Soviet KGB ran agents all over the Western world they rarely bothered to pay them. They were "idealists" whose vanity could be easily manipulated.

Is all that tangled enough for you? Keep in mind that the whole affair may be a classic disinformation campaign, run by the pros who make their living doing just that. Just as Watergate showed how Mark Felt learned how to make damaging leaks from J. Edgar Hoover, the modus operandi of the Plame—Wilson affair reflects professional intelligence methods.

For now, there are only questions, not answers. Maybe someone with the power to subpoena and compel testimony under oath ought to be investigating. Whoever is guiding Joseph C. Wilson IV seems to specialize in dangerous intrigue. We have not seen the end of them yet.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.