Joseph Wilson, US envoy who defied Bush over Iraq, dies aged 69

Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame - 2006 pictureImage copyright
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Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame moved to New Mexico to escape the limelight

The US diplomat Joseph Wilson, who defied President George W Bush over the decision to go to war with Iraq, has died aged 69.

In 2003, Mr Wilson disproved allegations used by the Bush administration as grounds for invasion that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had bought uranium in Niger.

Days later, his then-wife Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA agent, in what some saw as an act of political revenge.

He and Ms Plame divorced in 2017.

Ms Plame told the Washington Post that er ex-husband had died of organ failure in a hospice in New Mexico, where they both lived.

Intelligence ‘twisted’

In a career spanning three decades, Mr Wilson held numerous postings, mainly in Africa.

As acting ambassador to Iraq in the run-up to the First Gulf War in 1991, he was the last US diplomat to meet Saddam Hussein.

In 2002, by then a private citizen, Mr Wilson was sent by the CIA on a fact-finding mission to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq had bought a nuclear material – uranium yellowcake.

Mr Wilson concluded that the reports were false, but 11 months later they reappeared in Mr Bush’s State of the Union address. They were used as evidence that Iraq was obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and justification for the 2003 war.

In July of that year, the former diplomat wrote in the New York Times: “I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

The following week, conservative columnist Robert Novak reported that part of the reason Mr Wilson had been given the Niger mission was that his wife – a CIA agent – recommended him.

Ms Plame, whose work required secrecy, was forced to resign from the service. It was seen by many as an act of revenge against Mr Wilson by the Bush administration.

‘Heart of a lion’

In subsequent years, the couple spoke of having their lives turned upside down by what had happened. Speaking to the New York Times after her husband’s death, Ms Plame described her former husband as “an American hero” with the “heart of a lion”.

She said his actions were not motivated by his Democratic sympathies.

“He did it because he felt it was his responsibility as a citizen,” she said. “It was not done out of partisan motivation, despite how it was spun.”