Joseph Wilson to ACLU Audience: "Be Very, Very Afraid."

Former ambassador livid over Senate "ambush." Arab Americans, way past angry, play along

BOSTON—"A funny thing happened to me on the way to Boston," said former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who famously didn’t find any evidence that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium from Niger. "Valerie and I were ambushed."

Wilson, speaking today at a Marriott luncheon hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Arab-American Institute (AAI), spent the great bulk of his allotted time railing against the "partisan smear campaign" directed at him and his wife, Valerie Plame, the former CIA operative whose name was leaked to columnist Robert Novak last year. The "ambush" came in the findings of a report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 7, which, among other things, suggests that Wilson's wife got him the job in Niger, and that Saddam Hussein might actually have been looking for uranium in Niger. Wilson denies both charges.

"Where is the hue and cry?" Wilson asked his audience, referring to the deceptions of the Bush administration. He added that what the government had done to Plame and Wilson was a cautionary tale to other whistle-blowers. "Be afraid," he intoned, solemnly. "Be very, very afraid." He got a standing ovation.

The theme of the luncheon was "Reclaiming America: Liberty and Global Responsibility." Ostensibly, it focused on the only concessions Arab Americans are likely to wrestle from the Democrats this year—a focus on civil liberties, and a pledge to make the U.S a better global citizen. Clinton led that charge on the convention floor last night. "We can't kill, arrest, or occupy all our potential adversaries," he said. He got a standing ovation, too.

But for Arab Americans, the parts of the Democratic platform that refer to the Middle East may as well have been written by Republicans. Pollster John Zogby, who shared the dais with Wilson, along with Senator Richard Durbin and Congressman John Conyers, said that "on the war in Iraq . . . and the policy for Israel and Palestine, there is no difference" between the two parties. But he called civil liberties and the Patriot Act a huge issue in this year's "Armageddon election," and suggested this was a place where the Dems would find common ground with conservatives and libertarians.

 
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