A year ago, The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation awarded former Ambassador Joseph Wilson the first annual Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling. I had something of a double connection to this event. Ridenhour, a Vietnam veteran and whistleblower who exposed the My Lai massacre (and who later became a dogged investigative journalist), was a friend of mine. (He died at the age of 52 in 1998.) And I had suggested that Wilson be awarded this honor, for he had challenged the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq (particularly the claim that Iraq had been uranium-shopping in Niger) and then received a brutal payback: two administration officials revealed his wife’s CIA identity to conservative columnist Robert Novak (thus ruining Valerie Wilson’s career as an undercover counterproliferation officer, harming national security, and perhaps violating federal law).
This past summer, the Senate intelligence committee released a report on the prewar intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The report was an indictment of the intelligence community, noting that the community’s critical findings on Iraq’s WMDs were “either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.” That was the big news: the war had been based on bad and overinflated intelligence. (And, by the way, Bush had even overstated the exaggerated intelligence.) But conservatives jumped on a portion of the report devoted to the Niger affair to mount an attack against Wilson. At the time, I debunked much of this assault in two columns (Click here and here). I didn’t realize then that Representative J.D. Hayworth, a Republican from Arizona, and ten of his GOP House colleagues had written a letter to The Nation Institute to demand that the institute withdraw the award it had bestowed upon Wilson. Recently, this letter became an issue in Arizona when Wilson traveled to Phoenix and attended a fundraising event for local Democrats.
I have always enjoyed sparring with Hayworth, my dad’s congressman. He is a large fellow with a large laugh. So it is my pleasure to post below his letter to The Nation Institute and the response from the institute and the Fertel Foundation. In my humble opinion, The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation–which drew upon my published columns in crafting their response–win this debate in a slam-dunk. Without further explanation…The Nation Institute versus J.D. Hayworth et. al.: