SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s rationale for ordering the killing of a top Iranian general is reminiscent of the use of U.S. intelligence in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, New Mexico congressional candidate and former CIA operative Valerie Plame said Wednesday.
In comments to The Associated Press, Plame questioned Trump’s justification for ordering the attack that killed Qassem Soleimani and said the lives of thousands of American troops are at risk.
She expressed her belief that Trump is willing to ignite a war in an attempt to become a wartime president and boost his re-election chances.
“I believe that this is a horribly cynical attempt to distract from impeachment hearings,” Plame said.
Plame is running for the Democratic nomination in the heavily Democratic 3rd Congressional District in northern New Mexico, as Rep. Ben Ray Luján leaves his seat open to run for Senate.
Plame’s identity as a CIA operative was exposed after her then-husband Joseph Wilson publicly disputed U.S. intelligence used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, under the administration of U.S. President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
“We were told by the Cheney gang that there is WMD in Iraq,” Plame said in reference to weapons of mass destruction. “Now the White House is asking the American people to put our faith in secret intelligence assessments of an imminent threat.”
She said Trump has been “very quick to denigrate” intelligence officials who cross him.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Plame said.
Trump on Wednesday said that Soleimani “was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him.”
Plame’s concerns were echoed in a campaign fundraising email Wednesday and recent Twitter messages.
Plame and Wilson divorced before his death in 2019.
Wilson, a career U.S. diplomat, traveled to the African country of Niger in 2002 to investigate U.S. claims that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium, which could have been used to make nuclear weapons. He later accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.
The subsequent leak of Plame’s covert identity led to the conviction of vice presidential aid Lewis “Scooter” Libby for lying to investigators and obstruction of justice. Trump pardoned Libby in 2018.