Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who set off a political firestorm by disputing US intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion, died Friday, his ex-wife said. He was 69. Wilson's died of organ failure in Santa Fe, said his former wife, Valerie Plame, whose identity as a CIA operative was exposed days after Wilson's criticism of US intelligence that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium, the AP reports. The leak of Plame's covert identity was a scandal for President George W. Bush's administration that led to the conviction of vice presidential aide Scooter B. Libby for lying to investigators and justice obstruction. The 2010 film Fair Game, based on the memoirs of Wilson and Plame, depicted the events, per NBC. President Trump pardoned Libby in 2018.
Plame, who is running as a Democrat for Congress — in part as a Trump adversary — on Friday called Wilson "a true American hero, a patriot, and had the heart of a lion." Plame and Wilson moved to Santa Fe in 2007 to raise twin children and divorced in 2017. A Connecticut native and graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Wilson's career with the Foreign Service included posts in a handful of African nations. He was the senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad during the first Gulf War and the last American official to meet with Saddam before Desert Storm. Wilson drew intense criticism from Republican lawmakers over his statements regarding Iraq in the lead-up to the US invasion. The US objective was the disarmament of Saddam, he said in 2003: "We did not need to engage in an invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq in order to achieve that objective."
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