September 17, 2003


MEDIA ADVISORY: Wesley Clark: The New Anti-War Candidate? Record Shows Clark Cheered Iraq War as "Right Call" (, September 16, 2003)

As time wore on, Clark's reservations seemed to give way. Clark explained on CNN (1/21/03) that if he had been in charge, "I probably wouldn't have made the moves that got us to this point. But just assuming that we're here at this point, then I think that the president is going to have to move ahead, despite the fact that the allies have reservations." As he later elaborated (CNN, 2/5/03): "The credibility of the United States is on the line, and Saddam Hussein has these weapons and so, you know, we're going to go ahead and do this and the rest of the world's got to get with us.... The U.N. has got to come in and belly up to the bar on this. But the president of the United States has put his credibility on the line, too. And so this is the time that these nations around the world, and the United Nations, are going to have to look at this evidence and decide who they line up with."

On the question of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, Clark seemed remarkably confident of their existence. Clark told CNN's Miles O'Brien that Saddam Hussein "does have weapons of mass destruction." When O'Brien asked, "And you could say that categorically?" Clark was resolute: "Absolutely" (1/18/03). When CNN's Zahn (4/2/03) asked if he had any doubts about finding the weapons, Clark responded: "I think they will be found. There's so much intelligence on this."

After the fall of Baghdad, any remaining qualms Clark had about the wisdom of the war seemed to evaporate. "Liberation is at hand. Liberation-- the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions," Clark wrote in a London Times column (4/10/03). "Already the scent of victory is in the air." Though he had been critical of Pentagon tactics, Clark was exuberant about the results of "a lean plan, using only about a third of the ground combat power of the Gulf War. If the alternative to attacking in March with the equivalent of four divisions was to wait until late April to attack with five, they certainly made the right call."

Clark made bold predictions about the effect the war would have on the region: "Many Gulf states will hustle to praise their liberation from a sense of insecurity they were previously loath even to express. Egypt and Saudi Arabia will move slightly but perceptibly towards Western standards of human rights." George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt," Clark explained. "Their opponents, those who questioned the necessity or wisdom of the operation, are temporarily silent, but probably unconvinced." The way Clark speaks of the "opponents" having been silenced is instructive, since he presumably does not include himself-- obviously not "temporarily silent"-- in that category. Clark closed the piece with visions of victory celebrations here at home: "Let's have those parades on the Mall and down Constitution Avenue."

In another column the next day (London Times, 4/11/03), Clark summed up the lessons of the war this way: "The campaign in Iraq illustrates the continuing progress of military technology and tactics, but if there is a single overriding lesson it must be this: American military power, especially when buttressed by Britain's, is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don't try! And that's not hubris, it's just plain fact."

How many 30-second ads can you make out of his own words?

A Fast Climber Who Has Made Some Enemies (Vernon Loeb, September 17, 2003, Washington Post)

[H]aving risen to command the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as supreme allied commander Europe, Clark held the fractious, 19-member military alliance together through 78 days of bombing and led NATO to victory, driving Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Serb forces from the province of Kosovo.

But Clark's hard-charging style, his penchant for dealing directly with the White House and his ceaseless agitation for ground forces during the Kosovo conflict -- over the wishes of Defense Secretary William S. Cohen -- caught up with him a month after the end of the war. In July 2000, while dining with the president of Lithuania in London, Clark was called by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who curtly informed him that Cohen had decided to ease him out of his NATO command. The call stunned Clark. It meant he would have to leave his NATO post three months earlier than scheduled and without a year's extension, which he had expected.

Clark had clashes outside the administration as well. In the war's immediate aftermath, when a contingent of Russian troops moved quickly into Kosovo and occupied the airfield at Pristina, the provincial capital, a British officer, Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, refused a direct order from Clark to block the runway so the Russians could not fly in reinforcements.

Clark, who believed additional Russian troops could have led to a confrontation with NATO and possibly jeopardized the nascent allied peacekeeping mission, insisted. But Jackson stood firm, believing the Russians were isolated at the airfield and did not represent a threat. "Sir, I'm not starting World War III for you," Jackson replied.

Though Mr. Clark deserves every bit of what's about to hit him, just think of how it's going to look when the other Democratic contenders--whose chief task is to convince voters that they can handle national security in these troubled times--start chewing up and spitting out a four-star general. All it will do is confirm their image as the anti-military party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2003 8:00 PM

There's an interesting read as well in the new Atlantic:

Posted by: kevin whited at September 17, 2003 8:47 PM

What does Bush's going AWOL from a string-pulled armchair Nat. Guard position to dodge a drug test say about the Republican Party. Does this confirm any image? DeLay? Cheney? Sounds like Chickenhawk Central to me.

Posted by: Jimmy at September 18, 2003 3:18 PM

Sounds smart to me. Bush can't be both a moron and brilliant enough to pull that off.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2003 3:33 PM

We need an anti-military party.
Although I'm a big fan of the military itself, and love what US military might could accomplish, the Pentagon is a den of inequity, and sometimes outright evil.

The big evil things that the Pentagon has done are well known, but one lesser known example is the secret nuclear reactors that were set up in California during the 50s. One, just a few tens of miles from LA, melted down, releasing quite a bit of radioactive gas.

Placing an experimental nuclear reactor near the US' second largest city ? What in the world were they thinking ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 19, 2003 7:10 AM

That LA is expendable?

Posted by: oj at September 19, 2003 9:18 AM