September 24, 2003

BORN OF FAMILIARITY:

Gen. Shelton shocks Celebrity Forum, says he won't support Clark for president (Joan Garvin, 9/24/03, Los Altos Town Crier)

Retired General H. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 9/11, shared his recollection of that day and his views of the war against terrorism with the Foothill College Celebrity Forum audience at Flint Center, Sept. 11 and 12.

His review of that historic event and his 38 years in the military kept the audience's rapt attention throughout. But it was his answer to a question from the audience at the end that shocked his listeners.

"What do you think of General Wesley Clark and would you support him as a presidential candidate," was the question put to him by moderator Dick Henning, assuming that all military men stood in support of each other. General Shelton took a drink of water and Henning said, "I noticed you took a drink on that one!"

"That question makes me wish it were vodka," said Shelton. "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."


The dirty little not-so-secret of General Clark's military career is that he is universally loathed by his peers and the troops who served under him. And, of course, the Clintonites who are running his campaign all worked for the president who fired him. Mr. Clark's run for president--like that of Dick Gephardt, Carol Moseley-Braun, and John Edwards--is a case of trying to fail upwards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 24, 2003 9:43 AM
Comments

Gosh, you're right. That's a shameful military record that evil Mr. Clark has. Guess I'll have to vote for the unimpeachable military record of George "I don't read the papers, I get objective news from Rovesputin" Bush. Thanks for making this easy.

Posted by: Jimmy at September 24, 2003 10:30 AM

Jimmy,

In other words, "It doesn't matter who we're talking about, Bush is EEEEEEVIL!"

Posted by: Roy at September 24, 2003 10:58 AM

Jimmy:

I'd have thought your ilk would oppose the General because he led a unilateral regine change against a country that was no threat to us and had no WMD, but which we targeted just to boost a failing, draft-dodging president's poll numbers. No?

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 11:01 AM

Jimmy:

Why should Bush bother to read the papers - they only say what you want to believe. The objective truth is another matter.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 24, 2003 11:14 AM

Jimmy:

I spent 20 years in the military. It was a privilege to serve with the most honorable group of people you could hope to find.

That group finds Clark loathsome, which should worry you very much.

That you, instead, immediately choose misdirection makes me wonder about your ability to separate chalk from cheese.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 24, 2003 11:36 AM

Don't bother with the likes of little jimmy. As the old saw goes - "If the evidence is on your side, argue the evidence, if not then argue the law, and if neither is on your side pound the table and shout."

Like all the Bush haters little jimmy has been reduced to pounding the table and shouting. Quite pathetic really.

Posted by: Robert Modean at September 24, 2003 12:32 PM

"I'd have thought your ilk would oppose the General because he led a unilateral regine change against a country that was no threat to us and had no WMD, but which we targeted just to boost a failing, draft-dodging president's poll numbers. No?"

Jimmy's comment was a bit on the shrill side, and dodged the point more than a bit as well. But I once again feel the need the clarify: Kosovo was not an example of "unilateral regime change." It was a NATO-sponsored effort, which is hardly the same thing. In fact, the war in Kosovo would have served as a fine model for those who were so hot for regime change in Iraq--especially in how one can transform potential enemies, such as Greece, into allies--had there not been too much pride to take any example from the Clinton administration.

Also, I think you're confusing Kosovo with the cruise missile strikes on the Sudan and Pakistan in 1998, which were arguably made in part to boost Clinton's poll numbers (his popularity never fell to levels that could by any stretch be termed "failing" at any time post-1994). Kosovo had nothing to do with poll numbers, falling or otherwise.

Good thing it wasn't a ground war, though. All those conservatives who were against the war would have seriously endangered the troops.

I keep hearing about how Clark is "loathed" by military men, although the only documentation I've seen on this has been limited to officers. What I've never seen explicated at all is _why_. Might someone enlighten me (I'm in the solid majority that doesn't know enough about the man to make any real decision yet)?

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 24, 2003 4:03 PM

Oh, and by the way, another thing wrong with oj's analogy: Kosovo had no WMD, but then that offensive there was never justified in terms of WMD. The Iraq offensive was--in fact, WMDs were the primary reason given for asking the U.N. to condone the invasion and other countries to join the coalition. [I realize that other justifications have been given after the fact, and that some of them are indeed relevant--Iraq is inarguably better off without Hussein in power--but the record is crystal clear on the justifications presented beforehand.] The potential for scandal in this has always been less the miscalculation that may have been involved than the willful misrepresentation of intelligence to give the appearance of a threat that the administration, or least parts of it (V.P. Cheney, mainly), knew not to exist.

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 24, 2003 4:09 PM

M:

Clinton was already failing by the time we went in there, we just didn't know he'd been accosting women and catching hummers from interns.

Iraq was not unilateral either, was it? But neither had UN sanction which the Left has made the exclusive test of multilateralism.

You'll have to explain how conservative opposition to war endangered troops who wouldn't have been there if they'd prevailed?

Clark was always considered to be only interested in the promotion of Clark.

WMD was used as a justification to the UN, not for the war itself. We had to lie to try to get them to go along because they did not accept the real reasons for the war as suufficient. There's never any danger in such lies which have been used to get us into every war we've fought.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 4:16 PM

To take your responses one at a time:

Define "failing." Clinton's approval numbers were below 50% in most polls in 93-94. Subsequent to the government shutdown (which, ironically, also marked the start of his "affair" with Lewinsky), his numbers moved safely above 55%, peaking during the impeachment proceedings in the high 70's. All of which is moot if you had another meaning in mind for "failing."

Iraq was technically not unilateral, but come on, the list of "willing" coalition members was never more than pathetic. On the other hand, Clinton lined up NATO and all of the Balkan republics behind the Kosovo effort. You are correct, however, in pointing out that "the Left" has made U.N. sponsorship the sole criterion for an operation's legality: a fair proportion of leftists opposed Kosovo as well.

The "conservative opposition" comment to which you refer was a sidebar cheap-shot and little more, but the exact same argument could be made, and has been made, vis-a-vis U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Clark self-promotion angle is one I've heard before, but if that's all there is to it, it's piffle. I've heard similar things about the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a group; you don't get there any other way, supposedly; for that matter, no one could conceivably want to be President without that sort of motivation. It's all so much gossip until I hear something more substantial.

OK, so Bush and Co. lied to the U.N. No one's going to get their feathers ruffled over that, for better or worse. But along with the mythical Iraq-Al Qaeda link, WMD was the justification given to Congress and the American people as well. A different animal. Not the first Presidential lie, and not the last, but some citizens do get concerned about these sorts of things...

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 24, 2003 4:55 PM

I just love this comment by M.Bulger:

"In fact, the war in Kosovo would have served as a fine model for those who were so hot for regime change in Iraq--especially in how one can transform potential enemies, such as Greece, into allies--had there not been too much pride to take any example from the Clinton administration."

What benefit would we have had by waiting another 6 months to get Greece on board for Iraq? Would it have been likely to be greater than the cost in human lives in Iraq (from Saddam's chambers) and the potential WMD development that may have continued? Greater than the message to the muslim world that America cares so little about its own security that it can get tied up seeking the approval from piss-ant(sp?) countries that commit neither troops nor money?

Come on man.

Posted by: Matt C at September 24, 2003 5:13 PM

I'd also like to ask M.Bulger what the consequences of having Greece as an "enemy" were for the job in Iraq.

Posted by: Matt C at September 24, 2003 5:15 PM

GREECE!

Posted by: Matt C at September 24, 2003 5:18 PM

The Commies are one of their 4 main parties for crying out loud. Two of the others are socialist. These are natural allies.

From the CIA Factbook:

Political parties and leaders:
Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) [Nikolaos KONSTANDOPOULOS]; Communist Party of Greece or KKE [Aleka PAPARIGA]; New Democracy or ND (conservative) [Konstandinos KARAMANLIS]; Panhellenic Socialist Movement or PASOK [Konstandinos SIMITIS]

Posted by: Matt C at September 24, 2003 5:26 PM

We can set all that aside and ask just one question: you want the commmander who led the Dutch to glory at Srbrenica?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 24, 2003 6:03 PM

Those who dislike Bush need to realize their problem here isn't with him; it's with Shelton and any other retired military personnel who make similar insinuations about their feelings towards Clark in the near future (and unless you assume the questioner in the audience was a plant, then this was Shelton just speaking off the top of his head on his feelings about his former underling).

Since political opponents on both the left and right have cause to make Clark's negatives go higher, comments like Shelton's can be used by not only the Bush people, but by others like Dean and Kerry to question Wesley's leadership abilities. His handlers need to start rounding up some sort of "Retired Commissioned Officers for Clark" group -- if possible -- to offset the problems something like this will cause if others voice the same feelings.

Posted by: John at September 24, 2003 6:23 PM

M.:

By "failing" I sort of meant that he had to shut down the government because he'd lost both houses of Congress, one for the first time in forty years. This followed the failure of his signature program, Hilarycare. How would you define that?

You concede the UN point: kudos.

I agree that the opposite is fair in Iraq. Had liberals succeeded there'd be no dead Americans in Iraq. So what?

If you know anyone in the military, especially any who served with Clark, ask them what they think of him. And recall it was your guy Clinton who fired him unceremoniously.

Whenever President Bush made the case for war to the American people WMD was just one among a range of reasons, though an important one. There was no WMD. Saddam tricked us into thinking there was. He wins.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 6:39 PM

We fought above Kosovo because Clinton would have been shamed if the ethnic cleansing had continued. After Rwanda, he just couldn't wimp out again, and the victims, after all, were now Euros rather than African tribefolk. It was a leftist war - no US vital interest at stake and no European opposition (they had looked for us to deal with situation starting in 1992). So the fighting was sterile and half-hearted. A truly moral war would have involved bombing Belgrade in 1992-93, but no way that was going to happen.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 24, 2003 8:23 PM

Matt C.:

Perhaps your confusion is partly my fault--I neglected to qualify which conflict I was referring to when bringing up Greece--but you really need to think a bit more before rhetorically throwing your hands in the air and your voice to the crowd like that.

In any case, when bringing up Greece I was referring to the Kosovo conflict, not Iraq. I may even be a bit confused on that score--was the diplomatic success story of that war Greece's or Macedonia's involvement? Regardless, one of them was a natural enemy of Kosovo, and the Clinton administration, by making them part of the NATO, was able to draw them in on the American side.

The direct comparison to Bush's diplomatic failure in Turkey, which by providing a northern front alone could have greatly assisted in the Iraq conflict, is instructive. The Bush administration alternately dangled carrots (having to do with the Kurds, who were completely betrayed by that move) and attempted to bully the Turks into line. Despite the potential strategic gains that would have been presented to the Turkish government by their involvement, they elected to side with the vast majority of their population and not participate.

End results: Clinton had a coalition and international approval for an American-directed conflict. Bush alienated most of the world and bought himself and America a war and a nation to rebuild all by ourselves. I am of the opinion that the Iraqi conflict was a necessary one, sooner or later. I just take issue with the dishonesty and incompetence with which the Bush administration chose to wage that conflict--a dishonesty and incompetence that is reflected in nearly every other facet of their policies.

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 24, 2003 10:11 PM

M:

It was precisely because we wouldn't sell the Kurds out that we couldn't get Turkey on board. They have legitimate concerns about the inevitable Kurdistan. It's a minor tiff with an ally, nothing that could have or should have been avoided.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 10:24 PM

OJ:

I have to disagree with you completely on your view of a "failing" Clinton presidency. "Hillarycare," as you call it, was a smashing defeat (and deservedly so). The Republican gains of 1994 were a direct reflection on a besieged executive branch. But the decision to allow the federal government to shut down rather than capitulate to the Republican Congress was nothing other than a brilliant political stratagem, and it worked. By 1996 Clinton was winning reelection in a landslide; by 1998 (the timeframe of the Kosovo conflict) the period in which his presidency could be said to be "failing" was ancient history. The Republican-led rush to impeachment only bolstered his popularity, although it did distract him from major new policy initiatives, which may have been the point.

One other thing: please do not refer to Clinton as my man. While the current occupant of the White House has me pining for Clinton (hell, he has me pining for Reagan), during his actual tenure I was not a big fan, although that had nothing to do with his sexual peccadilloes.

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 24, 2003 10:26 PM

OJ: That's not how I read it. The Bush administration was hot enough for a northern front that they did offer to sell out the Kurds. It was both public and blatant. It is possible to argue that the Turks didn't believe they'd really go through with it in the end, and backed out for that reason; it is more likely that they looked at their people--90% of whom wanted nothing to do with Bush's war--and decided not to risk revolt.

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 24, 2003 10:32 PM

M:

I've never heard 49% referred to as a landslide before, but what the heck, if failing on his biggest program and historic losses in Congress and the states didn't make him a failing president then definitions are out the window anyway.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 10:32 PM

Where did you read anything like that? Had we let them have control of the Kurdish region they'd have jumped at the chance.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 10:34 PM

I have to give Mr. Bulger full points. He argues his side very ably, and it is nice to have an alternate point of view that doesn't make one think shropshire is a new synonym for a word that is the evil spawn of shrill and hysterical.

OJ's point above was spot on. He fooled us into thinking he had WMD (even that Belgian bureaucrat, Blix, agrees). Silly us.

Turn the argument a little. Absent sanctions, would Saddam have had WMD? Anyone who says no needs to be committed to the Home for the Hopelessly Gullible. How long is it morally defensible to punish the Iraqis for their dictator's actions?

Because that is fundamentally what was happening. We had three alternatives. Lift sanctions, with predictable, awful results. Maintain sanctions, with predictable, awful results.

Or knock over the apple cart because there was no solution in the first two alternatives.

This is a logically similar to OJ's assertion that the best way to deal with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to impose statehood on the Palestinians.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 25, 2003 7:59 AM

OJ:

"In the Feb. 27 [2003] Washington Post, Philip P. Pan and Daniel Williams report that the United States has agreed to let up to 40,000 Turkish troops into northern Iraq (this according to a Turkish government official). According to Owen Matthews and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Newsweek, that's a low-ball. They put the number of troops the United States will allow into northern Iraq at 80,000 and say that the Turks may be allowed to proceed as many as 270 kilometers into Iraq, which is "nearly the whole of Iraqi Kurdistan." Reportedly, another part of the U.S. agreement with Turkey is to disarm Kurdish troops when the war against Iraq is over.

The Turks say their only interest is to secure a buffer zone to control the flow of refugees and protect the area's Turkmen minority. Nobody believes this, least of all the Kurds, who are convinced the move would block formal establishment of an autonomous Kurdistan state within the newly liberated Iraq (by agreement with the United States, the Kurds have renounced any claim to full independence from Iraq)."

This is perhaps open to a bit of interpretation, but the general consensus was that Turkey was to be allowed to police northern Iraq, in the interests of "pacifying" the Kurdish population and preventing any movement toward a united Kurdistan, which would have had to include a fair portion of eastern Turkey. But then, the Bush administration flip-flopped on this matter often enough that it is an open question as to how serious this offer really was.

And Jeff, I would clarify the "fooled us" bit: Saddam didn't fool "us." Some of "us" were highly skeptical of the "evidence" for Iraqi WMDs back in the Fall of 2002. I, for one, was absolutely floored by what was included in the State of the Union speech when I heard it, and I'm not just talking about the forged Niger documents; practically all of it had been discredited beforehand by the relevant intelligence agencies, by enterprising journalists, or by U.N. inspectors. If Saddam fooled anyone, it was the Bush administration and its supporters. It was only his bad luck (or his miscalculation) that this played right into the hands of a group that was hot to attack from the moment they took office.

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 25, 2003 9:25 AM

That's what the Turks said, but if there was such an agreement they'd have accepted it, because control of Kurdistan was their war aim. The fact that we wouldn't cede them control is why no agreement ever came to fruition.

Did Saddam not fool the Clinton administration at least? Or were they too part of the Bush/Blair scheme before the fact?

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2003 9:31 AM

OJ:

The Turks said it; so did some sources in the Bush administration (see New York Times around that timeframe; I can't find the article to cut and paste). The Kurds certainly believed it--thousands of them took to the streets to protest it at the time.

To be fair, subsequent to this several members of the Bush administration, including Rumsfeld, came forward with strongly worded warnings to Turkey not to intervene in northern Iraq, but this was after it became clear that Turkey was not only not going to lend troops to the effort, but (unlike even France) was not going to allow U.S. planes to fly in Turkish airspace.

As for "fooling" the Clinton administration, who can say? They apparently believed in Iraqi WMDs as late as 1998, when they ordered Desert Fox (mostly cruise missile strikes). But then, there's a little theory making the rounds that maybe the major reason Saddam had no WMDs was that Desert Fox was a success. Imagine! A cruise missile attack that was supposedly just a "wag-the-dog" effort to divert attention from the Clinton sex scandal may have succeeded in disarming one of the world's foremost totalitarian maniacs.

(Sidebar: That was, incidentally, the same operation that prompted the U.N. to remove its inspectors for their own safety. The Bush administration lie earlier this year--peddled by no less than V.P. Cheney on CNN--was that Saddam had expelled them.)

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 25, 2003 11:01 AM

Mr. Bulger:

I happened to partake of Desert Storm I. In that war, one of our targeting challenges was attacking elaborate nuclear bomb-proof shelters that Saddam had built. (He didn't seem to realize that certain things can be nuclear-bomb proof while being conventional bomb vulnerable, but that is a whole different story.)

Why did he need those shelters? Because he was defending against the possibility of a nuclear attack. From whom? Israel. Why? Because he intended to attack Israel with nuclear weapons first.

Before DS I, our intelligence agencies thought Saddam to be 5 years away from having nukes. One of the fruits of victory was learning that 5 years was actually about 18 months.

Add to the case were the facts that he gassed both Kurds and Iranians.

Come DS II. His deliverable to the UN was proof he had terminated his WMD programs. This he failed to do, instead forcing us to search for them, and putting us in the position of proving a negative.

Put yourself in charge. Given this track record, and Saddam's (bizarre) desire to leave us with the impression he still had WMDs, what would you have done?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 25, 2003 11:33 AM

Hold on, M., go slow with me here; remember, I'm of the Stupid Party. But if I'm following you, your arguments go thus:

(1) Turkey's support depended on our ceding them Northern Iraq, which Turkish officials told the Post and Administration officials told the Times we'd secretly agreed to. But in public the administration maintained a fron that supported the Kurds and warned off the Turks. And there was in fact no agreement in the final event.

(2) Saddam had no WMD, but Clinton/Blair attacked him in good faith and destroyed those non-existent weapons, though we're only discovering that now. But Bush/Blair attacked in bad faith?

I'm afraid that's all way to nuanced for any Republican to comprehend, let alone plan out.

Posted by: oj at September 25, 2003 11:34 AM

The inevitability of Free Kurdistan was not evident to Orrin earlier this year.

If you liked the Serbs in Kosovo, you'll love the Turks in Kurdistan.

Nobody ever misses out a chance to sell out the Kurds, do they?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 26, 2003 9:12 PM

Harry:

What are you talking about:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/001373.html

Posted by: oj at September 26, 2003 9:20 PM
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