September 22, 2003


The trouble with Wes (Robert Novak, September 22, 2003,

The important Democrats eager to run retired Gen. Wesley Clark for president might exercise due diligence about a military career that was nearly terminated before he got his fourth star and then came to a premature end. The trouble with the general is pointed out by a bizarre incident in Bosnia nearly a decade ago.

Clark was a three-star (lieutenant general) who directed strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington. On Aug. 26, 1994, in the northern Bosnian city of Banja Luka, he met and exchanged gifts with the notorious Bosnian Serb commander and indicted war criminal, Gen. Ratko Mladic. The meeting took place against the State Department's wishes and may have contributed to Clark's failure to be promoted until political pressure intervened. The shocking photo of Mladic and Clark wearing each other's military caps was distributed throughout Europe.

Last week on CNN's "Crossfire," I asked one of Clark's new supporters -- Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois -- about that indiscretion. "Well, I don't know about the photo," he replied. He and other Clark backers, led by Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, might want to dig more deeply into the general's turbulent military career before getting too deeply committed.

This does at least show that the notoriouisly ambitious General Clark wasn't yet planning on seeking the presidency as a Democrat. All Democrats have known since the Michael Dukkakis campaign that they should never be photographed in military headgear.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2003 11:48 AM

And no one seeking the Presidency should be photographed wearing the military cap of a mass murderer wanted for war crimes. The stalking horse is fast becoming a stalking mouse.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 22, 2003 12:01 PM

If, as many on the Right believe, this current war is ultimately between the West and Islam proper, then we'll have to rehabilitate and apologize to the Serbs who have been on the frontline of that war for centuries.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 12:05 PM

Genocide is genocide - and the bloody arrogance of the Serbs from 1989 thru 1999 does not merit them any apologies. Radko Mladic and Milosevic and Karadzic are as evil as any warlord in Waziristan or any raging mullah in Tehran. Gangsters are gangsters, no matter what language they speak or God they invoke.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 22, 2003 12:57 PM

You want to give America back to the Indians? Apologize for nuking Japan? Tell the Iraqis we're sorry we killed more of them than the Serbs killed Muslims? When we do it we justify it. When we need the Serbs we'll justify what they did.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 1:14 PM

What exactly did Mladic et. al. do? Defend the West? I don't remember seeing a brown horde on white chargers, racing through Zagreb on their way to Vienna. Don't give credit where none is due.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 22, 2003 1:32 PM

Think the Western Europeans will stop them?

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 2:02 PM

Will that apology to Serbia come while we're still condemning Israeli responses to exploding buses?

Posted by: Matt C at September 22, 2003 2:20 PM

So, OJ, you believe that consistency has been the guiding principle of US diplomacy?

Posted by: David Cohen at September 22, 2003 7:54 PM


No, we swing between two poles--isolation and intervention--but believe each to be the only morally permissible option when we're pursuing it.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 7:57 PM

I can't say as I've made up my own mind on Clark, but Novak is a hack and liar and his distortion needs to be corrected: the "hat-trading" meeting took place in August, 1994. Mladic did not commit his genocidal crimes until nearly a year later, in July of 1995. I'm not sure that Mladic was known to be an entirely savory character even in 1994, but he wasn't yet a war criminal.

There will be more like this to come, I'm sure. Keep your BS detectors on.

Posted by: M. Bulger at September 23, 2003 11:53 AM