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Wesley Clark on War & Peace

NATO General; Democratic Candidate for President


Fundamental revision of Iraq policy, including redeployment

In the war in Iraq, we must find a way out that preserves and protects those in the regions that have relied on and supported us, that minimizes the likelihood of a widened conflict in the aftermath, and that undercuts the possibility of a terrorist have arising in parts of Iraq.

A new US policy, committed to redeploying forces away from a civil war and our eventual total military withdrawal from Iraq is necessary. To that end, some blend of benchmarks and timelines seem to have emerged as a political necessity.

But I want to underscore that I am not calling simply for an American pullout. I am calling for a fundamental revision of the aims, methods, and circumstances of the American effort in Iraq, and within the region. What we need is a principle-based approach emphasizing unconditional dialogue, mutual respect for borders and national sovereignty, the peaceful resolution of disputes, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and strict adherence to international law.

Source: A Time To Lead, by Wesley Clark, p.250 Sep 4, 2007

Iraq war is a path to nowhere

The retired general has criticized the war as “a path to nowhere replete with hyped intelligence, macho slogans and an incredible failure to see the obvious.” Clark says the goal of installing Western-style government was flawed and has called for increased diplomacy in the region.
Source: People’s Daily (China), “Contenders views on the war” Nov 23, 2006

Hold Bush accountable for 9/11

Q: You said that if elected, there will be no more 9/11s in the US. Then you scaled back, saying no one can guarantee anything in life. What exactly are you guaranteeing?

CLARK: What I’m saying is I believe President Bush must be held accountable. Before 9/11, he did not do everything he could have done to keep this country safe. After 9/11, he took us to a war we didn’t have to fight. As president, my top priority will be to keep America safe. We’ll use all the resources of the US- international law, diplomacy, allies, economics and military force, if necessary-to keep this country safe.

Q: Sure, that’s everyone’s top priority. That’s a far cry from a guarantee.

CLARK: I never used the word “guarantee.” What I said was that the president said that the attack at 9/11 could not have been prevented, and that further attacks were inevitable. I consider that as an excuse to cover the fact that this administration didn’t do everything they could have done.

Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College Jan 22, 2004

Bush’s terrorism policy is “all bully and no pulpit”

Clark accuses President Bush of misleading Americans and Congress over the reasons for launching the war and its prospects for success. He says that after a brilliant military strike, US forces have become bogged down in deadly guerrilla fighting because Bush and his top advisers had no postwar plan for Iraq.

“We went in there to end the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction,” Clark said. “None have been found. We went in there to liberate the Iraqi people. Instead, we are occupying them. What I see is a mess.“

Calling Bush’s response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks ”arrogant“ and ”all bully and no pulpit,“ Clark says the president has pursued ”the worst foreign policy in US history.“ His own first order of business as president, he adds, would be to repair relations with European allies he knows well from his nearly three years at NATO headquarters in Belgium.

Source: James Rosen, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune Dec 21, 2003

Bush used 9/11 as a pretext to implement Iraq invasion plan

Clark told me how he learned of a secret war scheme within the Bush Administration, of which Iraq was just one piece. Shortly after 9/11, Clark visited the Pentagon, where a 3-star general confided that Rumsfeld’s team planned to use the 9/11 attacks as a pretext for going to war against Iraq. Clark said, “Rather than searching for a solution to a problem, they had the solution, and their difficulty was to make it appear as though it were in response to the problem.” Clark was told that the Bush team, unable or unwilling to fight the actual terrorists responsible for 9/11, had devised a 5-year plan to topple the regimes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Sudan.

Clark’s central contention-that Bush used 9/11 as a pretext to attack Saddam-has been part of the public debate since well before the Iraq war. It is rooted in the advocacy of the Project for the New American Century, a neo-conservative think tank that had been openly arguing for regime change in Iraq since 1998.

Source: The New Yorker magazine, “Gen. Clark’s Battles” Nov 17, 2003

Supported Iraq war while we were at war

Clark spent much of the Iraq war as an expert military commentator. Clark had reservations before the war [about the number of US troops needed for a fight with Saddam], but his reservations seemed to fade as American progress became apparent. Clark said that Saddam “absolutely” had weapons of mass destruction, adding, “I think they will be found. There’s so much intelligence on this.” In the April 10th London Times, Clark predicted that the American victory would alter the dynamics of the region: “Many Gulf states will hustle to praise their liberation from a sense of insecurity they were previously loath even to express.“ Clark praised the Anglo-American alliance, saying that Bush & Blair ”should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt.

Clark called for victory parades down the Mall, and in another column, cheered the spectacular display of coalition force: “American military power, especially when buttressed by Britain’s, is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don’t try!”

Source: The New Yorker magazine, “Gen. Clark’s Battles” Nov 17, 2003

Transfer authority to Iraq and UN

Q: Should the US pull its troops out of Iraq and cede control to the UN, or is that unsupportive of our troops?

A: The best thing that we can do for our troops there is to give them a real plan that has a chance of succeeding. This Administration doesn’t have a plan-it just wants a blank check. In my plan we would try to get the US out of the lead on the political development -- that should go under the UN or some other international authority. And we want to give the Iraqis their country back as soon as possible. That means transferring authorities to the Iraqi Governing Council as soon as we can. We might have to augment them a little. And we have to also create an effective Iraqi force that can do much of the stability and security ops in Iraq. I think the US is in trouble in Iraq. We can’t just pull out, but we should not hesitate to criticize the Administration if we have better ideas. And we do.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 5, 2003

Persuade North Koreans to give up nuclear weapons

Q: How would you handle the situation in North Korea?

A: I would talk to the North Koreans immediately, to persuade them that their security is enhanced if they give up their nuclear weapons. We don’t know what it will take to persuade them, but we can’t learn it without talking to them.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A Nov 5, 2003

Supports war in Afghanistan, but not in Iraq

Q: You said Saddam Hussein has these weapons, and we’re going to [war], and the rest of the world has got to get with us. Your position?

CLARK: After 9/11, this administration determined to do bait and switch on the public. President Bush said he was going to get Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Instead, he went after Saddam. He doesn’t have either one of them today. I’ve been against this war from the beginning. There was no imminent threat. And there is no excuse for his failure of leadership.

Q: Are we to understand that what you’re saying now is those things you said that were positive about the war was not what you meant?

CLARK: This country was attacked on 9/11, and it was right that this administration went into Afghanistan. But the failure was not to put the troops in to finish Osama bin Laden. They didn’t do it because their plan was to save troops to go after Saddam. I support them for what they did right, and I condemn them for what they did wrong.

Source: Democratic Presidential 2004 Primary Debate in Detroit Oct 27, 2003

No $87B for Iraq war until winning strategy is produced

Q: Please respond to the variety of opinions expressed by your rivals on the Iraq war.

LIEBERMAN: This is a test of leadership. I don’t know how John Kerry and John Edwards can say they support the war but oppose funding. I’ve been over Clark’s record. He took six positions on whether going to war was right.

EDWARDS: Leadership is standing up for what you believe in. I believe Saddam was a threat; I voted for the congressional resolution. Then the president says, “I want $87 billion.” I am not willing to give a blank check.

KERRY: I have the experience of being on the front lines when the policy has gone wrong. Our troops are in greater danger because this president’s been unwilling to share the burden.

CLARK: I want to make it clear that I would not have voted on $87 billion. The best welfare for the troops is a winning strategy. We ought to call on our commander in chief to produce it. He ought to produce it before he gets one additional penny.

Source: Democratic Presidential 2004 Primary Debate in Detroit Oct 27, 2003

Overthrowing Saddam a hobby-horse since 98-no terror threat

Iraq stood as a special case-not a sophisticated terrorist threat, but the only one of several potential rogue-state proliferators that was legally bound under UN resolutions ni 1991 to give up its WMD capabilities. In 1998, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, among 18 others, as part of the Project for a New American Century, wrote President Clinton asking him to “aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power. In the near-term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing.“ But their case was based not on any specific Iraq-terrorist connections but rather on the fear that Saddam might acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. Taking down Saddam became a hobby horse for many national security experts.

There was no specific information that Saddam would be likely to team up with Al Qaeda to attack the US with weapons of mass destruction. No hard evidence was ever distributed that linked Saddam with Al Qaeda.

Source: Winning Modern Wars, by Wesley Clark, p.112-114 & 120 Oct 9, 2003

Afghanistan: Should have attacked Al Qaida, not Taliban

What had looked like a clean strategic win against the Taliban in Afghanistan became a missed opportunity that can be increasingly viewed as a partial failure. Like many missed chances and potential turning points, this one received only passing notice. Aside from the overall public impact, at home and abroad, of taking down the Taliban government in Afghanistan-and this was important-the strategic opportunity of the operation was to knock out Al Qaeda. The correct aim should have been to deliver a knockout blow against the terrorist network, not just against the supporting state. We missed our chance when enemy forces were able to scurry into the surroundings. Al Qaeda had been scattered-not destroyed. It might never again be so easily targetable.
Source: Winning Modern Wars, by Wesley Clark, p.124-5 Oct 9, 2003

Ask Bush where’s the $87B for Iraq coming from?

Q: [Bush has asked for] $87 billion for the ongoing war on terrorism. Your vote, yes or no, and if yes, how do you pay for $87 billion?

CLARK: This $87 billion is the first we’ve heard from this administration of anything like a reasonable estimate of what the down payment is. Congress needs to really go after this figure. What is the strategy? What will make this operation a success? What will it take to exit? How do we get international support in there? There are dozens of questions to be asked on this. We need to make this operation a success. We need to support our troops. But we need answers on this. And the final answer that we need is, the president needs to tell us how he’s going to pay for it. This can’t be an addition to the deficit. We want to see where the money’s coming from.

Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan Sep 25, 2003

Retracts yes vote on Iraq: no imminent threat

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark backtracked from a day-old statement that he probably would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, saying Friday he “would never have voted for this war.”

The retired Army general, an opponent of the conflict, surprised supporters when he indicated in an interview with reporters Thursday that he likely would have supported the resolution. On Friday, Clark sought to clarify his comments. “Let’s make one thing real clear, I would never have voted for this war,” Clark said before a speech at the University of Iowa. “I’ve gotten a very consistent record on this. There was no imminent threat. This was not a case of pre-emptive war. I would have voted for the right kind of leverage to get a diplomatic solution, an international solution to the challenge of Saddam Hussein.”

Source: Mike Glover, Associated Press Sep 20, 2003

Committed to survival and preservation of Israel

Clark voiced his commitment to “the survival and the preservation of the state of Israel.”
Source: Johanna Weiss, Boston Globe, p. A3 Sep 20, 2003

Would probably have voted yes on Iraq war authorization

Clark said that he “probably” would have voted for the congressional resolution last fall authorizing war. Clark said his views on the war resemble those of Lieberman Kerry, both of whom voted for the war but now question President Bush’s stewardship of the Iraqi occupation. “I was against the war as it emerged because there was no reason to start it when we did. We could have waited,” Clark said.
Source: Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, p. A5 Sep 19, 2003

Yes to Iraqi $87B if Bush makes exit strategy

Clark said that if he were in Congress, he would vote against Bush’s request for $87 billion for operations and reconstruction in Iraq unless the president details a specific strategy to eventually withdraw US troops. Clark said he wants more troops in Iraq, but was unsure who best can provide them-the US, Iraqis or other countries.
Source: Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, p. A5 Sep 19, 2003

Ordered attack on Russian troops in Kosovo

On June 12, 1999, in the immediate aftermath of NATO’s air war against Yugoslavia, a small contingent of Russian troops dashed to occupy the Pristina airfield in Kosovo. Clark was so anxious to stop the Russians that he ordered an airborne assault to confront these units-an order which could have unleashed the most frightening showdown with Moscow since the end of the Cold War. Hyperbole? You can decide. But British General Michael Jackson, the commander of the NATO international force K-FOR, told Clark: “Sir, I’m not starting WWIII for you,” when refusing to accept his order to prevent Russian forces from taking over the airport.

After being rebuffed by Jackson, Clark, according to various media reports at the time, then ordered the American Admiral James Ellis to use Apache helicopters to occupy the airfield. Ellis didn’t comply either. Had Clark’s orders been followed, the subsequent NATO-negotiated compromise with the Russians might well have been undermined.

Source: The Nation, Opionion, “Wesley Clark’s ‘High Noon’ Moment” Sep 17, 2003

Avoid Bush’s unilateralism and work with our allies

The Bush Administration has moved to a unilateralist strategy. This administration has made serious missteps in handling Iraq. The president is more than just the president of the US -- he’s the leader of the free world. What plays here at home doesn’t always play so well abroad. We need to work with our allies -- that’s the way to make sure all Americans are safer.
Source: The Connection with Dick Gordon, NPR radio Sep 8, 2003

Exit strategy in Iraq won’t work if we invade its neighbors

Q: In Iraq, what would your exit strategy be?

A: First, we have to turn it over to the Iraqis. Get some police, and some Iraqi administration. Make it so it’s not a hotbed for al Qaeda. But that doesn’t work well with the overall Bush strategy in the region which includes going into Iran, Syria, and so on. You can’t have an exit strategy with that.

Source: The Connection with Dick Gordon, NPR radio Sep 8, 2003

We went into Iraq under false pretenses

We went into Iraq under false pretenses. There was deceptive advertising; you’d be taking [President Bush] to the Better Business Bureau if you bought a washing machine the way we went into the war in Iraq. We’re taking casualties. We haven’t made America safer by this. We’ve made America more engaged, more vulnerable, more committed, less able to respond. We’ve lost a tremendous amount of goodwill around the world by our actions and our continuing refusal to bring in international institutions.
Source: CNN Late Edition interview with Wolf Blitzer Aug 17, 2003

Get the Iraqis involved in taking responsibilities

[The US should] put in place some kind of Iraqi government that has some semblance of democracy. I’d call for provisional, national, regional & local councils together from all parties before elections are held. I’d ask for their assistance, their ideas and their support in producing security in the region first and guarding the remaining economic infrastructure. I would lay out to them the limitations of the US’ capabilities. I’d try to get the Iraqis increasingly involved in taking responsibilities.
Source: Newsweek, “The Last Word: Wesley Clark” Jul 9, 2003

Iraq distracts from the War on Terror

I think the conflict with Iraq was elective. It was purely elective and it represented a big distraction from the War on Terror. It was not a reinforcement of it. It was a distraction from it.
Source: WCGU-FM interview on “Sound Off With Sasha” Jun 27, 2003

Need Marshall Plan for Middle East and Afghanistan

We’ve got to stay the course in Afghanistan, and we’ve got to get serious about the [Middle East] Marshall Plan that was promised but hasn’t yet been delivered by our President. We’ve got to work in Iraq and we should be there and work so long and help to reconstruct that country. We need to face up and tell the truth about what a long term commitment that’s going to be and what the burden is. But we Americans took that responsibility on ourselves.
Source: Speech to the New Democratic Network Jun 17, 2003

Israel: bring in Syria and Iran into peace talks

We need to work the Middle East. The senseless fighting between Israel and the Palestinians has gone on too long. We need to stay engaged in that but we need to bring on some other actors as well. We should bring the Jordanians and the Egyptians fully in. We had a contact group arrangement in Europe where we brought people together. We need to do that here. We need to think about how the Syrians and the Iranians can be engaged in this also.
Source: Speech to the New Democratic Network Jun 17, 2003

Include moderate Arabs in US-led Mideast contact group

Q: What can the president do now to bring about peace in the Middle East?

A: We’ve got to bring more of the neighboring countries’ leadership in more strongly. In the case of Yugoslavia, we set up the contact group [including] the European Union and Russia. Russia represented the Serbs’ views in these meetings. We need a Middle East contact group. We need to lead that, and include Jordan, Egypt, & Saudi Arabia. With Syria & Iran, we need a process to decide if they should be engaged or confronted.

Source: Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert, NBC News Jun 15, 2003

Be wary of abridging civil rights to fight terrorism

“I think one of the risks you have in this operation [of the War on Terror] is that you’re giving up some of the essentials of what it is in America to have justice, liberty and the rule of law. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you abridge those rights to prosecute the war on terrorists. So I think that needs to be carefully looked at.
Source: Meet The Press, reported on DraftWesleyClark.com Jun 15, 2003

Allies are key to victory in war on terror, not obstacles

The early successes [in Afghanistan] have reinforced the conviction that the continuing war against terrorism is best waged outside the structures of international institutions-that US leadership must be “unfettered.” This is a fundamental misjudgment. The longer this war goes on, the more our success will depend on the willing cooperation and active participation of our allies. We are far more likely to gain the support we need by working through international institutions than outside of them.
Source: Washington Monthly, “An Army of One?” by Wesley Clark Sep 1, 2002

NATO was the reason for our victory in Kosovo

NATO wasn’t an obstacle to victory in Kosovo; it was the reason for our victory. Allied countries flew some 60 percent of the sorties. Because it was a NATO campaign, each bomb dropped represented a target that had been approved by each of the alliance’s 19 governments. This was the decisive process for success, because whatever we lost in theoretical military effectiveness we gained manifold in actual strategic impact by having every NATO nation on board.
Source: Washington Monthly, “An Army of One?” by Wesley Clark Sep 1, 2002

Palestinians decided to return to terrorism after 2000

After the negotiations in August of 2000, the Palestinians decided to use armed struggle as a way of advancing their cause. Israel has responded and this struggle has seesawed back and forth. We thought that after the events of 9-11, Yasser Arafat realized that terror was a big mistake. But he has resumed using terror against the Israelis. The Israelis can’t use terror the same way, so they’re using conventional means. For the Israelis, this is a struggle really for the existence of Israel.
Source: CNN Saturday, “Is Peace Out of the Picture for Mideast?” Mar 30, 2002

Solution to terrorism is not bullets but world community

The solution to terrorism is not going to be found in bullets. It’s not going to be found in precision ordnance or targeted strikes. It’s really going to be found in changing the conditions. It’s going to be found in establishing a global safety net that starts with security and goes to economic development and political development and the kinds of modernization which let others enjoy the fruits of modernization that we as Americans enjoy.

Our best protection is not going to build a wall around America. It’s not going to be to create a missile-defense impenetrable shield. It’s going to be, instead, to create a community of common values and shared responsibilities and shared interests in which nations and people get along. That really is ultimately the only protection.

Source: Speech at Temple University, “America’s Global Strategy” Oct 17, 2001

Kosovo success shows military can achieve humanitarian goal

None knows better than the military leaders themselves the dangers of war; consequently, they are usually the last to advocate it. Political leaders will always be circumspect in risking their governments on a military operation. But the success [in Kosovo in 1999] does open the door for its repetition elsewhere. There is now historical precedent for the use of force to intervene for the purposes of humanitarian relief. Western publics have seen that such operations can succeed if properly executed.
Source: Waging Modern War, p. 15-17 & 422-423 Jul 15, 2001

Other candidates on War & Peace: Wesley Clark on other issues:
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V.P.Joe Biden
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Former Bush Administration:
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Page last updated: Feb 25, 2011