GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: But, you know… sometimes politics doesn’t work. Iraq is one of these issues where politics doesn’t quite work. Take the case of the original legislation that Congress sent to the President, you know the one he vetoed.
Alan Colmes: Yes.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: There were actually three big loopholes about the withdrawal. He didn’t have to withdraw troops that were fighting al Qaeda, he didn’t have to withdraw troops that were training the Iraqis and you didn’t have to withdraw troops who were protecting the troops fighting al Qaeda and training Iraqis. Those are huge loopholes. Nobody knows who’s doing what over there. You could have ended up with 150,000 troops left.
Alan Colmes: Even with that legislation, with the benchmarks, with the date certain?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Absolutely. All you had to do… none of that stuff applied to training or fighting al Qaeda.
Alan Colmes: And yet the administration kept saying “if you vote against the supplemental, you’ve voting against the troops.’
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Sure.
Alan Colmes: You got the impression that they weren’t going to have bullets in their guns.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Sure, but the truth was the Democrats didn’t say “there’s huge loopholes and even after we do this, these troops are going to be left there.’ Neither side did it. It got simplified in politics and this is the danger. The truth about Iraq is that we’re going to be there for a while, maybe not in the same strength we’re in now, I hope not. And hopefully, you know, we’ll get the fighting calmed down and I don’t think the military’s the solution – it’s just part of the solution, but…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: … but, there’s no magic bullet solution and no matter who comes into office it’s going to be a huge problem because… here’s the problem, Alan – we’ve been talking about troops and tactics and we should have been talking as a nation about strategy and policies.
Alan Colmes: Yeah, yeah.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Not the troops and the tactics.
Alan Colmes: What would you have done if you were in the Senate, though? Would you have voted against or for the supplemental?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Oh, I’d have had to vote against it.
Alan Colmes: You would have voted against it?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Absolutely.
Alan Colmes: Then, of course you have the other side saying “see, you don’t care about the troops.”
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I know that.
Alan Colmes: You can’t say that to Wesley Clark.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: It’s not about the troops, it’s about the strategy. You’ve got to fix the strategy.
Alan Colmes: What do you think of Petraeus?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I like him. I think he’s great. Look, think of it this way with Petraeus. You’re… you’re a football player; and you’re on the bench and you played well on the junior varsity but now you’re ready… you’d like to be the quarterback but no one’s put you in. And suddenly the coach comes over, there’s 10 minutes left in the game, you’re behind by 20 points, it’s pouring down rain, the other side are like monsters, your offensive line is crumbling, the fans are leaving and the coach says to you, “kid, I want you to go in there and win this game” he says, “and don’t worry about how bad you run up the score, beat them 50 to nothing.” What are you going to say? “Coach, let’s do it.’ You’re going to go in, but you’re not going to say “uh, coach… I, uh… it’s hard to throw passes in this kind of weather and uh, you know, we really need some more emotional lift from the fans and, uh, I’m not sure we had the practice for me being quarterback this week and so I’m gonna do my best but I’ll be the first one to tell ya when it can’t be done.’ I mean, you don’t do that.
Alan Colmes: Uh huh. Yeah, yeah.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Petraeus’s mission is to succeed. And…
Alan Colmes: They haven’t defined what “succeed’ is. They haven’t told us what success really is, we don’t understand… at least I don’t, the American…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, get off Petraeus for that.
Alan Colmes: No, I understand.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Get on the administration.
Alan Colmes: Exactly. The administration has to define for the American people what success is, other than have the President say “we’ve got to win… victory, victory, victory.’ Well, what is victory?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Petraeus would tell you victory is reducing the violence, bringing about a political solution and being able to cut down the numbers of troops that are there by some substantial number. That’s what he’ll be trying to do. The administration won’t quite articulate it that way because… this is what I’m saying, the politics don’t work. But they don’t work on either side, Alan.
Alan Colmes: Yeah.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I mean, people don’t want to hear the fact that we’re in a real mess in Iraq, no matter who’s president. It’s not a matter of sort of saying “okay, get me 10,000 trucks, I want that stuff loaded out by 06:00. Line the troops up, we’re leaving.’ I mean, that’s not going to happen.
Alan Colmes: What can you do then? What could a President do? What could General Clark do if you were in that position?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I’d really be working the diplomacy with Iran and Syria. I’d be trying to change the vision of what people have in the region. And then I’d carry a trick bag into the Iranians and say “here’s my tricks – I can put more troops in, I can put “em right up on your border… I can, I can be worse to you or I can be better. We could even go so far as to recognize you. We can give you economic development assistance. We could even let Chevron Oil fix your whole energy sector so you’re not running out of energy.’ And, um… all that can happen. We just have to have a different understanding of what’s going to happen in the region. And I think if you change the nature of the dialogue, you won’t… you won’t succeed right away but I think it’s the only way you can begin to lay the conditions for success.
Alan Colmes: You hear some of the neocons talking almost as though frothing at the mouth, almost as if war with Iran is inevitable and that’s the only way we can keep them in line and protect Israel for example.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, there are some people who think that. I think that would be… right now, I haven’t taken the use of force off the table, but I think that we’re a long, long way from thinking about that, wanting to do it. It doesn’t look like the best solution to me and uh, you know you’ve got to talk to people.
Alan Colmes: Yeah. We’re talking to General Wesley Clark. A few more moments with the General. It’s 877-for-Alan, 877-467-2526. My opening question having to do with a run for president and you said you haven’t decided not to. So, is the door open still in ’08 for you to jump in?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I just… I’d like to leave it just the way I said it, Alan.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I haven’t decided not to run.
Alan Colmes: Really? It’s my job to coax you a little further, though along those lines.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well you can try. I’m pretty good at maintaining this position.
Alan Colmes: I’m sure. Among the candidates now, is there any one you favor?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I like them all. I think there’s some great people in the race. I think there’s some tremendous talent out there and um, and you know I think that the American people are going to have some real opportunities to express their views. But…
Alan Colmes: You…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: … but, but this election is going to be about international affairs and national security, whether we want it to be or not. That’s what it’s going to be about because this problem is not going to go away. No matter… I’ve seen… President Bush says “ah maybe there’s someone thinking about withdrawing troops.” Believe me, they can start withdrawing troops in September. A year from now… unless… I don’t know… unless something really amazing happens we’re still going to have this problem.
Alan Colmes: So you’re saying whatever happens, we’re still probably going to wind up with a sizable force in Iraq for how long?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: It really depends on the leadership of the administration. Could be a few months after 2009, could be years after 2009. It… it could come down substantially before 2009.
Alan Colmes: What would have to happen…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I’d be surprised if it does with this administration.
Alan Colmes: What would have to happen to get the troops home?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I think you’ve got to really put some horsepower into working the Iraqi faction problem and look, there’s not a government. Let’s be clear about what’s there. There are some people who have been elected, they’ve collected signatures, they got votes, they’ve got parties, but it’s not a government. It doesn’t provide services for people. It’s basically their trying to divvy up authority and power among various factions.
Alan Colmes: What makes us think we can have any sway over what happens over there governmentally?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, it depends on how much resource we’re willing to put into it and, you know, how effective we are as interlocutors. Right now, we’ve basically tried to dodge the problem for four years. We have from the beginning said “oh, let’s have a formulaic solution, give them purple fingers, let them vote and in the meanwhile, you know, we’ll try and win it with the military.’ We never built the civilian side of this thing up the way we could have to do the job with the civilians.