Wes Clark on the Iraq War

September 15, 2001

“I think you take them out, face by face”

Filed under: 9.11, Interviews, Military Commentator, Strategy, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 6:50 pm

CNN, 9/15/01

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Gen. Clark, we’ve been speaking about NATO invoking this clause. Can you explain to us exactly and precisely what that means and what action NATO took tonight that’s so important?

Gen. Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst
Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO commander and now a CNN military analyst: “A very clear signal to those around the world that the United States is supported completely by its NATO allies.”

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: This is essential political action taken by the NATO members acting together to say that they stand with — and will stand with — the United States in taking whatever actions might become necessary to deal with this attack on the United States. So it’s the precondition that will make everything else possible.

AMANPOUR: Is this important in the speed with which it was done? — You remember from building the coalition for Kosovo that it took a long time, relatively, to do so. Is this an important timeline that we see here?

CLARK: I think the timeline is highly significant. Of course this is in response to an attack on a NATO member state. It’s the first time, to my knowledge, that Article 5 (of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization charter) has ever been invoked. It’s the first time we’ve had an attack on a NATO member state. And I think that NATO scholars and diplomats from previous eras would never have suspected that the state to be attacked first would be the United States. So I think this is a very clear signal to those around the world that the United States is supported completely by its NATO allies. And I think that’s a very powerful weapon to have in our arsenal.

AMANPOUR: This is an unprecedented attack not just against U.S. interests and territory but against any interests that we’ve seen in recorded memory. There has not been this kind of act of terrorism that anybody I’ve talked to can remember. Does the United States have to take military action? Not in revenge but to deter any further terrorism such as this?

CLARK: The first thing the United States has to do is determine precisely what its objectives are. And, as we’ve heard the president articulate over the last couple of days, it seems pretty clear that the objectives are beyond revenge. They’re certainly beyond retaliation. He wants, and has directed, it seems, that we’re going to go after and destroy these terrorist organizations and that we’re going to hold any states that support them equally responsible.

This is, thus far, the most sweeping interpretation of the objectives. What it means is that we’re in for a relatively long campaign. We’ve seen some of the opening moves by the United States.

Today, we’ve seen the FBI extraordinarily active and very, very effective, by first reports — we’ve had the word from Attorney General (John) Ashcroft and the FBI director (Robert Mueller) about their activities and what they’ve found in the Boston area, for example, and they’re following up leads in Florida. And, presumably, other nations are taking, right now, the same or similar activities — either in response to this or other chains of evidence that might be available.

So the first step was to gather the information and then to follow it through — and take this organization and people out.

And Christiane, if I may just say, there may well be a military strike associated with this. But let’s remember that the targets here aren’t buildings — these are the people who masterminded this, and all their supporters. Striking in revenge at an isolated training camp or whatever, that’s not likely to be the objective here. Not now.

AMANPOUR: So what is, Gen. Clark? We’re talking about a faceless, maybe nameless terrorist organization, potentially — if they decide that it is Osama bin Laden, this is an organization apparently that has successfully morphed into semi-autonomous operating cells around the world. Can you tell us how you take these people out?

CLARK: I think we’re seeing the first evidence of that right now by the FBI and the local police in Boston. I think you take them out, face by face. It is an organization of faces, and they can be identified and removed.

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