Wes Clark on the Iraq War

July 4, 2002

Gene Lyons re July 4 2002: “Wesley Clark was very strongly opposed to it”

LYONS: I think that it’s hard to depoliticize a candidacy. But I think one of his reasons for running is his very obvious personal ambition, and I think that’s something he needs to be careful with. He’s clearly a very ambitious person. He clearly thinks that he is among the best qualified people to be President of the United States in his generation. I happen to think he’s probably right. But nevertheless, people don’t always react well to that quality in people.

I do think his concerns are honest. I think his criticisms of Bush are exactly what he believes. One reason that I think that is I have had an opportunity to talk to him in a sort of a semi-private way.

Going all the way back to the summer of 2002, I got a sense of how strong his feelings about Iraq were. Long before it was clear that the administration was really going to sell a war on Iraq, when it was just a kind of a Republican talking point, early in the summer of 2002, Wesley Clark was very strongly opposed to it. He thought it was definitely the wrong move. He conveyed that we’d be opening a Pandora’s box that we might never get closed again. And he expressed that feeling to me, in a sort of quasi-public way. It was a Fourth of July party and a lot of journalists were there, and there were people listening to a small group of us talk. There wasn’t an audience, there were just several people around. There was no criticism I could make that he didn’t sort of see me and raise me in poker terms. Probably because he knew a lot more about it than I did. And his experience is vast, and his concerns were deep.

He was right, too. How long ago was it that you were hearing all this sweeping rhetoric from the Project for a New American Century; that we were going to essentially conquer the south of Asia, contain China, and dominate the Middle East? And the United States was going to stand astride the world like a colossus. And all of a sudden, we invade a crummy, tin-pot, little third-rate dictatorship like Iraq, and we’ve already got more than we can handle. It’s clear we’re not going to dominate the world. And the question is, how in the world do we get out of there with our skins intact? And how do we then find a foreign policy that makes more sense?


Buzzflash,  October 22, 2003


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