Wes Clark on the Iraq War

October 4, 2002

Senator Kennedy: Iraq War Debate, October 4, 2002

Filed under: Iraq War Resolution (IWR), Lieberman Amendment — faithinwes @ 12:43 am

I intend to oppose the Lieberman-Warner resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until all other reasonable alternatives are exhausted.

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It is an open secret in Washington that the Nation’s uniformed military leadership is skeptical about the wisdom of war with Iraq. They share the concern that it may adversely affect the ongoing war against al-Qaida and the continuing effort in Afghanistan by draining resources and armed forces already stretched so thin that many Reservists have been called for a second year of duty, and record numbers of service members have been kept on active duty beyond their obligated service.

To succeed in our global war against al-Qaida and terrorism, the United States depends on military, law enforcement, and intelligence support from many other nations. We depend on Russia and countries in the former Soviet Union that border Afghanistan for military cooperation. We depend on countries from Portugal to Pakistan to the Philippines for information about al-Qaida’s plans and intentions.

Because of these relationships, terrorist plots are being foiled and al-Qaida operatives are being arrested. It is far from clear that these essential relationships will be able to survive the strain of a war with Iraq that comes before the alternatives are tried — or comes without the support of an international coalition.

A largely unilateral American war that is widely perceived in the Muslim world as untimely or unjust could worsen, not lessen, the threat of terrorism. It could strengthen the ranks of al-Qaida sympathizers and trigger an escalation in terrorist acts. As General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, that kind of war against Iraq, would “super-charge recruiting for al-Qaida.”

In a September 10 article, General Clark wrote: “Unilateral U.S. action today would disrupt the war against al-Qaida.”

We ignore such wisdom and advice from many of the best of our military at our own peril.

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The administration has offered no persuasive evidence that Saddam would transfer chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization. As General Hoar told the members of the Armed Services Committee, a case has not been made to connect al-Qaida and Iraq.

To the contrary, there is no clear and convincing pattern of Iraqi relations with either al-Qaida or the Taliban.

General Clark testified before the Armed Services Committee on September 23 that Iran has had closer ties to terrorism than Iraq. Iran has a nuclear weapons development program, and it already has a missile that can reach Israel.

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In our September 23 hearing, General Clark told the Armed Services Committee that we would need a large military force and a plan for urban warfare. General Hoar said that our military would have to be prepared to fight block by block in Baghdad, and that we could lose a battalion of soldiers a day in casualties. Urban fighting would, he said, look like the last brutal 15 minutes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”

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Back to the Senator’s other question about what the general said September 23. General McInerney believed that 72 hours of bombing would effectively break the spirit and the military capability of Iraq. I will let him speak in his own words (see sidebar).

The conclusion I drew was it would be basically a cleanup operation.

That was not what General Wesley Clark or General Hoar stated. Wesley Clark, the general in Kosovo, and General Hoar, the distinguished marine and central commander in Europe, two very prominent, distinguished, extraordinary military officials worth listening to — General Clark on that day told the Armed Services Committee that we would need a large military force and a plan for urban warfare.

Those are not my words, not my conclusions. That is what General Clark said would be his estimate of what would be needed. General Hoar said our military would have to be prepared to fight block by block in Baghdad, and we could lose a battalion of soldiers a day in casualties. That is the testimony of General Hoar before the Armed Services Committee. He concluded: The urban fighting would look like the last brutal 15 minutes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.”

One of my colleagues said you can find generals who will say just about anything you want. That is certainly an insult to two of the finest military leaders we have had in recent times, one in the Marine Corps, and the other a very distinguished Army officer.

 Concord Monitor, October 4, 2002

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