Wes Clark on the Iraq War

January 25, 2004

“Osama bin Laden still on the loose because we were distracted”

Filed under: 9.11, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 11:19 pm

MR. RUSSERT: You have talked extensively about leadership in your campaign as a former military general, and particularly on the issue of terrorism, this is how the Concord Monitor up here captured some of your comments: “Wesley Clark said the two greatest lies of the last three years are that Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks couldn’t have been prevented and that another attack is inevitable. He said a Clark administration would protect America in the future. `If I’m president of the United States,’ Clark said, `we are not going to have one of these incidents.'” How can you make an ironclad guarantee like that?

GEN. CLARK: I didn’t make a guarantee. What I said is, “We’re going to do a lot better.” What’s happened is this administration did not do everything it could have before 9/11 to prevent the terrorist strikes. And after 9/11, President Bush has taken us into a war that we didn’t have to fight, a war in Iraq, and we were still at threat condition orange over the holiday period because Osama bin Laden still on the loose because we were distracted. We’re going to really put the emphasis on going after Osama bin Laden, strengthening homeland security and making America safe. We’re the strongest nation in the world and we don’t have to live in fear.

MR. RUSSERT: Much of the planning about September 11 by the hijackers probably occurred during the Clinton administration. Isn’t that fair?

GEN. CLARK: Well, it goes back a long way, but here’s what’s striking about this. When the Bush administration came to office, they were warned that the biggest threat to the United States was the threat of terrorism and Osama bin Laden. And yet on the 10th of September there was still no U.S. government plan as to how to deal with it. Yet, a lot of effort had been invested in things like national missile defense. All of the experts on the outside and the inside kept telling this administration, “Don’t get sucked into national missile defense. Your biggest threat is terrorism.” And, yet, they didn’t want to listen. For them, it was a political issue. It was ideological. It was national missile defense rather than terrorism.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, General, when you say we are not going to have one of these incidents, are you giving false assurances to people that you can prevent another terrorist attack?

GEN. CLARK: I think when the administration says that another attack is inevitable, what they’re saying is, “We don’t want to be blamed,” and what I believe is that leadership has to stand up and be made accountable. This administration should be held accountable for not doing everything it could to protect America before 9/11. And I will do everything I can to protect America.

MR. RUSSERT: But if you became president, there could be another attack?

GEN. CLARK: No one can guarantee that there can’t be another attack. But what I can guarantee is that we’ll do everything possible to keep this country safe from terrorism, and we won’t use fear as a–in a political agenda.

Meet the Press 1/25/04

Clark accuses Cheney of putting politics before security

Filed under: 9.11, Intelligence, Investigations, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 7:19 pm

Clark, former supreme allied commander of NATO, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that by endorsing the Weekly Standard article, Cheney was essentially confirming the contents of leaked classified documents.

“Now, the standard rule on anything like this is, never to confirm it because if you confirm something like this, you’re giving away maybe sources and methods,” Clark said.

“The vice president said that that was the best explanation for the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. So he’s essentially using a leaked memo to confirm his predisposition to believe that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. That’s playing politics with national security. It risks our intelligence community, our sources and methods; it’s wrong.”

Clark’s senior foreign policy adviser, James Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, said Clark was calling for an investigation by the White House legal counsel into Cheney’s statements to the Rocky Mountain News.

“The president should call the vice president on the carpet and ask him why he was confirming a highly classified document in public and ask his legal department to see if any damage was done and what the appropriate response for government should be,” Rubin said.

-snip

Source: Scripps Howard News Service 1/25/04

January 22, 2004

Clark’s congressional testimony “helped crystallize our thinking”

At least some members of Congress say they were swayed by Clark’s nuanced critique before the war. Democratic Representatives Vic Snyder of Arkansas and John Spratt of South Carolina, in a statement provided to the Globe, said Clark’s congressional testimony “helped crystallize our thinking” on an alternative war resolution in the fall of 2002 that would have authorized military action but only with approval from the United Nations or Congress. The resolution failed.

Clark explained the discrepancy in an interview with the Globe this week. He said that when he spoke to Congress, appeared on CNN, and wrote for the Times of London, he held his true feelings back, hamstrung by constraints that ranged from the limitations on his TV contract to a reluctance to criticize Americans in a foreign paper to his efforts to influence Congress with measured speech. Clark also said the post-war absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq further hardened his views.

On the campaign trail, he said, “I’m not testifying in front of Congress. I’m in front of a crowd of people, and they’re pretty angry at the fact that their sons and daughters and their husbands and wives and their families have been sent abroad, disrupted, caused them terrible hardship, and they’re serving in Iraq in a war we didn’t have to fight.”

Clark’s drive for the presidency is in large part fueled by his extensive military resume. Many antiwar voters view him as uniquely qualifed to question Bush’s Iraq policy. And he has evolved into a fervently antiwar candidate, often shouting denunciations of Bush and hinting at conspiracies behind the war.

These days, Clark seems hard-pressed to find any rational explanation for invading Iraq. Asked why the administration would have wanted to, Clark shrugged and said Congress should investigate the White House to produce an answer. He said he had heard “speculation” that the Iraq war had “all been cooked up and passed through to make the president look strong and commanding in front of the American people.”

Boston Globe,  1/22/2004

January 15, 2004

“I’m saying the whole doctrine that was written is phony.”

GWEN IFILL: There’s one Democratic candidate missing from the fray in Iowa and that’s retired General Wesley Clark.

As his profile has risen, so have the attacks. Today in New Hampshire, for instance, reporters asked him to respond to Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie’s charge that he has flip-flopped on the Iraq war.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, first of all, what it is is old-style politics. This is material that’s been dug up by the Republican National Committee.

Ed Gillespie should have read the whole testimony because it totally refutes the Bush position. I guess, instead that Karl Rove must have read the Richard Cohen column in the Post today because it looks like they finally figured out I’m George Bush’s greatest threat.

What I was saying then is what I’m saying today: That Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat, that actions contemplated against Saddam Hussein did not constitute preemptive war, contrary to what the Bush administration was saying, because there was no imminent threat. (more…)

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