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

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