“But this administration determined shortly after 9/11, perhaps on the same day, that they would invade Iraq and settle on old score and move into that strategy that Paul Wolfowitz had described to me in 1991,” he said. “There was no public debate, there was no discussion of what this meant. There was obfuscation.”
Although then a private citizen, Clark said he visited Secretary Rumsfeld in the Pentagon in the week after 9/11 and while there was summoned by a general he was still on good terms with who into his office.
“He said, ‘Sir, we’re going to invade Iraq,'” Clark recalled. “I said, ‘We’re going to invade Iraq? Why?’ And he said, ‘I don’t really know why, it doesn’t’t’t’t make a whole lot of sense, but they [the administration] doesn’t know what to do about the problem of terrorists, and if only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem has to look like a nail.’
“He said, ‘We don’t know what to do about terrorism, but we can take down governments, so I guess we are looking for governments to take down.'”
Clark said he was in the Pentagon again in November of 2001, visiting the same unnamed general.
“I said are we still going to invade Iraq?” Clark said. “He said, ‘Yes sir, but it’s worse than that'” and that the general said he had just gotten a memo from Rumsfeld’s office containing a disturbing “five year plan.”
“We’re going to take down seven countries in five years,” Clark quoted the general. “We’re going to start with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan and we’re going to come back and get Iran in five years.”
Clark said only then did he begin to understand “what wasn’t being explained to the American people, which was the overall drift of where the policy was…
“The decisions had been made long before they went through the charade of going to the United Nations [for authority to invade Iraq] and there were people actively pulling within the administration for the failure of diplomacy because they didn’t want anything to stop the invasion.
“I don’t know what they were thinking about,” Clark said, his voice rising with indignation. “They obviously never went to war — war is ugly, it is unpredictable, and when you kill peoples’ relatives, they hate your forever.
“When you go to war, it is a permanent act, it marks forever a line that can’t be walked back,” Clark added, now almost mournfully. “We went to war in Iraq, we did it on the basis of hyped intelligence and an underlining theory that was never explained to the American people…
“My friends, I ask you, how could we in this country, with all it stands for — Democracy, freedom, human rights, respect for the individual, a belief if the worth of every person — how could we have done this and believe we wouldn’t pay the price,” the retired general said. “It was a colossal strategic blunder.”
But the blunder has bogged us down in Iraq for more than three years and Clark believes it was also the un-doing of a seven-country conspiracy that would have taken us to war all over the Middle East to make it “ours.”