Keith Olbermann: On the other issue that has been made and raised, the argument that’s being made and criticizing news organizations for covering, at all, insurgent attacks, terrorist bombings in Iraq, in Afghanistan, that covering them only helps the insurgents. What…what’s your assessment of that charge?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well I think it’s an absurd charge. I think the truth is that the word on military successes and defeats is important in a democracy and that word’s going to get out whether a TV station covers it or not.
And the American people have a right to know, they have a need to know and the idea that you could sort of decide not to show this because it might be discouraging or whatever, that’s the kind of…that’s the kind of censorship that undercuts faith not only in news organizations, but in governments. We’ve always believed in the truth. I think if you lay out the truth, if your policies are sound, if your motivations are correct, if your policies are honorable and legal, then the truth is the best policy. If it isn’t, if those aren’t your policies, maybe you’ve got something to hide.
Keith Olbermann: Amen. Let me ask you…this is more of a philosophical question, an assessment question than a breaking news question, but given that we had to do that, that there was an attack looking for an al Qaeda high-level target on the loose in Afghanistan, not to mention bin Laden and it’s 5 ½ years after the attacks of 9/11, and the start of a war in Afghanistan, do you think we are devoting our resources as we should when it comes to fighting what the administration calls the war on terror?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Absolutely not. It’s…it’s been mistaken almost from the beginning. We went into Afghanistan as we should. We did not have a plan for success in Afghanistan to get al Qaeda. We didn’t want to put the American troops in because the administration was already planning on going after Iraq even though there was no connection established between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. So, we short-changed the operation in Afghanistan repeatedly. It was an economy of force mission, now we’re really committed in Iraq, the Taliban is coming back because basically, in that part of the world, there are forces and people that don’t want to see the Americans there. When you go in there, you have to have a plan for success, you have to get your success and you have to get out again. You cannot occupy these countries, it’s…we wouldn’t want to be occupied in America, either. And, so why we think we can stay there year after year and build friends, it’s backwards. You’ve got to have a plan for success at the outset, you’ve got to have enough resources to bring that success together and then you’ve got to turn it over to local people. That’s…we haven’t done that. In the meantime, al Qaeda’s using all our efforts as a recruiting incentive and so they’re training against us, they’re recruiting people against us…it’s, it’s trouble.
Keith Olbermann: Retired General Wesley Clark. We’re proud to have you with us on MSNBC and particularly on Countdown. We look forward to talking with you again soon, sir.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Thank you, Keith.
June 21, 2007
February 20, 2007
Fox & Friends, February 20, 2007
Brian Kilmeade: You heard it on Fox: President Bush announced that a, a NATO-led offensive will take place this spring in Afghanistan rather than be on the defensive, but with reports of Al Qaeda actively rebuilding in Pakistan, what can we do about it?
Brian Kilmeade: Do you take this report as credible – what was in the New York Times yesterday – saying that the Bin Laden and Zawahiri have reaffirmed control. They’ve opened up camps right in the Northern Waziristan area.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Yes, because there, there has been movement in this direction for some time. In September, when Musharraf signed the agreement and basically let the tribes and, and Taliban alone, he lo- He had 70,000 people, 70,000 troops in the area. He’d had tremendous losses in the area. He was unable to get a grip on it, and he basically cut a deal, and they declared a truce. And after that, all the sort of mechanics of terrorism have come up and taken root, and they’re more visible now. They were there before, but Al Qaeda’s got a stronger base area now.
Gretchen Carlson: Yeah, because Musharraf is in a no-win situation in his own country. He has the people of his country-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: He is.
Gretchen Carlson: -who don’t want him to have the fight along side with the Western, you know, with President Bush. So, what are we going to do about the situation there, because you have Karzai and Musharraf who don’t like each other, and how long can this continue without having complete unrest?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well it’s, -i-it’s going to have complete unrest, and we’ve got to work this as a classic insurgency situation inside Afghanistan.
Gretchen Carlson: Mm hm.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: So, that means you’ve got to have the, what they call PRTs, the reconstruction teams out there that are military and economic and political everywhere, and they’ve got to stay in there and work the people, because the Taliban are coming back at night. They’re working through the relationships. And then, we’ve got to use our NATO allies to put more pressure on Musharraf. He’s got to tighten back down and make it more difficult. You’ll never cut it off, but you’ve got to make it more difficult so the people themselves-
Gretchen Carlson: Right.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: -got to the Karzai government instead of relying on the Taliban.
September 5, 2006
Neil Cavuto: Alright, six days to 9/11, five years since America was attacked by terrorists, proof that the nation is more secure? Depends on who you talk to. Democratic leaders out with a report called “The Neo Con”. It claims that Bush Republicans have failed in the War on Terror.
(video of Harry Reid)
Neil Cavuto: Alright, to General Wesley Clark, right now his thoughts on that, part of this report issued today. General, we haven’t been attacked almost five years. That’s not bad.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I, I’m delighted that we haven’t, and I hope we’ll never be attacked. The attack on 9/11 occurred on the President’s watch. He took us into a war with Iraq we didn’t have to fight. It’s been used to incentivize recruiting in Al Qaeda. The number of people who are affiliated with Al Qaeda worldwide has more than doubled since 2001. Our Armed Forces are bogged down in Iraq. We haven’t been able to effectively engage with North Korea. We’re hearing the tom-toms beating for war with Iran. I think the American people can judge. This administration’s policy has been a mistake, and he’s not made us safer. He’s left us more vulnerable.
Neil Cavuto: Let me ask you, General, the folks we’re fighting in Iraq right now, if we weren’t fighting them in Iraq right now, where would they be?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well those, a lot of those folks who wouldn’t be fighting at all, because what we did is we incentivized a whole generation of young radical people to come and defend Islam against the United States. That’s the foreign terrorists that are there, anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 to 3,000. (more…)
September 14, 2004
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan?
SEYMOUR HERSH:….I got there after action started, which was just devastating, I mean, brutal. There’s always internesting warfare, but this was extraordinary. They just said, this was the worst they have ever seen. One air force colonel, who is a wonderful, bright young air force colonel said to me, “Well, the army demonstrated that they were able to send a bunch of boys up a mountain to their death.” That’s what they showed in this mission. Complete disaster. They tried to tell the press as many as 700 al Qaeda were killed. Newsweek reported ten bodies were found. Shades of Vietnam again. But I didn’t write it.
What makes it interesting, while doing reporting on it, I called Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander, who is sort of an interesting guy in this stuff, because early in the war, early in my reporting on the war, I had written critically about a Delta Force operation. Delta is the secret unit of the army. The commander unit. They had been ambushed. The Delta guys were enraged. I’m talking about the first month of the war because they had been sent on this stupid operation and they had gotten hurt very badly. And they don’t like it. Delta guys, they like to crawl in little holes for a week and get to their target. They were ordered to do it in a different way.
Everybody denied the story like crazy. And Wes Clark, to his credit, told a bunch of newspapers, “Look, I know this is right.” I had said 13 people were hurt and he said 12 was the number that he had. I saw in him somebody with a great streak of integrity, difficult he may be. In any case, I called him about this story while I was doing it. He encouraged me to write it. I didn’t write it.
About a year-and-a-half later, he’s running for president. I mention this in the book, and I bump into him, and he jumped all over me. He said, “Why didn’t you do that story?” I said, “Well, I just thought, it just would have been — I just didn’t do it.” He said, “You should have done it. That was your job.” Pretty scary. You know, he was right.
November 16, 2003
MR. RUSSERT: Are you suggesting that if you were in charge, you could have liberated Iraq without the loss of a single American soldier?
GEN. CLARK: No, not necessarily. But I would have worked on Iraq a different way. I would have viewed it as a challenge, but not an imminent threat. I would have taken the problem to the United Nations. I would have put pressure through the United Nations on Iraq. I would have worked for robust inspections. I might have kept a force in the region. And, bit by bit, we would have reduced the imminence of any threat that Saddam Hussein might pose. I was one of those, along with Senator Bob Graham, who believed at the outset that this was a distraction. This was a distraction from the more important war against al-Qaeda. And, in fact, it was a distraction, Tim. When we went into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, CENTCOM was already planning the operation in Iraq. Instead of planning how to get Osama bin Laden, instead of putting the U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan to finish the fight against al-Qaeda and bring back Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, we had our top leadership distracted in preparing what to do about Saddam Hussein. And then, when we could have put the U.S. troops in, we withheld them, because there was uncertainty as to how long we would be in Afghanistan and how soon we might need those troops to go into Iraq.
So we’ve stretched and we’ve accommodated the Afghanistan mission, we’ve done as little as possible. In military terms, it’s been “economy of force.” And the result is today that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are coming back in Afghanistan.
September 9, 2002
As the Bush administration raises prospects of war with Iraq, USA TODAY asked experts to explore critical military, diplomatic and political factors involved and the possible consequences. This is part of that occasional series.
Saddam Hussein is a cunning, stubborn opponent, as I well know. As commander of U.S. forces in Europe in the late 1990s, I watched Iraqi forces violate the “no fly zone” and defy United Nations inspection teams. He is the kind of leader who starts wars, as when he invaded Kuwait in 1990 and then struck Israel with SCUD missiles. He has a strong streak of irrationality, and, apparently, a messianic complex.
If Saddam had the SCUD missiles armed with nuclear warheads that he wants, the Middle East would face terrible new risks. He might strike at Israel or go after another neighboring state, holding his missiles as a second-strike deterrent. Or Israel might launch preventive strikes. We must act to prevent this kind of war.
The president will address the United Nations on Thursday. This is an appropriate journey. But is the administration asserting that we should start a war now to prevent one later? Rushing too quickly to invade Iraq presents greater problems now than Saddam does.
Saddam has been seeking nuclear weapons for more than 20 years. In 1991, the CIA said he was within six months of having a nuclear weapon. The latest information says he has tried in recent months to acquire aluminum rods necessary to enrich uranium. Despite all of the talk of “loose nukes,” Saddam doesn’t have any, or, apparently, the highly enriched uranium or plutonium to enable him to construct them.
Unless there is new evidence, we appear to have months, if not years, to work out this problem. And today we are still at war with al-Qaeda. These terrorists weren’t destroyed in Afghanistan, just scattered. Thousands of fighters remain, plotting their next moves. (more…)
November 1, 2001
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Why do we not just commit all necessary forces into the region and get it over with? We have the manpower and the weapons. They chose this path and we should end it.
CLARK: I agree with your sentiment, but it’s difficult to get the forces in and do the job correctly. Remember, what we’re trying to do is eliminate the terrorist network. If it flees to another country, and is given protection there, then a yearlong invasion of Afghanistan would be wasted. I am concerned that we not repeat the mistakes of the Russians in Afghanistan. They put in 100,000 troops, kept them there for ten years, had 15,000 killed, and lost. Winning this war requires not only bombs and bullets, but a strategic and diplomatic framework that dries up support for the terrorists worldwide.
This war won’t be over any time soon, even if by some lucky break, a bomb should strike Osama bin Laden. There are thousands of terrorists who fervently believe in attacking Americans and will continue to try to do so until their own governments detain them. So we have to balance the energy of the military action in Afghanistan with other efforts, economic, political, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement, in many places around the world to achieve our aim.
October 29, 2001
BLITZER: All right. General Clark, very briefly before we take a break, what is your strategy right now? You suggested in the past that the U.S. may be investing too much energy on the military front and not enough on the diplomatic front.
CLARK: That is exactly right. We have got to understand what Osama bin Laden really wants. What he wants is the United States to strike very powerfully to mobilize Muslim opinion against United States for excessive use of force. He wants to be able to destabilize the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Ultimately he wants Mecca, Medina and the Mantle of Mohammed. And this is really a struggle for the heart and soul of Islam. So as we wage the military battle on the ground in Afghanistan, we have got to be aware of the broader context of this strategic struggle. We have got to, at one time, fight the war in Afghanistan and at the same time build a coalition, the Pakistanis and the other regimes in cooperation with us and they have to take measures to cut off the fundamentalists funding and support that is coming out of their own countries.