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
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 1, 2001
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you think the press is being unfair and asking too may detailed questions?
CLARK: No, I think the press questioning is essential in a democracy. People are curious, and have every right to be. In this war, failure is not an option, and the press is a primary means of holding the government accountable. The only concern would be whether the government spokesmen release information that may compromise ongoing operations, and I’ve seen no indication of that.