Wes Clark on the Iraq War

June 21, 2007

“The American people have a right to know, they have a need to know”

Filed under: Afghanistan, Interviews, Media, Military Commentator, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 3:25 pm

Countdown with Keith Olbermann 6/20/07

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.

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February 20, 2007

“Al Qaeda’s got a stronger base area now”

Filed under: Afghanistan, Interviews, Military Commentator, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 3:19 pm

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?

-snip

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.
Securing America

February 17, 2007

“We want people to take a stand”

Filed under: Congress, Interviews, Military Commentator — faithinwes @ 3:18 pm

Fox Big News Weekend 2/17/07

Julie Banderas:  Alright, let’s talk about today’s resolution. Yesterday the House votes then today the Senate votes.  Basically you know the Democrats are trying to express their discontent with the President’s war plan.  Many Republicans are even crossing the aisle with them, but nonetheless, it almost seems that yesterday and today made no difference because it seems we’re nowhere further than we were a week ago.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK:  Well I think that what you got is a sense of the Congress.  Both houses of Congress – the United States House of Representatives and the Senate voted against the concept of the President’s surge.  I think that’s very significant.  That reflects the results of the election.  That’s what the American people asked Congress to do.  The election was a referendum on the war and the American people were unhappy, didn’t feel it was going well; Congress is reflecting their opinions so I think it’s significant.

Julie Banderas:  Okay.  And…and uh, Hillary today, among many other politicians had to kind of stop her schedule and go to DC to make this vote.  Do you think it was all worth it, before I let you go?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK:  I think it’s important that our elected representatives get on record for what they stand for.  I think this question of Iraq is going to be with us for a long time, we’ve invested a lot of lives and treasure in this and we want to succeed but we want people to take a stand.

Securing America

February 2, 2007

“National Security policy is first and foremost the responsibility of the administration”

Filed under: Congress, Interviews, Military Commentator, Military Force, Strategy — faithinwes @ 3:26 pm

Fox News 2/2/07

WES CLARK: Some of the war’s staunchest supporters are admitting they were wrong. And others now call for poll-tested positions. I speak to you today as the only person who will take this podium before you to actually have done the things we need to succeed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the world.

Jamie Colby: General Wesley Clark addressing Democrats about political divisions on Iraq and the need for strong leadership. Addressing Democrats at their winter meeting. Foreign policy front and center in the campaign. Joining us now for more on today’s DNC meeting General Wesley Clark. Thanks for being with us General.

WES CLARK: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.

Jamie Colby: You talked about your experience and the fact that you understand how things work in Afghanistan and in Iraq. So would you have ideas you would want to put in place as President?

WES CLARK: Absolutely. Immediately. You see to win in these countries you have to build a whole foundation around the military forces that we’ve committed. It’s not enough to rely on great generals and great soldiers or marines. You’ve got to have the right diplomacy. You’ve got to be able to help governments meet the needs of their people. Sometimes you even have to mediate between quarreling governments in the region. And, actually what’s happened so much in this region over the last five years is that we have relied on our military but we haven’t done the rest of the government actions that need to be done. We haven’t had the strong diplomacy. We haven’t created the means to help the ministries work in these countries and bring government services to people. We haven’t really effected people’s lives in a positive sense and after a while the military impact of our soldiers just wears off.

-snip

Jamie Colby: Yes sir. Today you met with Democratic leaders in an exchange of ideas there. A number of people speaking including yourself. When you think of the Iraq Resolutions, I wanted to ask you why the Democrats have not necessarily gotten behind them. There is some division among the party, is there not?

WES CLARK: I think, many of the Republicans and all of the Democrats are looking for a way to continue to support the troops, but to force the president’s hand so that he gives us a strategy that will bring us success in this mission. Some people believe that a non-binding resolution is the right way to start. Other people believe that more has to be done to put the cards on the table with enough strength to get the president’s attention. But, there should be no mistake about it. National Security policy is first and foremost the responsibility of the administration to propose, and develop, and of course, to execute. In this case, the Congress is very involved in it because that’s the will of the American people. The elections in November were a rejection of the president’s leadership. And especially his leadership in Iraq. He’s come back to the Congress and said more of the same. So there’s a lot of anxiety to change that.

Securing America

November 19, 2003

“Mistakes were made”

Filed under: Military Commentator — faithinwes @ 12:27 am

  By WILLIAM SAFIRE

What if, by some miracle, everyone ‘fessed up to mistakes made about the surprisingly easy overthrow of Saddam and its unexpectedly bloody aftermath, and mistakes now being made in building democracy?

(1) In London, the amalgam of isolationists, pacifists and anti-Blair leftists — once certain they would spoil a state visit by branding the U.S. president a monster militarist — would generously admit that they had been a noisy minority, and that their discourtesy triggered a reaffirmation by most Britons of the ties between two freedom-speaking nations that lead the world in defeating tyrants.

(2) Gen. Wesley Clark would have to admit that his early reading of the Pentagon war plan on CNN was unduly panicky. Other analysts who feared heavy civilian casualties, masses of refugees, environmental disaster in the torching of oil fields and the mother of all battles in the narrow streets of Baghdad were in egregious error.

New York Times,  November 19, 2003

September 9, 2002

Before Iraq: Strengthen allies, weaken al-Qaeda by Wesley K. Clark

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

“We have to balance the energy of the military action”

Filed under: Afghanistan, Interviews, Military Commentator, Military Force, Strategy, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 7:12 pm

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.

CNN Chat,  11/1/01

October 29, 2001

“A struggle for the heart and soul of Islam”

Filed under: 9.11, Afghanistan, Military Commentator, Strategy, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 6:57 pm

CNN,

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.

CNN, 10/29/01

September 15, 2001

“I think you take them out, face by face”

Filed under: 9.11, Interviews, Military Commentator, Strategy, Terrorism — faithinwes @ 6:50 pm

CNN, 9/15/01

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Gen. Clark, we’ve been speaking about NATO invoking this clause. Can you explain to us exactly and precisely what that means and what action NATO took tonight that’s so important?

Gen. Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst
Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO commander and now a CNN military analyst: “A very clear signal to those around the world that the United States is supported completely by its NATO allies.”

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: This is essential political action taken by the NATO members acting together to say that they stand with — and will stand with — the United States in taking whatever actions might become necessary to deal with this attack on the United States. So it’s the precondition that will make everything else possible.

AMANPOUR: Is this important in the speed with which it was done? — You remember from building the coalition for Kosovo that it took a long time, relatively, to do so. Is this an important timeline that we see here?

CLARK: I think the timeline is highly significant. Of course this is in response to an attack on a NATO member state. It’s the first time, to my knowledge, that Article 5 (of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization charter) has ever been invoked. It’s the first time we’ve had an attack on a NATO member state. And I think that NATO scholars and diplomats from previous eras would never have suspected that the state to be attacked first would be the United States. So I think this is a very clear signal to those around the world that the United States is supported completely by its NATO allies. And I think that’s a very powerful weapon to have in our arsenal.

AMANPOUR: This is an unprecedented attack not just against U.S. interests and territory but against any interests that we’ve seen in recorded memory. There has not been this kind of act of terrorism that anybody I’ve talked to can remember. Does the United States have to take military action? Not in revenge but to deter any further terrorism such as this?

CLARK: The first thing the United States has to do is determine precisely what its objectives are. And, as we’ve heard the president articulate over the last couple of days, it seems pretty clear that the objectives are beyond revenge. They’re certainly beyond retaliation. He wants, and has directed, it seems, that we’re going to go after and destroy these terrorist organizations and that we’re going to hold any states that support them equally responsible.

This is, thus far, the most sweeping interpretation of the objectives. What it means is that we’re in for a relatively long campaign. We’ve seen some of the opening moves by the United States.

Today, we’ve seen the FBI extraordinarily active and very, very effective, by first reports — we’ve had the word from Attorney General (John) Ashcroft and the FBI director (Robert Mueller) about their activities and what they’ve found in the Boston area, for example, and they’re following up leads in Florida. And, presumably, other nations are taking, right now, the same or similar activities — either in response to this or other chains of evidence that might be available.

So the first step was to gather the information and then to follow it through — and take this organization and people out.

And Christiane, if I may just say, there may well be a military strike associated with this. But let’s remember that the targets here aren’t buildings — these are the people who masterminded this, and all their supporters. Striking in revenge at an isolated training camp or whatever, that’s not likely to be the objective here. Not now.

AMANPOUR: So what is, Gen. Clark? We’re talking about a faceless, maybe nameless terrorist organization, potentially — if they decide that it is Osama bin Laden, this is an organization apparently that has successfully morphed into semi-autonomous operating cells around the world. Can you tell us how you take these people out?

CLARK: I think we’re seeing the first evidence of that right now by the FBI and the local police in Boston. I think you take them out, face by face. It is an organization of faces, and they can be identified and removed.

February 20, 2000

Clark’s Iraq War opposition timeline

February 15, 2002:
Clark said any Iraq operation had to take aftermath into account. On February 15, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “I think what comes out of it is if we’re going to go into this operation in the future, we’ve got to be sure before we undertake it that we can go all the way, not only to Baghdad, not only Saddam Hussein, but to know what happens next, to make sure we have our allies and supporters lined up so that there’s not chaos and slaughter in Baghdad or in the south or in the Kurdistan areas after we complete the military phase of the operation.” [CNN, 2/15/02]

August 2, 2002:
Clark said “We Seem to Have Skipped Some Steps in the Logic of the Debate,” on Iraq. On August 2, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “We seem to have skipped some steps in the logic of the debate. And, as the American people are brought into this, they’re asking these questions.” [CNN, 8/2/02]

August 29, 2002:
Clark said there is “War Fever Out There Right Now in Some Quarters of the Leadership Elements in this Country…Where is That Coming From?” On August 29, 2002, Clark said regarding a proposed invasion of Iraq, “Well, taking it to the United Nations doesn’t put America’s foreign policy into the hands of the French. What you have to do as the United States is you have to get other nations to commit and come in with you, and so you’ve got to provide the evidence, and the convincing of the French and the French public, and the leadership elite. Look, there’s a war fever out there right now in some quarters of some of the leadership elements in this country, apparently, because I keep hearing this sense of urgency and so forth. Where is that coming from? The vice president said that today he doesn’t know when they’re going to get nuclear weapons. They’ve been trying to get nuclear weapons for — for 20 years. So if there’s some smoking gun, if there’s some really key piece of information that hasn’t been shared publicly, maybe they can share it with the French.” [CNN, 8/29/02]

August 29, 2002:
Clark said aftermath of Iraq invasion was “More Boiling in the Street.” On August 29, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, “I think — but I think that underneath, what you’re going to have is you’re going to have more boiling in the street. You’re going to have deeper anger and you’re going to feed the recruitment efforts of Al Qaeda. And this is the key point, I think, that we’re at here. The question is what’s the greater threat? Three thousand dead in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon underscore the fact that the threat we’re facing primarily is Al Qaeda. We have to work the Iraq problem around dealing with Al Qaeda. And the key thing about dealing with Al Qaeda is, we can’t win that war alone.” [CNN, 8/29/02]

August 29, 2002:
Clark said “I’d like to see us slow down the rush to go after Saddam Hussein unless there’s some clear convincing evidence that we haven’t shared with the public that he’s right on the verge of getting nuclear weapons.” On August 29, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “My perspective would be I’d like to see us slow down the rush to go after Saddam Hussein unless there’s some clear convincing evidence that we haven’t had shared with the public that he’s right on the verge of getting nuclear weapons.” [CNN, 8/29/02]

August 30, 2002:
Clark said “Going After Iraq Right Now is at Best a Diversion, and at Worst it Risks the Possibility of Strengthening Al Qaeda and Undercutting Our Coalition at a Critical Time.” On August 30, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “Going after Iraq right now is at best a diversion, and at worst it risks the possibility of strengthening Al Qaeda and undercutting our coalition at a critical time. So at the strategic level, I think we have to keep our eye on the ball and focus on the number one strategic priority. There are a lot of other concerns as well, but that’s the main one.” [CNN, 8/30/02]

August 30, 2002:
Clark said disarming Saddam Hussein needed to be done “in the Right Context, and That Context is the Adherence to Full Weight of International Law.” On August 30, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “I think it’s a serious problem with Saddam Hussein. I think he should be held to his pledge to give up his weapons of mass destruction, but we need to do so in the right context, and that context is adherence to full weight of international law, bringing our coalition partner all along with us, perhaps taking it to NATO, and putting a united front together to press Saddam Hussein.” [CNN, 8/30/02]

August 30, 2002:
Clark said invasion of Iraq of “Supercharge….Radical Groups in the Middle East.” On August 30, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “It seems that way to me. It seems that this would supercharge the opinion, not necessarily of the elites in the Arab world, who may bow to the inevitability of the United States and its power, but the radical groups in the Middle East, who are looking for reasons and gaining more recruits every time the United States makes a unilateral move by force. They will gain strength from something like this. We can well end up in Iraq with thousands of military forces tied down, and a worse problem in coping with a war on terror here in the United States or Europe, or elsewhere around the world.” [CNN, 8/30/02]

September 16, 2002:
Clark said Congress shouldn’t give a “blank check,” to Use Force Against Iraq. On September 16, 2002, Clark said, regarding Iraq and possible Congressional authorization to use force, “Don’t give a blank check. Don’t just say, you are authorized to use force. Say what the objectives are. Say what the limitations are, say what the constraints and restraints are. What is it that we, the United States of America, hope to accomplish in this operation?” [CNN 9/16/02]

September 23, 2002:
Clark said force should only be used as a last resort, “Not Because of a Sense of Impatience With the Arcane Ways of International Institutions.” On September 23, 2002, Clark said, regarding Iraq and possible Congressional authorization for the use of force, “When you’re talking about American men and women going and facing the risk we’ve been talking about this afternoon… you want to be sure that you’re using force and expending American blood and lives in treasure as the ultimate last resort. Not because of a sense of impatience with the arcane ways of international institutions.” [Senate Committee on Armed Forces 9/23/02]
http://armedservices.house.gov/openingstatementsandpressreleases/107thcongress/02-09-26clark.html

September 25, 2002:
Clark urged work on post-war issues. On September 25, 2002, Clark said, regarding a possible invasion of Iraq, “If we go in there, this government will be displaced, and there will be a new government put in place. But what about the humanitarian issues? What about the economic development? What about the energy? What about the opening of commerce? What about tariffs? What about taxes? What about police? What about public order? All those issues, we should be working on now, because they will help us do a better job of reducing the adverse, potentially adverse, impact of the war on terror if we have to do what we might have to do?” [CNN 9/25/02]

October 5, 2002:
Clark said it appeared that “Administration Jumped to the Conclusion That It Wanted War First and Then the Diplomacy Has Followed.” On October 5, 2002, Clark said, regarding debate on Congressional authorization for war against Iraq, “The way the debate has emerged, it’s appeared as though to the American people, at least to many that talk to me, as though the administration jumped to the conclusion that it wanted war first and then the diplomacy has followed.” [CNN 10/5/02]

January 23, 2003:
Clark said “There Are Problems With the Case the U.S. is Making,” for War Against Iraq in Order to Gain Allies at the U.N. On January 23, 2003, Clark said, regarding the case the United States had made for war against Iraq to the United Nations, “There are problems with the case that the U.S. is making, because the U.S. hasn’t presented publicly the clear, overwhelming sense of urgency to galvanize the world community to immediate military action now…..You need the cover of legitimacy, and afterwards, you’re going to need allies and other people to help share the burdens of peacekeeping.” [CNN 1/23/03]

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