Ed Schultz: General Wesley Clark here on the Ed Schultz Show. The website is securingamerica.com. General Clark, if things won’t improve by September, this means that the Congress is going to have to go back and fund, continually fund these operations. Is that correct?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think even if it does improve in September, the Congress is going to continue to have to fund the operations.
Ed Schultz: We’re going to have this vote all over again then. Aren’t we?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: We’re going to have this vote for the next few years unless something catastrophic happens that causes us to reconsider and pull the plug on the whole operation.
Ed Schultz: If we were to do that, pull the plug on the whole operation, what’s your prediction as to what would happen, General Clark?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: We’d, um, we, we’d have a hard time disengaging from the region, Ed. We’ve got security responsibilities to the Gulf States. We’ve got Security interests with Israel. We’ve got friends in Lebanon. We’ve got many different issues that are effected by the outcome in Iraq. So, If we pull the plug on the operation, you could probably physically remove the troops in six to eight months in good order.
If you saw a larger war go, would you want to be back in? How ’bout if you saw Al Qaeda taking over provinces? How ’bout if you saw the collapse in the West Bank and aid flowing in through Syria from Iran and a corridor being cut across Iran, across Iraq by the Iranians to facilitate that, and you saw widespread deployment of, let’s say, Iranian Revolutionary Guards inside Iraq, would you want to be back in at that point? And so, I, there’s so many unpredictables in this that I’m one of those who’s counseled against just getting frustrated and pulling the plug.
I wouldnt’ve gone in in the first place. It was a huge strategic mistake. We have to find the right way to back out of this.
Ed Schultz: And doing that is almost impossible in your opinion. So, we’re, we’re in it, and we got to make the best of it somehow. And the best thing we can have happen is for the Iraqis to a-accept what’s going on governmentally and get involved in the process and, and Americans are feeling like that’s a pipe dream at this point. How could we have gotten all of this so wrong? And I’m just hearing you, General, say that, you know, we’re so, we’re into this so thick it- there are just few options that we have at this point.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: And with each succeeding month, the options diminish. The people that we could talk to on the ground in Iraq are compromised. The leverage that we hold over Iran erodes. The strength of the Israeli position weakens. With each successive month, we’ve been getting weaker. Now, the Saudis put in a good strategic effort over the last eight months to try to salvage this. It hasn’t worked.
Ed Schultz: What about arming Sunni insurgents to fight Al Qaeda? Is that a good idea?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, that’s one of the issues, and certainly if we can strengthen localities inside Iraq, and if we can be sure they’re actually fighting Al Qaeda, that’s a good thing. But what if, in doing that, they’re bringing Al Qaeda in and not simply strengthening the resistance to Al Qaeda? That’s what we don’t know about. Apparently, some of the weapons that were-, I’m told that some of the weapons that ended up in the refugee camps in Lebanon, that the Lebanese Army’s been fighting against, because the weapons were being used by Al Qaeda in Lebanon, those weapons were paid for as part of the Saudi initiative to arm the Sunnis to fight against Iran.
Ed Schultz: What a mess. What an absolute mess.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: It is a mess. It’s a really difficult set of issues.
June 18, 2007
May 30, 2007
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: But, you know… sometimes politics doesn’t work. Iraq is one of these issues where politics doesn’t quite work. Take the case of the original legislation that Congress sent to the President, you know the one he vetoed.
Alan Colmes: Yes.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: There were actually three big loopholes about the withdrawal. He didn’t have to withdraw troops that were fighting al Qaeda, he didn’t have to withdraw troops that were training the Iraqis and you didn’t have to withdraw troops who were protecting the troops fighting al Qaeda and training Iraqis. Those are huge loopholes. Nobody knows who’s doing what over there. You could have ended up with 150,000 troops left.
Alan Colmes: Even with that legislation, with the benchmarks, with the date certain?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Absolutely. All you had to do… none of that stuff applied to training or fighting al Qaeda.
Alan Colmes: And yet the administration kept saying “if you vote against the supplemental, you’ve voting against the troops.’
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Sure.
Alan Colmes: You got the impression that they weren’t going to have bullets in their guns.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Sure, but the truth was the Democrats didn’t say “there’s huge loopholes and even after we do this, these troops are going to be left there.’ Neither side did it. It got simplified in politics and this is the danger. The truth about Iraq is that we’re going to be there for a while, maybe not in the same strength we’re in now, I hope not. And hopefully, you know, we’ll get the fighting calmed down and I don’t think the military’s the solution – it’s just part of the solution, but…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: … but, there’s no magic bullet solution and no matter who comes into office it’s going to be a huge problem because… here’s the problem, Alan – we’ve been talking about troops and tactics and we should have been talking as a nation about strategy and policies.
Alan Colmes: Yeah, yeah.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Not the troops and the tactics.
Alan Colmes: What would you have done if you were in the Senate, though? Would you have voted against or for the supplemental?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Oh, I’d have had to vote against it.
Alan Colmes: You would have voted against it?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Absolutely.
Alan Colmes: Then, of course you have the other side saying “see, you don’t care about the troops.”
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I know that.
Alan Colmes: You can’t say that to Wesley Clark.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: It’s not about the troops, it’s about the strategy. You’ve got to fix the strategy.
Alan Colmes: What do you think of Petraeus?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I like him. I think he’s great. Look, think of it this way with Petraeus. You’re… you’re a football player; and you’re on the bench and you played well on the junior varsity but now you’re ready… you’d like to be the quarterback but no one’s put you in. And suddenly the coach comes over, there’s 10 minutes left in the game, you’re behind by 20 points, it’s pouring down rain, the other side are like monsters, your offensive line is crumbling, the fans are leaving and the coach says to you, “kid, I want you to go in there and win this game” he says, “and don’t worry about how bad you run up the score, beat them 50 to nothing.” What are you going to say? “Coach, let’s do it.’ You’re going to go in, but you’re not going to say “uh, coach… I, uh… it’s hard to throw passes in this kind of weather and uh, you know, we really need some more emotional lift from the fans and, uh, I’m not sure we had the practice for me being quarterback this week and so I’m gonna do my best but I’ll be the first one to tell ya when it can’t be done.’ I mean, you don’t do that.
Alan Colmes: Uh huh. Yeah, yeah.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Petraeus’s mission is to succeed. And…
Alan Colmes: They haven’t defined what “succeed’ is. They haven’t told us what success really is, we don’t understand… at least I don’t, the American…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, get off Petraeus for that.
Alan Colmes: No, I understand.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Get on the administration.
Alan Colmes: Exactly. The administration has to define for the American people what success is, other than have the President say “we’ve got to win… victory, victory, victory.’ Well, what is victory?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Petraeus would tell you victory is reducing the violence, bringing about a political solution and being able to cut down the numbers of troops that are there by some substantial number. That’s what he’ll be trying to do. The administration won’t quite articulate it that way because… this is what I’m saying, the politics don’t work. But they don’t work on either side, Alan.
Alan Colmes: Yeah.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I mean, people don’t want to hear the fact that we’re in a real mess in Iraq, no matter who’s president. It’s not a matter of sort of saying “okay, get me 10,000 trucks, I want that stuff loaded out by 06:00. Line the troops up, we’re leaving.’ I mean, that’s not going to happen.
Alan Colmes: What can you do then? What could a President do? What could General Clark do if you were in that position?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I’d really be working the diplomacy with Iran and Syria. I’d be trying to change the vision of what people have in the region. And then I’d carry a trick bag into the Iranians and say “here’s my tricks – I can put more troops in, I can put “em right up on your border… I can, I can be worse to you or I can be better. We could even go so far as to recognize you. We can give you economic development assistance. We could even let Chevron Oil fix your whole energy sector so you’re not running out of energy.’ And, um… all that can happen. We just have to have a different understanding of what’s going to happen in the region. And I think if you change the nature of the dialogue, you won’t… you won’t succeed right away but I think it’s the only way you can begin to lay the conditions for success.
Alan Colmes: You hear some of the neocons talking almost as though frothing at the mouth, almost as if war with Iran is inevitable and that’s the only way we can keep them in line and protect Israel for example.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, there are some people who think that. I think that would be… right now, I haven’t taken the use of force off the table, but I think that we’re a long, long way from thinking about that, wanting to do it. It doesn’t look like the best solution to me and uh, you know you’ve got to talk to people.
Alan Colmes: Yeah. We’re talking to General Wesley Clark. A few more moments with the General. It’s 877-for-Alan, 877-467-2526. My opening question having to do with a run for president and you said you haven’t decided not to. So, is the door open still in ’08 for you to jump in?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I just… I’d like to leave it just the way I said it, Alan.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I haven’t decided not to run.
Alan Colmes: Really? It’s my job to coax you a little further, though along those lines.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well you can try. I’m pretty good at maintaining this position.
Alan Colmes: I’m sure. Among the candidates now, is there any one you favor?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I like them all. I think there’s some great people in the race. I think there’s some tremendous talent out there and um, and you know I think that the American people are going to have some real opportunities to express their views. But…
Alan Colmes: You…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: … but, but this election is going to be about international affairs and national security, whether we want it to be or not. That’s what it’s going to be about because this problem is not going to go away. No matter… I’ve seen… President Bush says “ah maybe there’s someone thinking about withdrawing troops.” Believe me, they can start withdrawing troops in September. A year from now… unless… I don’t know… unless something really amazing happens we’re still going to have this problem.
Alan Colmes: So you’re saying whatever happens, we’re still probably going to wind up with a sizable force in Iraq for how long?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: It really depends on the leadership of the administration. Could be a few months after 2009, could be years after 2009. It… it could come down substantially before 2009.
Alan Colmes: What would have to happen…
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I’d be surprised if it does with this administration.
Alan Colmes: What would have to happen to get the troops home?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I think you’ve got to really put some horsepower into working the Iraqi faction problem and look, there’s not a government. Let’s be clear about what’s there. There are some people who have been elected, they’ve collected signatures, they got votes, they’ve got parties, but it’s not a government. It doesn’t provide services for people. It’s basically their trying to divvy up authority and power among various factions.
Alan Colmes: What makes us think we can have any sway over what happens over there governmentally?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, it depends on how much resource we’re willing to put into it and, you know, how effective we are as interlocutors. Right now, we’ve basically tried to dodge the problem for four years. We have from the beginning said “oh, let’s have a formulaic solution, give them purple fingers, let them vote and in the meanwhile, you know, we’ll try and win it with the military.’ We never built the civilian side of this thing up the way we could have to do the job with the civilians.
Alan Colmes radio show, 5/30/07
March 27, 2007
The troop “surge” in Iraq is also a signal to Iran—but stopping Tehran’s nukes for good will require a different kind of leverage.
In essence, the policy issues come down to a debate over leverage—how much and what type of leverage is required for Iran to dismantle and bar the resumption of any nuclear weapons programs. The administration would argue that it currently lacks leverage, and so must continue to apply pressure and use indirect dialogue—that the Iranians are stubborn, only understand the use of force, can’t be given the impression that they are winning, and so forth. The administration seems to consider “sticks” the only form of leverage. But the truth is that the Iranians have survived almost thirty years of isolation, hostility, and war. The U.S. intervention in Iraq probably altered permanently the sectarian balance of power in the region in Iran’s favor. And whether our allies in the region appreciate Iran or not, its population of nearly 70 million people, enormous wealth of resources, and strong heritage make it a significant power. A policy of sticks alone is unlikely to persuade Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The administration’s dogged pursuit of leverage by sticks, unfortunately, is too much a holdover of the tough-guy, new-sheriff attitude that landed us in the Iraq mess. But another kind of leverage—carrots—could succeed. The United States is the largest economic power in the world, and has control, or very near controlling influence, over almost every international institution of significance to the Iranians. I believe we can gain far more from Iran by dispensing some carrots—and can also apply the sticks more effectively—if we are in face-to-face dialogue. Dangling some carrots now in an unconditional dialogue with Tehran while the surge in Baghdad is only beginning could prove decisive.
What can Congress do to help? First, push the administration to support Iraq with the nonmilitary resources that are essential to progress there. Congress should hold immediate hearings to investigate why the nonmilitary elements of the administration’s strategy have failed so badly, and why the appropriate resources cannot be brought to bear. Second, add pressure on al-Maliki to convince him to take the tough measures required to settle the issues of oil revenues, federalism, and the militias. Congress should strengthen its efforts to investigate corruption inside the economic-development program, and demand stronger accounting for the Iraqi government’s and leaders’ relationships with Iran. And third, demand that the Bush administration commence an unconditional dialogue with the regional powers and each of Iraq’s neighbors immediately. This is the next sense-of-the-Congress resolution that is required.
For the United States, the possible use of force against Iran must remain on the table. But military conflict is not inevitable, and neither is Iranian nuclear weaponry. It is a matter of strategy and leadership. It’s time for the United States to stop isolating those it disagrees with, pretending that other nations have more influence, asking others to carry the burden of dialogue, and leaving our soldiers in Iraq to struggle without an adequate diplomatic strategy to reinforce their efforts. The evidence of the administration’s lack of diplomatic leadership is evident in the new agreement with North Korea, which could have been reached four years ago before the North Koreans acquired fuel for additional nuclear weapons. We cannot afford more delays with Iran while we pursue a misplaced strategy. Congress and the American people should demand that the administration step forward and lead.
February 2, 2007
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.
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.
January 22, 2007
Delivered at UCLA, Burkle Center for International Relations, January 22, 2007
Thank you very much for that- Thank you very much for that warm welcome, and thank you very much Dean Schill for your kind introduction and the opportunity to speak here. Now, someone asked me when I was coming up here today was I going to announce for the Presidency. (laughter) The answer’s no. I haven’t ruled out something like that, but I’m not here today in a political purpose. If you want to see the latest, go to my website http://www.securingamerica.com . You can see the speech I gave in Alabama last Monday, and it will- that, that’s the Political side. I’m not here to talk politics.
I’m really here in an academic setting, in a policy setting and a legal setting, because I think that war and law are two critically important regimes of study and practice in The United States of America, and it’s very difficult to find people who really do the crosswalk well. And yet, the failure to do the crosswalk can lead to enormous policy failures.
So, what I’d like to do today is talk about legitimacy, legality and public support in warfare, and I’d like to talk about it – if you’ll permit me to do so – as a scholar, as an academician, as a practitioner but not as a- someone who ran for office or someone who might run for office. So, I’d like to just set aside partisanship. There’s no partisanship in this. I just want to give you my best judgment from my various fields of experience, and it doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Republican, Democrat, Independent or- it, it just doesn’t matter. This is about our country and about our world, not about partisan politics.
I think we’re at an inflection point in American history. This is one of those moments where so much will depend on the outcome, the decisions, the choices made by our government in the weeks ahead. America’s Army is in a crisis. We’re bogged down in a failing war in Iraq. We’re- the President said we’re going to put 20,000 more troops in, but that’s a really hard stretch. No one wants to go to the draft, and yet recruiting’s been difficult in this environment. The Iraq Study Group called for a drawdown, but the Iraq Study Group was taken by many as an admission of failure. It’s driven our Sunni allies in the, allies in the region into despair, and it’s made Iran even more triumphalist than it had already been, and it’s recognition that Al Qaeda is more numerous, increasingly diffused, and still very much lethal. Congress is preparing to vote against and block the President’s policy of surging more troops into Iraq. If they succeed in doing that, then we’re into a different period.
It’s a moment of signal importance. It’s the first real check on the President’s foreign policy by Congress. For the region, it’s a shock as the U.S. is seriously considering a straight run of Neoconservative policies in the region, which saw the invasion of Iraq as the first step in knocking off regimes in the region – Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Libya, Somalia, Sudan – and a complete reordering of the Middle East, and that’s clearly not likely to happen on the current course of action.
And globally, we’re at a moment where U.S. prestige and power are hanging in the balance. What’s happened to this United States of America since the 11th of September of 2001 when 200,000 Germans demonstrated at the Brandenburger Gate, when people all over the world came out and supported us? What’s happened? (more…)
January 16, 2007
Kevin Drum asks:
Question: [Re:] the primary critique among the anti-war left, has the Iraq war vindicated them?
Well, my quick answer as to my primary critque of the Iraq Debacle is – for the same reasons Bush pere did not go to Baghdad at the end of Desert Storm. But my long answer relies on the Congressional testimony of General Wesley Clark in September 2002:
GEN. CLARK: I’ve been concerned that the attention on Iraq will distract us from what we’re doing with respect to al Qaeda. . . . I think, as a minimum, that when one opens up another campaign, there is a diversion of effort. The question is whether the diversion of effort is productive or counterproductive. I really — it’s — there are forces operating in both directions at this point. You can make the argument, as General Shalikashvili did, that you want to cut off all sources of supply. Problem with that argument is that Iran really has had closer linkages with the terrorists in the past and still does, apparently, today, than Iraq does. So that leads you to then ask, well, what will be the impact on Iran?
. . . SEN. CLELAND: And if you took out Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party, the secularist party, don’t the . . . Shi’ite Muslims make up a majority of the population in Iraq, and wouldn’t that give Iran a strong hand there, and we ultimately end up creating a Muslim state, even under democratic institutions?GEN. CLARK: Yes, sir. I think that there is a substantial risk in the aftermath of the operation that we could end up with a problem which is more intractable than we have today.
One thing we’re pretty clear on is that Saddam has a very effective police state apparatus. He doesn’t allow challenges to his authority inside that state. When we go in there with a transitional government and a military occupation of some indefinite duration, it’s also very likely that if there is an effective al Qaeda left — and there certainly will be an effective organization of extremists — they will pour into that country because they must compete for the Iraqi people; the Wahabes with the Sunnis, the Shi’as from Iran working with the Shi’a population. So it’s not beyond consideration that we would have a radicalized state, even under a U.S. occupation in the aftermath.
Was General Clark vindicated?
May 1, 2004
Washington Monthly, May 2004
The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East– if only the Bush hawks understood it.
During 2002 and early 2003, Bush administration officials put forth a shifting series of arguments for why we needed to invade Iraq. Nearly every one of these has been belied by subsequent events. We have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; assuming that they exist at all, they obviously never presented an imminent threat. Saddam’s alleged connections to al Qaeda turned out to be tenuous at best and clearly had nothing to do with September 11. The terrorists now in Iraq have largely arrived because we are there, and Saddam’s security forces aren’t. And peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which prominent hawks argued could be achieved “only through Baghdad,” seems further away than ever.
Advocates of the invasion are now down to their last argument: that transforming Iraq from brutal tyranny to stable democracy will spark a wave of democratic reform throughout the Middle East, thereby alleviating the conditions that give rise to terrorism. This argument is still standing because not enough time has elapsed to test it definitively–though events in the year since Baghdad’s fall do not inspire confidence. For every report of a growing conversation in the Arab world about the importance of democracy, there’s another report of moderate Arabs feeling their position undercut by the backlash against our invasion. For every example of progress (Libya giving up its WMD program), there’s an instance of backsliding (the Iranian mullahs purging reformist parliamentarians).
What is certainly true is that any hope for a “domino theory” rests with Iraq’s actually becoming something that resembles a stable democracy. But here, too, there has been little progress. Despite their heroic efforts, American soldiers have been unable to make the country consistently stable and safe. Iraq’s various ethnic entities and political factions remain deeply divided. Even the administration has concluded that the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council lacks credibility with the ordinary Iraqis it is intended to represent. The country’s reconstituted security forces have been ineffectual–indeed, in some cases, they have joined the armed resistance to our occupation. The ease with which the demagogue Muqtada al-Sadr brought thousands to the streets and effectively took over a key city for weeks has sparked fears that an Iranian-style theocracy will emerge in Iraq. And the American and Iraqi civilian death tolls continue to mount.
Whether or not you agreed with the president’s decision to invade Iraq–and I did not–there’s no doubt that America has a right and a duty to take whatever actions are necessary, including military action, to protect ourselves from the clear security threats emanating from this deeply troubled part of the world. Authoritarian rule in these countries has clearly created fertile ground for terrorists, and so establishing democratic governance in the region must be seen as one of our most vital security goals. There is good reason, however, to question whether the president’s strategy is advancing or hindering that goal.
President Bush’s approach to Iraq and to the Middle East in general has been greatly influenced by a group of foreign-policy thinkers whose defining experience was as hawkish advisors to President Reagan and the first President Bush, and who in the last few years have made an explicit comparison between Middle Eastern regimes and the Soviet Union. These neoconservatives looked at the nest of problems caused by Middle East tyranny and argued that a morally unequivocal stance and tough military action could topple those regimes and transform the region as surely as they believed that Reagan’s aggressive rhetoric and military posture brought down the Soviet Union. In a March 2002 interview on CNN, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, one of the main architects of the Iraq war, argued that the moral judgment that President Bush made “very clear, crystal clear in his State of the Union message” in which he laid out the Axis of Evil is “exactly the same kind of clarity, I think, that Ronald Reagan introduced in understanding the Soviet Union.” In a speech last year, Defense Department advisor Richard Perle made the comparison even more explicit: “I have no doubt that [Bush] has the vision that Ronald Reagan had, and can envision, can contemplate change on a very large scale in Iraq and elsewhere across the region.” (more…)
December 15, 2003
When you fight a war, there is one rule you always follow: you never, ever leave a soldier behind. For three years now, George W. Bush has been leaving our soldiers in the lurch and leaving our veterans behind. If you want to support the military as President Bush says he does, you don’t send troops into a war without an exit strategy, and you always take care of those soldiers who fought in earlier wars. Mr. Bush has failed on both scores.
First, I opposed the war in Iraq, but I am willing to give credit where credit is due. Mr. Bush was right to go to Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day. But he should have brought more than the turkey stuffing. He should have brought a success strategy to Iraq, so that we can end the occupation, protect our troops and eventually bring them home.
On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked America. At first, the Administration went after the terrorists and their state sponsors in Afghanistan. I applauded that effort and, like many Americans, I was encouraged by President Bush’s determination. But then something happened — a regular bait-and-switch. Instead of pursuing Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network, Mr. Bush turned his focus on Iraq and went after Saddam Hussein.
Now we’re in a mess in Iraq. We should be reducing our vulnerability to terrorism, but the Bush Administration has committed our troops and treasure to a misguided war. Saddam Hussein is a villain. We all know that. But he did not arrange to fly those planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Al Qaeda did. And Al Qaeda cells continue to threaten our society. This is not a good strategy for winning the war on terror.
After 9/11, the world stood with the United States in sympathy and solidarity. Today, our country is viewed as a bully. It didn’t have to be that way. (more…)
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.
March 27, 2003
By ALAN COWELL
It is precisely that messy, manipulative and murderous kind of fighting between conventional forces and elusive defenders that could confront the Americans and British as they try to enter Baghdad, despite their much-publicized reluctance to engage in a close urban brawl.
”The Iraqis will want to fight close and dirty, with Iraqi tanks darting in an out of garages and buildings; they will conduct small-scale offensive actions with dismounted soldiers supported by mortars,” wrote Gen. Wesley Clark, the American former commander who led NATO forces during the Kosovo campaign in 1999.
”The fighting will be full of the tricks we have already seen and more: ambushes, fake surrenders, soldiers dressed as women, attacks on rear areas and command posts. The Iraqis will be prepared to conduct high-risk missions of a kind we would not consider,” he said in an article for the Times of London.