Wesley Clark-Anti-War Candidate? Break with the Democrats they are as pro awr as Bush
Braek with the Democrats for a Labor Party
Wesley Clark: The New Anti-War Candidate?
Record Shows Clark Cheered Iraq War as "Right Call"
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
112 W. 27th St. New York, NY 10001
September 16, 2003
The possibility that former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark might
enter the race for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination has
been the subject of furious speculation in the media. But while recent
coverage of Clark often claims that he opposed the war with Iraq, the
various opinions he has expressed on the issue suggest the media's
"anti-war" label is inaccurate.
Many media accounts state that Clark, who led the 1999 NATO campaign
against Yugoslavia, was outspoken in his opposition to the invasion of
Iraq. The Boston Globe (9/14/03) noted that Clark is "a former NATO
commander who also happens to have opposed the Iraq war." "Face it:
The only anti-war candidate America is ever going to elect is one who
is a four-star general," wrote Michael Wolff in New York magazine
(9/22/03). Salon.com called Clark a "fervent critic of the war with
To some political reporters, Clark's supposed anti-war stance could
spell trouble for some of the other candidates. According to
Newsweek's Howard Fineman (9/8/03) Clark "is as anti-war as Dean,"
suggesting that the general would therefore be a "credible
alternative" to a candidate whom "many Democrats" think "would lead to
a disaster." A September 15 Associated Press report claimed that Clark
"has been critical of the Iraq war and Bush's postwar efforts,
positions that would put him alongside announced candidates Howard
Dean, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio as
the most vocal anti-war candidates." The Washington Post (9/11/03)
reported that Clark and Dean "both opposed the war in Iraq, and both
are generating excitement on the Internet and with grass-roots
Hearing Clark talking to CNN's Paula Zahn (7/16/03), it would be
understandable to think he was an opponent of the war. "From the
beginning, I have had my doubts about this mission, Paula," he said.
"And I have shared them previously on CNN." But a review of his
statements before, during and after the war reveals that Clark has
taken a range of positions-- from expressing doubts about diplomatic
and military strategies early on, to celebrating the U.S. "victory" in
a column declaring that George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt"
(London Times, 4/10/03).
Months before the invasion, Clark's opinion piece in Time magazine
(10/14/02) was aptly headlined "Let's Wait to Attack," a counter-
argument to another piece headlined "No, Let's Not Waste Any Time."
Before the war, Clark was concerned that the U.S. had an insufficient
number of troops, a faulty battle strategy and a lack of international
As time wore on, Clark's reservations seemed to give way. Clark
explained on CNN (1/21/03) that if he had been in charge, "I probably
wouldn't have made the moves that got us to this point. But just
assuming that we're here at this point, then I think that the
president is going to have to move ahead, despite the fact that the
allies have reservations." As he later elaborated (CNN, 2/5/03): "The
credibility of the United States is on the line, and Saddam Hussein
has these weapons and so, you know, we're going to go ahead and do
this and the rest of the world's got to get with us.... The U.N. has
got to come in and belly up to the bar on this. But the president of
the United States has put his credibility on the line, too. And so
this is the time that these nations around the world, and the United
Nations, are going to have to look at this evidence and decide who
they line up with."
On the question of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction, Clark
seemed remarkably confident of their existence. Clark told CNN's Miles
O'Brien that Saddam Hussein "does have weapons of mass destruction."
When O'Brien asked, "And you could say that categorically?" Clark was
resolute: "Absolutely" (1/18/03). When CNN's Zahn (4/2/03) asked if he
had any doubts about finding the weapons, Clark responded: "I think
they will be found. There's so much intelligence on this."
After the fall of Baghdad, any remaining qualms Clark had about the
wisdom of the war seemed to evaporate. "Liberation is at hand.
Liberation-- the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice,
erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions," Clark wrote in a
London Times column (4/10/03). "Already the scent of victory is in the
air." Though he had been critical of Pentagon tactics, Clark was
exuberant about the results of "a lean plan, using only about a third
of the ground combat power of the Gulf War. If the alternative to
attacking in March with the equivalent of four divisions was to wait
until late April to attack with five, they certainly made the right
Clark made bold predictions about the effect the war would have on the
region: "Many Gulf states will hustle to praise their liberation from
a sense of insecurity they were previously loath even to express.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia will move slightly but perceptibly towards
Western standards of human rights." George W. Bush and British Prime
Minister Tony Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of
so much doubt," Clark explained. "Their opponents, those who
questioned the necessity or wisdom of the operation, are temporarily
silent, but probably unconvinced." The way Clark speaks of the
"opponents" having been silenced is instructive, since he presumably
does not include himself-- obviously not "temporarily silent"-- in
that category. Clark closed the piece with visions of victory
celebrations here at home: "Let's have those parades on the Mall and
down Constitution Avenue."
In another column the next day (London Times, 4/11/03), Clark summed
up the lessons of the war this way: "The campaign in Iraq illustrates
the continuing progress of military technology and tactics, but if
there is a single overriding lesson it must be this: American military
power, especially when buttressed by Britain's, is virtually
unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don't try! And that's not hubris,
it's just plain fact."
Another "plain fact" is this: While political reporters might welcome
Clark's entry into the campaign, to label a candidate with such views
"anti-war" is to render the term meaningless.
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