Jewish World Review Jan. 20, 2004 / 26 Teves, 5764
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Retired General Wesley Clark, we are told endlessly, is running on
his record. Never mind that he has no record to speak of on most domestic
policy matters. What is really troubling is that, when it comes to his
putative area of expertise national security, Clark seems perfectly
prepared to run away from his record, or at least to dissemble about it.
A prime example is Clark's position on the war in Iraq. He got into
trouble on this score as soon as he announced his candidacy by saying that,
had he been in Congress, he would "probably" have voted for the
congressional resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein.
Within hours, he was denying that was his view and insisting that he opposed
the war all along.
In fact, as the race has tightened, Gen. Clark has become in some
ways even more strident than Howard Dean, the most vociferous anti war
candidate among the mainstream Democratic presidential hopefuls. Citing his
authority as a professional military officer, Clark has made a signature
issue of what he regards as George W. Bush's diversion of firepower and
intelligence capabilities from the real war on terror the pursuit of Osama
bin Laden and al Qaeda to the needless overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Along the way, Gen. Clark has also raised questions about President
Bush's integrity, lending weight to charges that the latter deliberately
misled the American people about the threat posed by Saddam, the status of
his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and the Iraqi dictator's
actual ties to terror.
Unfortunately for General Clark, if voters do judge him on his
record, they are likely to be deeply troubled by serious questions it raises
about his integrity and conduct.
Such questions were notably prompted by the revelation last week
that Gen. Clark gave testimony on the eve of congressional action on the
Iraq war resolution that sounded virtually indistinguishable from the views
of the Bush Administration. For example, on September 26, 2002, the General
told the House Armed Services Committee:
- "[Saddam Hussein] does retain his chemical and biological
capabilities to some extent and he is, as far as we know, actively pursuing
nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he
were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would
face greatly increased risks, as would we. Saddam might use these weapons
as a deterrent while launching attacks against Israel or his other
- "The problem of Iraq is not a problem that can be postponed
indefinitely, and of course Saddam's current efforts themselves are
violations of international law as expressed in the U.N. resolutions. Our
President has emphasized the urgency of eliminating these weapons and
weapons programs. I strongly support his efforts to encourage the United
Nations to act on this problem and in taking this to the United Nations, the
President's clear determination to act if...the United Nations can't
provides strong leverage for undergirding ongoing diplomatic efforts...."
- "I think an inspection program will provide some impedance and
interference with Saddam's [WMD] efforts. I think it can undercut the
legitimacy and authority of his regime at home. I think it can provide
warning of further developments. I think it can establish a trigger. I
think it can build legitimacy for the United States. Ultimately, it's going
to be inadequate in the main...."
- "I think there's no question that, even though we may not have the
evidence [of contacts between Saddam and al Qaeda], that there have been
such contacts. It's normal. It's natural. These are a lot of bad actors
in the same region together. They are going to bump into each other. They
are going to exchange information. They're going to feel each other out and
see whether there are opportunities to cooperate. That's inevitable in this
region, and I think it's clear that regardless of whether or not such
evidence is produced of these connections that Saddam Hussein is a
Wes Clark can legitimately contend that he was wrong back in the
Fall of 2002 and that his considered opinion is what he says today, when he
effectively repudiates his previous positions. What the general cannot do
certainly not while laying a higher claim to integrity than President Bush
is to contend that what he said then and what he is saying now are the same.
Of course, Gen. Clark's distortion of his views on Iraq are not the
only instance in which he has willfully misled the public on a vital
national security matter. Arguably, an even more important example occurred
on January 8, 2004, when he told the Concord Monitor that: "If I'm President
of the United States, I'm going to take care of the American people. We are
not going to have one of these incidents [like the 9/11 terrorist attacks]."
No one can make such a promise. And no one who holds himself out as
a responsible practitioner of security policy let alone a trustworthy
Commander -in - Chief would assert, even for a moment, that he could.
Wesley Clark is running on a platform that he is uniquely qualified
to provide leadership for America. His record to date and his
representations of it suggests that what he offers instead is
misleadership, something we can certainly do without.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
© 2004, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.