I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the
senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were
still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was
more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign
plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning
with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan… I
left the Pentagon that afternoon deeply concerned." – Wesley
130, Winning Modern Wars.
Wesley Clark is to be believed, he kept this Pentagon conversation – and
his deep concerns – to himself for nearly two years, going public
only when it suited his purposes as a purveyor of books and newly-hatched
Democratic candidate for President. There is something – no,
there are many things – very, very wrong, here.
version of the truth is that he didn’t want to know the truth. “I
moved the conversation away, for this was not something I wanted
to hear,” he claims to recall. “And it was not something I wanted
to see moving forward, either.”
for at least a year Clark said and did nothing to indicate that
his brain contained the dreadful knowledge of seven impending
wars on the national horizon. Instead,
he shopped himself as the hero of Kosovo, telling everyone within
elbow grabbing distance that he’d like to run for high office
sometime soon, on some party’s ticket. Clark does not claim to
have been conflicted by concerns to protect the confidences of
his buddies at the Pentagon. “Nothing in this book is derived
from classified material nor have I written anything that could
compromise national security," reads the introduction to Winning
Modern Wars, released in late September.
fact, the Bush men spent much of the summer of 2002
their plans to first, smash Saddam Hussein, then gloriously
march on Damascus and Tehran – dreams they still cherish. Clark now tells us that he knew then that
the Bush men’s threats were understated; that guys like
him were actively preparing a five-year military campaign
to subdue great
swaths of Africa and the Middle East.
theater of the mind
Clark appears in his book as a Walter
Mitty-like character: all of the drama, the angst, the torment,
his anxieties for the future of his country, occurs in his head.
In the almost two years separating the Pentagon revelation and
publication of his book, Clark exhibited no outward signs of inner
conflict. But he was troubled,
very troubled. As proof, Clark offers a narrative of his unchallengeable
left the Pentagon that afternoon deeply concerned. I hoped the
officer was wrong,
whoever was pushing this [five-year war plan] would amend his approach.
did not happen. After the president delivered his 2002 State
of the Union address,
policy was locked in concrete.”
Clark’s lips stayed locked
shut, for at least a year. Finally, in 2003 Clark got his national
podium as a military
analyst for CNN. He had the microphone and the cameras, direct
to a swollen, global TV audience anticipating the onset of war.
The Big One was about to begin, the rolling conflict that would
parts of two continents in flame for the next five years. What
would the hero of Kosovo do at such a moment?
Clark chose to cheer the war
on like the rest of the media’s retired military consultants, occasionally seasoning
his commentary with the barest hints of misgivings – nothing
substantive enough to rate front page quotation.
When he had the opportunity and it might have made
a difference, Clark failed to sound an alarm about an invasion he
now claims to have known to be a prelude to even wider wars. As documented
by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR),
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
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."
Clark failed to oppose administration policy until
long after the fact and in his own mind – skull-bound sound
and fury, ultimately signifying nothing. We are expected to accept
his published testimony to the inner turmoil he experienced, in
direct contradiction to his actual words and actions at the critical
in the timeline of war.
A deathly silence
is a fundamental difference between the retired general’s
claims and the pleadings of presidential candidates Rep.
Dick Gephardt and Sen. John Kerry. Both now claim
that their votes for the War Powers Resolution
in October, 2002 would lead to a unilateral U.S. invasion.
Both charge Bush misled
the nation and the world about the facts and
rationale of the war.
But in his book, Clark purports
to have known all along (or at least since Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech) that the Iraq
invasion was “locked in concrete,” to be followed by wars against
six additional nations that presented no imminent threat to the U.S.
Far from being another victim of bamboozlement, Clark claims to have
possessed an insider’s knowledge of multiple wars in the making.
Did he scream to high heaven, Stop the madness?
No, Clark assumed the pose of mildly skeptical CNN analyst, occasionally
picking here and there at the edges of Bush policy, as if trying
to fine-tune and perfect it.
Clark’s misgivings dissolved
entirely on April
10. Drunk on “victory,” Clark gushed: “Can
anything be more moving than the joyous throngs swarming the
streets of Baghdad? Memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall,
and the defeat
of Milosevic in Belgrade flood back. Statues and images of
Saddam are smashed and defiled. Liberation is at hand.”
Did he pause to warn
the public that there were still six more wars to go? That Baghdad
was just the first stopover in a five-year campaign of bloody Shock
and Awe? No,
that wouldn’t do. I’ll save it for my book,
the general decided – after intense deliberation with himself.
Iraqi resisters have
wrecked the master plan to which Clark was made privy and complicit
in November, 2001. Amazingly, Clark now invites the reading
public to step into the inner recesses of his mind. What we find
is cowardice in the face of power, boundless opportunism, and
an infinite capacity for lying – a pathological mix. In sum, Wesley
Clark is a dangerous loon, damned by his own words.
Clark can be stopped.
The Democratic presidential candidate who has the courage to confront
Clark with the insane logic of Winning
Modern Wars, will
do his nation and party a great service. This candidate must
to absorb the full wrath of Bill Clinton’s machine – the real power
behind Clark’s campaign – and to abandon any hopes of becoming
a vice-presidential nominee.
names come to mind.