The following news article which includes Clarks own statements give cause to wonder his merits: (from 2003)
“It’s often said that Clark is “our best hope” to beat Bush because he’s a general, and no one can tarnish his anti-Bush positions on Persian Gulf Slaughter II, the Patriot Act, and other reactionary policies with the charge that he’s an “unpatriotic”, “anti-American” loon (as Dean is sometimes categorized). It’s a rather strange assertion considering there have only been six generals elected as president in American history, Eisenhower being the most recent, Andrew Jackson being the last Democrat. Generals who’ve been elected were major war heroes like George Washington and Ike. Nobody thinks Clark inhabits that pantheon.
Clark’s decision to run as a Democrat is but a recent development, and his allegiance to the Party is questionable at best. Clark’s first presidential vote was for Richard Nixon. He subsequently voted twice for Ronald Reagan and then for George Bush the Elder. Up until just two years ago, Clark was delivering speeches at GOP fundraisers in his home state of Arkansas, fuelling speculation he was considering a run for the Oval Office as a Republican. In a speech he gave at a fundraiser for the Pulaski County Republican Party, May 11, 2001, Clark praised Ronald Reagan’s Cold War actions, Bush Sr.’s foreign policy, and singled out the current administration’s hyper-unilateralist national security team: “We’re going to be active, we’re going to be forward engaged. But if you look around the world, there’s a lot of work to be done. And I’m very glad we’ve got the great team in office: men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul O’Neill — people I know very well — our president, George W. Bush. We need them there, because we’ve got some tough challenges ahead in Europe.”
Clark only declared himself a Democrat this past August. Why the decision to run as a Democrat? A hint can be found in a recent Newsweek article. After 9/11, Clark had expected the Bush Administration to enlist him in their “war on terror.”
“After all, he’d been NATO commander … and the investment firm he now worked for had strong Bush ties. But when GOP friends inquired, they were told: forget it. Word was that Karl Rove, the president’s political mastermind, had blocked the idea. Clark was furious. [Clark] happened to chat with two prominent Republicans, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Marc Holtzman. . . . “I would have been a Republican,” Clark told them, “if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls.” Soon thereafter, in fact, Clark quit his day job and began seriously planning to enter the presidential race — as a Democrat. Clark late last week insisted the remark was a “humorous tweak.” The two others said it was anything but. “He went into detail about his grievances,” Holtzman said. “Clark wasn’t joking. We were really shocked.” (Newsweek, September 29, 2003)
“Anti-War” Ain’t What it Used to Be
So why are liberals and progressives so star struck over Clark? One is the widespread perception that, as Michael Moore writes in his aforementioned letter, Clark “oppose[s] war.” As the media watchdog group FAIR reveals in a review of statements made by Clark before, during and after the Iraq war, if Clark is “anti-war” then clearly the term has been gutted of any meaning.
* In an article published in The Times of London, April 10, Clark savors America’s great “victory” over Iraq: “Liberation is at hand. Liberation — the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions. Already the scent of victory is in the air. Yet a bit more work and some careful reckoning need to be done before we take our triumph. . . . President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt.”
* As the US and its client Israel are presently focusing the crosshairs on Syria and Iran, we have Clark writing in the same article: “But the operation in Iraq will also serve as a launching pad for further diplomatic overtures, pressures and even military actions against others in the region who have supported terrorism and garnered weapons of mass destruction. Don’t look for stability as a Western goal. Governments in Syria and Iran will be put on notice — indeed, may have been already — that they are ‘next’ if they fail to comply with Washington’s concerns.”
Sounds straight out of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century playbook.
Many Clark supporters were stunned when he told the New York Times on September 19 that he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing Bush to attack Iraq: “At the time, I probably would have voted for it, but I think that’s too simple a question.” After pausing to consider his statement, Clark repeated: “I don’t know if I would have or not. I’ve said it both ways because when you get into this, what happens is you have to put yourself in a position — on balance, I probably would have voted for it.”
In response to the shocked reaction among supporters to the “antiwar” candidate’s statement, Clark backpedaled the next day: “Let’s make one thing real clear, I would never have voted for this war.” “I’ve gotten a very consistent record on this. There was no imminent threat. This was not a case of pre-emptive war. I would have voted for the right kind of leverage to get a diplomatic solution, an international solution to the challenge of Saddam Hussein.”
Clark’s claim to having a consistent record is simply false. In October 2002, Clark traveled to New Hampshire to endorse Katrina Swett’s run for Congress. The Union Leader newspaper reported that, “Clark, who supports a congressional resolution that would give President Bush authority to use military force against Iraq, said if Swett were in Congress this week, he would advise her to vote for the resolution, but only after vigorous debate.” (October 10, 2002)
You’re Either With Us, Against Us
Clark’s oft-repeated claim that the US should act in concert with the international community to reach a diplomatic solution on Iraq is belied by statements he made on CNN before the war:
* “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.” (1/21/03)
* “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.” (2/5/03)
And let’s not forget that as Supreme Commander of NATO, Clark led an undeclared war against Serbia that was never approved by the UN. Before the Kosovo War commenced in March 1999, Clark repeatedly called for US air strikes against Serbia.
It’s instructive to look at Clark’s actions during the Kosovo War as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Clark waged a brutal air war against Serbia that brought death and destruction mostly to civilians and the infrastructure that was their life support but, by most post-war accounts, left the Serbian military relatively unscathed. “We’re going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately, unless President Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community, we’re going to destroy his forces and their facilities and support.” It’s clear that Clark included as legitimate targets schools, bridges, hospitals, electrical facilities, market places, trains, refugee convoys, and media outlets. Clark bombed Serbia with “an almost sadistic fanaticism” (William Blum), making profligate use of deadly cluster bombs and depleted uranium shell, of the sort now ravaging Iraq. The Washington Post reports Clark “would rise out of his seat and slap the table. ‘I’ve got to get the maximum violence out of this campaign-now!”
Independent estimates of the civilian death toll in the Kosovo War range from over 500-2000, yet Clark in testimony to Congress said there were between 20 to 30 instances of “collateral damage.”
Clark’s attempts to cover up instances of intentional NATO bombings of civilian targets have been exposed, though not properly publicized. In one case, fourteen people were killed in Grdenicka, Serbia on April 12, 1999 when a US jet bombed a passenger train crossing a bridge. Clark claimed the atrocity was a tragic mistake, as the pilot was firing on the bridge and the train only came into view after the bombs had been dropped. He showed two video films shot from the nose of the remote control-guided bombs to support his claim, which were later found to have been doctored. In fact, the train could be seen on the bridge when the pilot bombed it, and he turned around to make a second sweep on the burning bridge, dropping a bomb directly on the carriage.”