I was searching my documents for some pithy quotes and info for my annual Armistice Day essay. One of my folders is full of items by and about General Wesley K. Clark. Some of the file names are not self evident, so I opened a few to get the gist them. One of them had the text of a speech General Clark had given at the Netherlands Institute For International Relations, The Hague, on December 15, 2003.
General Clark had taken time out from his Presidential campaign to testify at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. The topic was; Atlantic Charter: The Power of Our Alliances.
In the introduction and the first part of the speech he discusses current events including the capture of Saddam Hussein and the state of the war in Iraq and why he is at The Hague. His conclusions are what struck me (emphasis in bold are mine):
We should begin with a common understanding of the world in which we live and the threats and challenges we face.
We must recognize:
The need to be tough on al-Qaeda and just as tough on the reasons why terrorism draws so much support from the Arab and Islamic world.
We must recognize that globalization brings the benefits of the free flow of communication, information, ideas and capital.
But that it also has a dark side that allows the spread of terror, weapons of mass destruction, crime and drugs to grow with or without state sponsors.
We must recognize that the deficit of democracy in the Middle East has not only deprived hundreds of millions of people their universal rights -- but it also helps create the resentments on which al-Qaeda and others have fed.
We must recognize that the ongoing violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories has not only made Israelis insecure, and increased the suffering of Palestinians, but it has also been a source of anti-Americanism in the region and beyond;
And finally, we must recognize that the threat of environmental catastrophe is nearing and must be addressed.
With a common threat perception along these lines, I believe we can restore the tradition of collective action that the world wants and people deserve.
Recognizing these challenges is only the first step. Working together to tackle them is another.
Sixty two years ago, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt launched the first Atlantic charter from the deck of the USS Augusta off the Canadian coast.
That agreement was critical in building the relationships that ultimately overcame the Axis Powers in World War II.
It helped form the alliance that later toppled the Berlin Wall.
Now, decades later, the United States should sit down with its European allies to agree upon a new Atlantic Charter - one poised for the trials of the twenty-first century.
This Charter would begin with America declaring its commitment to work with its democratic allies as a first, not last, resort in addressing the security issues it faces.
European nations would make the same commitment to give primacy to NATO.
Such a pledge would renew the sense of solidarity without which the NATO alliance cannot exist.
The Charter would also establish missions for NATO that address pressing international problems, including ethnic cleansing and failed states, and, of course, it would promote the peaceful resolution of international disputes.
Most important of all, the Atlantic Charter would call on NATO to confront the fundamental security challenge of the 21st century:
The possibility that terrorists or rogue states will acquire and use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.
Together, America and its allies must review and strengthen treaties and norms and recommit themselves to enforce the norms currently in place. We should join and improve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention.
When it comes to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, America should ask its European allies to confront the reality that states can comply with the Treaty, and when ready, break-out of it to build a nuclear weapon.
Together, we must be prepared to impose sanctions on countries that seek nuclear weapons under the cover of this treaty regime.
We will need to agree to do more, far more, to control weapons of mass destruction.
Not only the demand for such weapons, but also their supply. We must remove nuclear material entirely from the world's most vulnerable sites, to destroy remaining stocks of chemical weapons, and to upgrade public health systems worldwide to deal with the threat of biological weapons.
But sanctions and new controls are not enough. If the West is to maintain the cohesion and solidarity necessary for NATO to thrive in this new century, we have to be able to answer the most difficult question of all: when is it necessary to act preemptively?
Everyone from the Secretary General of the United Nations to the President of France recognizes that a possible nexus between WMDs, rogue states and global terrorists presents the newest and most acute danger to international security.
The West won the Cold War with a strategy based upon the doctrine of collective security and deterrence.
Now, in the new Atlantic Charter I am proposing, we must agree on collective responses - diplomatic, economic and legal -- to this threat, just as we did to the threat of Soviet aggression.
And then only as a matter of last resort in the case of imminent danger NATO should prepare for collective preemption. Of course, unilateral action may be necessary when the threat is imminent, the evidence persuasive, and other options unavailable.
Collective preemption means that we must set conditions and create the capabilities to enable NATO to respond rapidly and decisively to interdict shipments of crucial WMD materials and if necessary to destroy WMD capabilities that have or are about to become operational.
But NATO can be used first for prevention, too. And the Middle East is a perfect example of that.
The United States needs to work with its NATO allies on a political strategy to promote reform, human rights, and the rule of law in the greater Middle East.
So long as people there have no peaceful outlets for expressing dissent, they will seek violent outlets. So long as children in many parts of this region are educated in schools that preach hate, they will continue to grow into adults who practice hate.
We will not succeed in transforming the Middle East by suggesting that regimes will be changed through military force. A better model is offered by the joint approach Europe and America took after the Cold War to transform Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Together, we successfully promoted stability, security, economic reform and democratic progress throughout that region.
We offered these states the opportunity to work with and participate in Atlantic and European institutions.
They were encouraged to settle historic disputes, integrate their economies and adopt open political systems.
Our emphasis was upon carrots not sticks, inclusion not exclusion, assistance and encouragement not sanctions and coercion.
As NATO commander, I worked with the countries in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union.
I saw the salutary effects of these programs on the evolution of these countries first-hand.
I see a similar role for NATO, the European Union and the United States, operating once again in unison, encouraging a similar evolution within the Greater Middle East.
Certainly this will be a labor of a decade or more. And certainly, we won't achieve our goals if the world sees our plan as one of coercion and military occupation. Instead, we should look for inspiration from programs like NATO's Partnership for Peace. Middle East countries, under the right conditions, should be encouraged to join.
Likewise, inclusive arrangements like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe could also be adapted for and extended to the Greater Middle East.
A commitment by Europe and America to work in partnership along these lines should be another key component of a new Atlantic Charter.
But a new Atlantic Charter is more than simply revitalizing NATO. It is a new appreciation for the perspectives and responsibilities of partners and peoples on both sides of the Atlantic.
That is why the Atlantic Charter must have a second chapter that reflects the new perspectives and concerns of Europeans, too.
Just as Franklin Roosevelt offered a New Deal with the American people, we need to offer a "New Compact" with our European allies and the international community. As part of this compact, the United States must respond to the very real concerns of its allies about the environment.
America should be willing to meet the Europeans half way and negotiate binding reductions on emissions along the lines of the Kyoto agreement.
The United States must also rejoin efforts to establish an International Criminal Court.
I would insist on changes in that agreement to allow America to participate.
But I would work with our allies, especially the governments here in Europe, to improve the court by meeting them halfway, rather than staying out altogether.
And finally, many here in Europe will rightly expect the United States to make a greater effort to deal with the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which I know is one of your primary concerns in the region.
In recent weeks, past leaders of Israel's security services and the current Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces have spoken out.
They have concluded that military measures alone will not provide security for Israel. I agree.
I would commit America to real Middle East diplomacy again - starting in the White House, but including at all levels of our government -- to breathe life into the road map for peace that has veered tragically off course.
We must play a leadership role again to encourage both sides to meet their commitments. The Palestinians must start by taking decisive steps to combat terrorists and the infrastructure of terrorists.
But the Israelis have responsibilities, too.
By restoring America to its historic role of peacemaker in the Middle East, we can seek an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and give confidence to our European friends that their concerns are our concerns too.
Each of these steps is wise policy for the United States. But because they also reflect the views of America's European allies, they will help breathe life into Trans-Atlantic relationships. An America committed to international law would be better able to ask allies to help enforce its norms when they are violated.
An America committed to diplomatic peace-making would have an easier time winning European contributions to military peace-keeping.
An America committed to using NATO when it decides to wage war would have greater authority to ask its allies to spend more to build their military capabilities.
The greatest example of this commitment - to international law, to diplomatic peace-keeping, to utilizing NATO -- was the nineteen country alliance in Kosovo.
The war in Kosovo was a time of testing - testing whether we could confront evil, whether we could prevail, whether we could honor the obligations of the alliance and our own values.
It was a time of testing for many of us who were morally appalled at the massacres in Bosnia, in Rwanda - and had asked ourselves what we would have done if we were in a position of responsibility.
It was clear to me that the stability of Southeasten Europe was at stake.
A nation cannot be a world leader unless it is also a moral leader - and you lose your moral leadership if you choose to be a spectator to slaughter. In April of 1999, a few weeks into the Kosovo War, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel addressed a gathering at the White House on the subject of the 20th century.
He spoke from the experience of a young Jewish boy in a Nazi concentration camp, as he said:
"Our only miserable consolation was that ...the leaders of the free world did not know what was going on behind those black gates and barbed wire...if they knew, we thought, surely those leaders would move heaven and earth to intervene."
He described what it felt like as he later came to learn that the world did know - and did not intervene. Yet, his speech that night was not empty of hope. At the close of his remarks, he spoke of Kosovo, and said: "This time the world was not silent."
It is because of Kosovo that I have come to The Hague today. So let me close by saying that I will never forget the lessons of that crisis and the Balkans: That Europe and America must act in the face of evil; and that we are far better off when we act together.
It is high time for Europeans and Americans to restore that unity and that action.
General Clark has often been called "the smartest guy in the room". First in his class at West Point. In 1966, he was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he earned a Masters Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He was awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart in Vietnam while leading a patrol that came under fire.
"As the friendly force maneuvered through the treacherous region, it was suddenly subjected to an intense small arms fire from a well-concealed insurgent element. Although painfully wounded in the initial volley, Captain Clark immediately directed his men on a counter-assault of the enemy positions. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Captain Clark remained with his unit until the reactionary force arrived and the situation was well-in-hand. His courageous initiative and exemplary professionalism significantly contributed to the successful outcome of the engagement. Captain Clark's unquestionable valor in close combat against a hostile force is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 1st Infantry Division, and the United States Army."
-From the Award of the Silver Star, as presented to Capt. Clark after he was wounded in battle in Vietnam, February 26, 1970
In the introduction of his book A time to lead: For Duty, Honor and Country he describes the incident and the reaction of his troops:
"Get that gun going!" I shouted again, as I looked back under my left arm and saw the troops come across the little footbridge. They were there. And they came running. Those peace-symbol-lovin', foul-mouthed, cussin', war-hatin' draftee American soldiers came, right into the the firefight. They rushed into the smack of the bullets, and the whine of the ricochets. They were called forward and they came! God, I loved them.
General Clark could have left the Army after his term of service was over. Instead he stayed in and helped rebuild an Army that was demoralized and broken from the Vietnam war. His stint as Commanding General at Ft. Irwin, The National Training Center was instrumental in developing the tactics that were used in Desert Storm.
In August of 2003 Esquire ran an article: The General.
His stride is at once jaunty and athletic and somewhat artificial, like the stride of a man who has devoted time to teaching himself how to walk . . . as, in fact, he has, after getting shot four times in Vietnam. Taught himself to walk again, without a limp, despite the fact that a quarter of his calf muscle was gone; taught himself to shake hands manfully, despite the loss of the muscle around his right thumb. He had to learn those things because, as his wife says, he was desperately afraid of being profiled out of the Army. Can't be a general if you're a gimp.
In 1994, he got a job as J-5 at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a job that put him in charge of strategic planning—writing war plans—for the Army. "On the third day that I was in the office, the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed. Three days later, on a Friday evening, [I was told], ‘There has been an invasion of Rwanda. There was fighting in the streets of Kigali.' I said, ‘Get me a map.' And so the guys produced a map, and people ran around in my office and said, ‘Sir, there is a tribal conflict. There are these two groups. It's the Hutus and the Tutsis. No, wait a minute, let me go check that. It may be the Tutus and the Hutsis. . . .' The next morning, on Saturday morning, I went to a meeting with Secretary of Defense William Perry in his office. We were preparing for a trip to Korea. There was a little bit of urgency in that because it turned out that we were on the brink of going to war with North Korea. It seemed like they had a couple of atomic weapons, or might have them, and the president had said that wouldn't be permitted on the Korean Peninsula. . . . On Monday—this is actually my seventh day in the job as J-5 a guy came into my office, he tugged on my sleeve, and he said, ‘Sir, I'm not supposed to tell you this, but I want you to know that there's a secret war plan being developed for Haiti.' I said, ‘We're going to invade Haiti?' "
The United States invaded Haiti. The United States, however, wouldn't invade Rwanda, although Clark pushed his mentor, General John Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to push for an intervention. Shalikashvili declined after Clark told him twenty thousand troops would be required, and as Clark says now, "I watched as we stood by as eight hundred thousand people were hacked to death by machete."
General Clark was vociferous in his opposition to the invasion of Iraq and time has proven him correct. Because of this opposition he was belittled and marginalized by the right wing blowhards and the MSM. Even during his run for the Presidency, he was attacked because of his opposition. I think he was too honest. One unforgettable moment was when he was asked at a town hall what he would do if someone called him unpatriotic. His reply, "I'll beat the shit out of them." His press person later clarified his statement, he meant to say he would "beat the living shit out of them".
During the 2008 campaign he supported Senator Clinton as was his right. After the campaign was over he threw his support to Obama. The he got "thrown under the bus" after an appearance on Face the Nation (digby link)
Get Ready For The Mother Of All Hissy Fits
So Wes Clark went on Face The Nation today and "went there" - challenging John McCain's constant referrals to his wartime biography which are standing in for his doctrinaire ideological stances on foreign policy. Let's first give the snippet that you're going to be seeing crawl across the screen and on the lips of every Republican strategist tomorrow:
"I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."
Now, let's add one sentence of context:
CLARK: He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, "I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not, do you want to take the risk, what about your reputation, how do we handle this publicly? He hasn't made those calls, Bob.
SCHIEFFER: Can I just interrupt you? I have to say, Barack Obama hasn't had any of these experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down.
CLARK: I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.
The response from the Obama campaign?
"As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
After the the election General Clark stood on the stage with other Flag officers at Grant Park and that was the last we saw of him as part of the Democratic party . The man is a national treasure. Where is he in bringing some well founded experience and wisdom to the national dialog. He shows up every once and a while on one of the cable shows, the latest being on the Ft. Hood shootings. Other than that, his talent is going into alternative energy projects and such in the private sector.
What a waste for our country.
One of the slogans his supporter used during the campaign in 2003 was "He will make an extraordinary American President". Indeed he would have. Till now I guess he will just have to be "an extraordinary American".