[eDebate] Clueless Clark: More Wit from Wesley

Christopher Cooper ccooper
Mon Jan 12 12:45:23 CST 2004


 <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/12/politics/campaigns/12CLAR.html>
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/12/politics/campaigns/12CLAR.html


Tape Shows General Clark Linking Iraq and Al Qaeda

By EDWARD WYATT
  <http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/misc/spacer.gif> 
Published: January 12, 2004



 M <http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/m.gif> ANCHESTER, N.H., Jan.
11 - Less than a year before he entered the race for the Democratic
nomination for president, Gen. Wesley K. Clark said that he believed there
was a connection between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda.

The statement by General Clark in October 2002 as he endorsed a New
Hampshire candidate for Congress is a sign of how the general's position on
Iraq seems to have changed over time, though he insists his position has
been consistent.

"Certainly there's a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda," he said in 2002.
"It doesn't surprise me at all that they would be talking to Al Qaeda, that
there would be some Al Qaeda there or that Saddam Hussein might even be, you
know, discussing gee, I wonder since I don't have any scuds and since the
Americans are coming at me, I wonder if I could take advantage of Al Qaeda?
How would I do it? Is it worth the risk? What could they do for me?" 

At numerous campaign events in the past three months and in a book published
last year, General Clark has asserted that there was no evidence linking
Iraq and Al Qaeda. He has also accused the Bush administration of executing
"a world-class bait-and-switch," by using the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as
an excuse to invade Iraq.

At a town hall meeting here on Jan. 4, for example, General Clark said,
"There was no imminent threat from Iraq, nor was Iraq connected with Al
Qaeda."

"If Iraq had been there as the base of Al Qaeda to organize and train
everybody, then maybe we could have justified the attack on Iraq," he added.

In an interview, General Clark said his more recent remarks were not
inconsistent with what he said in 2002. In those remarks, he said, he was
trying to explain that based on his knowledge of how the intelligence
community works, low-level contacts almost certainly existed between Iraq
and Al Qaeda, But, he said, that does not mean that Iraq had anything to do
with the Sept. 11 attacks. 

The 2002 comments, he said, were based in part on a letter to Senator Bob
Graham, Democrat of Florida and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, from
George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence, which said that the
C.I.A. had credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq
who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction. The content of the
letter was reported in a front-page article in The New York Times on Oct. 9,
2002, the day that General Clark made the comments at the New Hampshire
endorsement.

"I never thought there would be any evidence linking Sept. 11 and Saddam
Hussein," General Clark said. "Everything I had learned about Saddam Hussein
told me that he would be the last person Al Qaeda would trust or that he
would trust them."

"All I was saying is that it would be na?ve to say that there weren't any
contacts," he said. "But that's a far cry from saying there was any
connection between the events of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein."

In his most recent book, "Winning Modern Wars," (Public Affairs, 2003),
General Clark states, "No evidence thus far suggests any link between Saddam
Hussein and the terrorists of Al Qaeda."

On Thursday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that despite his
assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no concrete evidence of a
link between the terrorist organization and Iraq.

The general's 2002 comments appeared on a home video of the press conference
in Nashua at which he endorsed Katrina Swett for New Hampshire's Second
Congressional District. A copy of the videotape was made available by a
rival presidential candidate's campaign.

General Clark's appearance with Ms. Swett has come up before in the
presidential race. He advised her at the time that if she were in Congress,
she should vote for the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut used that statement to accuse
General Clark of inconsistency on Iraq. General Clark subsequently said that
at the time he did not understand exactly what was in the resolution and
would have voted against it.

Similarly, on the first day of his campaign, General Clark said that he
probably would have voted for the resolution on Iraq. He later said he
"bobbled" the question and has asserted that he made clear well before the
start of the war his belief that Iraq was not an imminent danger to the
United States and, therefore, that an attack was not justified at that time.

General Clark had known Ms. Swett and her husband, Richard N. Swett, a
former congressman and ambassador to Denmark, when they lived in Denmark and
General Clark lived in Belgium as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.

In an interview, Ms. Swett, who is a national co-chairwoman of Mr.
Lieberman's campaign, said she recalled General Clark as "saying pretty
unequivocally" that a link existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Within days of the endorsement, General Clark was reported to be considering
a run for the Democratic nomination. He had come to New Hampshire as a guest
of George Bruno, a former ambassador to Belize who is now a co-chairman of
General Clark's campaign in that state.

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