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Clark: There was no national debate over the policy coup by the ‘hardnosed’

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Now that the Iraq war is over, people are starting to talk about the causes of it. Here is General Wesley Clark at the Commonwealth Club in 2007, in a book-promotion speech that commenter MRW has directed us to. Clark points some fingers, including at the neoconservative Project for the New American Century.

9/11 happened. And what happened in 9/11 is we didn’t have a strategy, we didn’t have bipartisan agreement, we didn’t have American understanding of it and we had instead a policy coup in this country, a coup, a policy coup. Some hardnosed people took over the direction of American policy and they never bothered to inform the rest of us.

I went through the Pentagon ten days after 9/11…and an officer from the Joint Staff called me into his office and said, I would want you to know, he said, sir, we are going to attack Iraq. And I said, why? He said, we don’t know. He said I said, will they tie Saddam to 9/11? He said, no he said but I guess, it’s they don’t know what to do about terrorism and so the they think but they can attack states and they want to look strong is all, I guess they think if they take down a state, it will intimidate the terrorists and you know what its like that old saying, he said, if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem has to be a nail.

Well I walked out of there pretty upset and then we attacked Afghanistan. I was pretty happy about that, we should have. And then I came back to the Pentagon about six weeks later, I saw the same officer, I said why why haven’t we attacked Iraq? We are still going to attack Iraq, he said, oh sir he says, it’s worse than that. He said he pulled up a piece of paper of his desk, he said, I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office, it says we are going to attack and destroy the governments in in seven countries in five years. We are going to start with Iraq and then we are going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran seven seven countries in five years. I said, is that a classified memo? He said, yes sir. I said; well don’t show it to me, he was about to show it to me, cause I wanna talk about it. And I I sat on this information for a long time, for about six or eight months, I was so stunned by this, I couldn’t begin to talk about it. And I couldn’t believe it would really be true, but that’s actually what happened. These people took control of the policy in the United States and I realized, then it came back to me, a 1991 meeting I had with Paul Wolfowitz you know, in 2001 he was Deputy Secretary of Defense, but in 1991 he was the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, it’s the number three position of the Pentagon.

And I had gone to see him when I was a one star general, I was commanding the National Training Centre.. I called and up there he was available, Scooter Libby came to the door, I met Scooter for the first time and he brought me in and I said to Paul and this is 1991, I said Mr. Secretary you must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm. And he said, well yeah, he said but but not really, he said because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and we didn’t. And this was just after the Shia uprising in March of ’91 which we had provoked and then we kept our troops on the side lines and didn’t intervene.

And he said, but one thing we did learn, he said, we learned that we can use our military in the region in the Middle East and the Soviets won’t stop us. He said, and we have got about five or ten years to clean up those all Soviet client regimes; Syria, Iran, Iraq, – before the next great super power comes on to challenge us…. It was a pretty stunning thing, I mean the purpose of the military is to start wars and change governments, it’s not to sort of deter a a conflict, we are going to have invade countries and you know, my mind was spinning.

And I put that aside. It was like a nugget that you hold on to. This country was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup, Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld and you could name a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century. They wanted at us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control. It went back to those comments in 1991. Now did anybody tell you that? Was there a national dialogue on this? Did senators and congressman stand up and denounce this plan? Was there a full fledged American debate on it? Absolutely not; and there are still isn’t, and that’s why we are failing in Iraq, because Iran and Syria know about the plan.

All you have to do is read the the Weekly Standard and Bill Kristol and he blabber mouthed it out all over the world…. They could hardly wait to finish Iraq, so they could move in to Syria. It was like a lay down, oh our legions are going to go in there. This wasn’t what the American people voted George Bush in to office, well they didn’t actually vote him to office, but it wasn’t… what he campaigned on. He campaigned on a humble foreign policy, the most arrogant foreign policy in American history. He campaigned on no peace keeping, no nation building and here he is with Afghanistan and Iraqis; astonishing.

(Hat tip MW commenters anonymouscomments and MRW)

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is a mom, a human rights activist, and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area and likes to garden. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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19 Responses

  1. MRW on January 2, 2012, 12:15 pm

    Phil, this “He was about to show it to me, because I don’t want to talk about it” should read “He was about to show it to me, because I want to talk about it.”

    • annie on January 2, 2012, 12:39 pm

      mrw, that part of the transcript we took from the site (link) of the full video..i actually transcribed portions from this short video before realizing there was a transcript.

      as i recall i think you are right tho. clark didn’t want to see it because once he saw the classified document he wouldn’t be able to talk it. i will re play that part of the video, try to find it again and then edit if that is correct, which i think it is. thanks

      edit, fixed. it’s at 2:47 in the short video “cuz i wanna talk about it”

      • MRW on January 2, 2012, 12:59 pm

        Yeah, I remember now when I watched the whole thing I followed along with the transcript and was struck by how sloppy it was, especially since you have to be fee-based subscriber to get the transcript.

  2. Bumblebye on January 2, 2012, 12:58 pm

    In ’91, the ‘soviets’ really, really wanted to be invited to be part of the war against Saddam. Dad came home with that nugget, along with a furry hat with ear flaps. Several of their ships were in the area. Dad was Royal Fleet Auxilliary at the time.

    As for Wes Clark being alarmed at the Iraq war plans afoot, why he was the fellow who nearly started WWIII in Yugoslavia, wanting to bomb Russian planes coming into the damn airport, to the consternation of our guys, whom he tried to rope into his plans! They thwarted that one.

    • annie on January 2, 2012, 1:19 pm


      In ’91, the ‘soviets’ really, really wanted to be invited to be part of the war against Saddam.

      well, that wasn’t about to happen.

      we have got about five or ten years to clean up those all Soviet client regimes; Syria, Iran, Iraq, – before the next great super power comes on to challenge us

      iow, an extension or continuation of the cold war.

      • Bumblebye on January 2, 2012, 1:26 pm

        Ah, but – the West’s politicians, policy wonks, etc, hadn’t at that time got out of the Cold War mindset. And Dad was fraternizing with Russian servicemen who had left behind the USSR mindset and very much wanted to be the West’s new BFF.

  3. American on January 2, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Remember when.

    Wesley Clark’s Remarks Draw Heat from Jews

    The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) has called on retired Gen. Wesley Clark to apologize for an allegation that “New York money people” are pushing the U.S. for a war with Iran, charging that it’s a slur against Jews.

    In a conversation with liberal blogger Arianna Huffington, the former NATO chief — who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 — was quoted as saying that bombing Iran before exhausting diplomatic efforts was “outrageous.”

    When he was asked why he was so sure that the United States was headed in that direction, Wesley reportedly replied: “You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

    According to the Jewish publication Forward, “the phrase ‘New York money people’ struck unpleasant chords with many pro-Israel activists. They interpreted it as referring to the Jewish community, which is known for its significant financial donations to political candidates.”

    In response to Clark’s comments, the RJC announced the launch of an ad campaign in Jewish newspapers nationwide charging that Clark’s remarks “reinforce dangerous and harmful stereotypes of the Jewish community.”

    RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks said: “That kind of language, based on old stereotypes about Jews, feeds into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish power. Clark’s remarks were hurtful, damaging, and wrong, and Wesley Clark should apologize to the American Jewish community for saying them.”

  4. Pixel on January 2, 2012, 3:58 pm


    While 9/11 isn’t specifically being discussed here, everything is connected.

    Clark is a long-time signatory at Patriots Question 911. Just scroll down.

  5. Graber on January 2, 2012, 6:40 pm

    Does anybody have any links to information regarding where Israeli/American military support lies in Syria? The fact that Clark says “We are going to start with Iraq and then we are going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran seven seven countries in five years.” sounds about accurate, as far as Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Sudan are concerned. But what political/military interference has American done in Syria and Lebanon?

    • kma on January 2, 2012, 11:28 pm

      caroline glick says it best. israel was okay with assad in syria, but would be more okay with the muslim brotherhood in power so israel can demonize and threaten syria with force. the US apparently will go along with that, and it seems to be the same policy for Egypt.
      I can’t remember where the youtube of glick is where she says this, but it’s a decent forecast. the last thing they want is democracy. surprise, surprise, and like libya, you’ll hear future leaders speaking from western cities and inserted by us, probably by force, just like the rest.
      so, it’s not necessarily about whether US military wants to fight – it’s about who we want in power.

  6. RoHa on January 2, 2012, 7:32 pm

    “This wasn’t what the American people voted George Bush in to office, well they didn’t actually vote him to office,”


  7. jewishgoyim on January 2, 2012, 9:39 pm

    I’ve seen this video on Glenn Greenwald’s blog a few weeks ago. I don’t know where he got it from but I think it is important to credit him since he put that at the forefront and that he has quite the blogging firepower so it is not unreasonable to think we would not be discussing it if he had not blogged it.

  8. anonymouscomments on January 3, 2012, 12:23 am

    thanks for the h/t. also, he noted the 7 countries in a democracy now link i may have posted before-

    my concern about this list is that it seems it got slowed (iraq was rougher than they expected), but we keep plugging forward. there is generally “continuity” in US policy, even when we go nuts. we know obama wants both syria and iran to have a “regime change”… and we are actively pushing for that, with what are fundamentally acts of war, though allies/proxies or open sanctions.

    forget the illegality and imperial nature of what we are doing, we have to sit here wondering if obama will go hot on iran in some disastrous engagement. let’s also note the things he has already done thus far could have provoked a US-iran war, if iran responded in turn. luckily iran is a rational actor (despite all the fear-mongering) and is very clearly trying to avoid its utter destruction, biting its tongue with each MEK attack, assassinated scientist, odd explosion, drone, etc.

    i do not want to discuss ron paul, but he is the only guy who will assure me of some needed DISCONTINUITY in foreign policy. of course he wouldn’t come close to the nomination, let alone the WH, but i want his FP ideas heard loud and clear. he is the only honest candidate on iran, and the more time he has in front of the general public, the more the truth gets out. i hope all of us, collectively, are swinging the center of gravity. i also hope that economic and military contraints have removed an iran war from the table. but we are still on a collision course with iran, unless things shift. ….i’m hoping whoever starts their presidential term in 2013 begins the shift. assuming we get through 2012 w/o the war.

    also i find these relevant…
    zbigniew brzezinski to senate foreign relations committee-
    sy hersh, how people “think”, though no action was taken in the straights of hormuz (but some might remember how there was a very tense moment there under bush)-

  9. justicewillprevail on January 3, 2012, 10:24 am

    What are the chances that Israel’s grand plan for war in the ME involves duping the US into a quagmire with Iran, while it attacks Lebanon again, the excuse being that ‘Iran’s proxy’ must be simultaneously assaulted. In real speak, of course, what that will mean is thousands of Lebanese civilians killed, displaced and lives ruined. But Israel will boast of how their brave fighters used all that American hi-tech to stay safely out of reach, whilst the innocent villagers get massacred (again).

    • anonymouscomments on January 3, 2012, 12:18 pm

      when i was in israel, i considered that a very likely scenario. absent a large direct US-iran casus belli (false-flag, or excessive provocations with iran which forces the needed reaction), this progression seems very logical. in fact, it would likely be timed with other events to reach critical mass.

      namely, israel engages gaza and/or southern lebanon. they can heat up either front, and manufacture a “war” whenever they want. either place, but especially lebanon, will result in some missiles hitting tel aviv (iron dome is not great).

      missiles in tel aviv, such a “western” city, with dual nationals as well, will be PUMPED by the US media. not many deaths, but shocking images (not to minimise a few israeli deaths, but no civilian is worth more than another… so israel should be able to take a small dose of their medecine, especially when they provoke it… but they won’t). as this happens, the MSM will pump the (actually viable) connection to iran, due to their variable support for these groups. AIPAC, and congress and the media will be in a fever pitch, and everyone will be “freaking out”.

      add in some actual US-iran friction, real, imagined, or manufactured. congress votes for hitting iran, and even a *resistant* obama might relent (he loves compromise) and start a limited campaign… but there is no such thing as limited once we touch iran.

      bam, pure insanity. possibly regional wars or WWIII, but that is playing out worst case.

  10. Nevada Ned on January 4, 2012, 2:01 am

    Mondoweiss is doing a good job covering the middle east, and the activities of the Israel Lobby. However, something is being overlooked:
    The Israel Lobby is one factor that influences US policy, but not the only factor.

    If you think about US policy towards, say, Latin America, you’ll find that we were invading countries before the Israel Lobby was influential. Long before. In fact, before there was a separate independent Israel. As early as 1898, the US seized Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines from Spain. Long before 1948, the US had invaded the Dominican Republic, Panama, Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Mexico. Some countries more than once. Haiti was occupied by US troops for a couple of decades.

    In other words, prowar sentiment in Washington is not forced on a reluctant US by Israeli hotheads and their lobby. The US is perfectly capable of starting a war, with or without an Israel lobby.

    There is a US empire. The US empire was in place before Israel was established in 1948. If Israel somehow disappeared, the US empire would still be there.

    The leaders of the two countries (the US and Israel) see their interests as parallel, at least for the most part, and in the long run. There are exceptions (such as the 1956 Suez crisis). That is an important factor in the $3M/year US aid to Israel.

    Besides Israel, the US has other wonderful democratic allies in the ME: Saudi Arabia (just bought a zillion dollars worth of US warplanes), Egypt (under Mubarak, now who knows??), Iraq (under Saddam Hussein, before 1990), Iran (before the 1979 overthrow of the Shah). As the list indicates, some of the US allies have been overthrown by uprisings.

    Both the US and Israel have a common interest in keeping the Arab world (and Iran) divided, backward, and weak. The US and Israel both oppose Arab nationalism (and Iranian nationism). For the US, this is related to control of the oil of the Middle East. It gives the US power over Europe, China, and Japan, which need ME oil. Israel has its own special reasons for opposing Arab nationalism: Israel is oppressing the Palestinians, and if the Arab world were united and strong, they would be a forceful advocate for the Palestinians. Israel supports Mubarak (or even Assad of Syria) as preferable to a general Arab uprising.
    With the Arab spring of 2011, Israel’s worst nightmare is possibly starting to come true: democracy and revolution in the Arab world. And the US empire in the ME is starting to collapse.

    So when the US gives lots of aid to Israel, it’s building up an ally. As someone remarks in the Mearshimer/Walt book, in Washington they think of Israel as just another Federal agency.

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