I strongly encourage everyone to go to Democracy Now! and listen to the interview, but for those who can't or don't have the time, here are some of the highlights from the interview:
On the threat of a war with Iran and the rush to war with Iraq
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, in a way. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself exactly twice. What I did warn about when I testified in front of Congress in 2002, I said if you want to worry about a state, it shouldn’t be Iraq, it should be Iran. But this government, our administration, wanted to worry about Iraq, not Iran.
I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”
So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” -- meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office -- “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”
On congress' ability and responsibility to influence Iraq policy
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, you start with a non-binding resolution in the United States Congress, and you build your momentum from there. And you keep hammering it. The Congress has three principal powers. It has the power to appoint, power to investigate, power to fund. And you go after all three. On all three fronts, you find out what the President needs, until he takes it seriously. I think it's a difficult maneuver to use a scalpel and say, “Well, we're going to support funding, but we’re not going to support funding for the surge,” because that's requiring a degree of micro-management that Congress can't do.
But you can certainly put enough squeeze on the President that he finally calls in the leaders of the Congress and says, “OK, OK, what's it going to take? I’ve got to get my White House budget passed. I’ve got to get thirty judges, federal judges, confirmed. I’ve got to get these federal prosecutors -- you know, the ones that I caused to resign so I could handle it -- they've got to get replacements in place. What do I have to do to get some support here?” I mean, it could be done. It's hard bare-knuckle government.
On torture ensconced as policy and indefinite detentions
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think the first thing Congress should do is repeal the Military Commissions Act. I’m very disturbed that a number of people who are looking at the highest office in the land have supported an act which advertently or inadvertently authorizes the admission into evidence of information gained through torture. That's not the America that I believe in. And the America that I believe in doesn't detain people indefinitely without charges. So I’d start with the Military Commissions Act.
Then I’d get our NATO allies into the act. They've said they don't like Guantanamo either. So I’d like to create an international tribunal, not a kangaroo court of military commissions. And let's go back through the evidence. And let's lay it out. Who are these people that have been held down there? And what have they been held for? And which ones can be released? And which ones should be tried in court and convicted?
You see, essentially, you cannot win the war on terror by military force. It is first and foremost a battle of ideas. It is secondly a law enforcement effort and a cooperative effort among nations. And only as a last resort do you use military force. This president has distorted the capabilities of the United States Armed Forces. He's used our men and women in uniform improperly in Guantanamo and engaged in actions that I think are totally against the Uniform Code of Military Justice and against what we stand for as the American people.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think we ought to do first thing's first, which is, we really need to understand and finish the job that Congress started with respect to the Iraq war investigation. Do you remember that there was going to be a study released by the Senate, that the senator from Iowa or from Kansas who was the Republican head of the Senate Intelligence Committee was going to do this study to determine whether the administration had, in fact, misused the intelligence information to mislead us into the war with Iraq? Well, I’ve never seen that study. I’d like to know where that study is. I’d like to know why we’ve spent three years investigating Scooter Libby, when we should have been investigating why this country went to war in Iraq.On Rumsfeld facing War Crimes charges in Germany
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I’d like to see what the evidence is against Rumsfeld. I do know this, that there was a lot of pressure put on the men and women in uniform to come up with intelligence. I remember -- I think it was either General Sanchez or General Abizaid, who stated that we don't need more troops -- this is the fall of 2003 -- we just need better information. Well, to me, that was immediate code words that we were really trying to soak these people for information.
And it's only a short step from there to all the kinds of mistreatment that occur at places like Abu Ghraib. So we know that Al Gonzales wrote a couple of really -- or authored, or his people authored and he approved, a couple of outrageous memos that attempted to define torture as deliberately inflicted pain, the equivalent of the loss of a major bodily organ or limb, which is -- it's not an adequate definition of torture. And we know that he authorized, to some degree, some coercive methods, which we have -- and we know President Bush himself accepted implicitly in a signing statement to a 2005 act on military detainees that he would use whatever methods were appropriate or necessary. So there's been some official condoning of these actions.
I think it's a violation of international law and a violation of American law and a violation of the principles of good government in America. There have always been evidences of mistreatment of prisoners. Every army has probably done it in history. But our country hasn't ever done it as a matter of deliberate policy. George Washington told his soldiers, when they captured the Hessians and the men wanted to run them through, because the Hessians were brutal and ruthless, he said, “No, treat them well.” He said, “They'll join our side.” And many of them did. It was a smart policy, not only the right thing to do, but a smart policy to treat the enemy well. We’ve made countless enemies in that part of the world by the way we've treated people and disregarded them. It's bad, bad policy.
There is much, much more. Go to the link and listen, or read the entire transcript. Amy Goodman is perhaps the best interviewer working today - the policy wonk's Terry Gross - and Clark is an eloquent, able, intelligent and informed spokesman. Ten minutes into the interview, I was archiving it into downloads. It's a keeper, and Clark deserves another look.