Wesley Clark

United States Army general and 2004 Democratic Party presidential candidate

Wesley Kanne Clark (born 23 December 1944) is a former United States Army officer. He graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1966 at West Point and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, where he obtained a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He later graduated from the Command and General Staff College with a master's degree in military science. He spent 34 years in the U.S. Army, receiving many military decorations, several honorary knighthoods, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Working together, we can build a world in which the rule of law — not the rule of force — governs relations between states. A world in which leaders respect the rights of their people, and nations seek peace, not destruction or domination.

Clark commanded Operation Allied Force during the Kosovo War during his term as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000.

Clark joined the 2004 race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination as a candidate in 2003, but withdrew from the primary race in 2004, after winning the Oklahoma state primary, endorsing and campaigning for the eventual Democratic nominee, John Kerry.

Quotes edit

  • G. Gordon Liddy says that Democrats haven't given the president enough credit. I think the president deserves full credit. In fact I think he should be held fully accountable.
    • Esquire magazine (August 2003)
  • I am saying what I believe. And I'm being drawn into the political process because of what I believe and what I've said about it.
    So it's precisely the opposite of a man like Tom DeLay, who is only motivated by politics and says whatever he needs to say to get the political purpose. And so, you know, it couldn't be more diametrically opposed, and I couldn't be more opposed than I am to Tom DeLay.
    You know, Wolf, when our airmen were flying over Kosovo, Tom DeLay led the House Republicans to vote not to support their activities, when American troops were in combat. To me, that's a real indicator of a man who is motivated not by patriotism or support for the troops, but for partisan political purposes.
  • We live in a liberal democracy....That's what we created in this country. I think we should be very clear on this. You know, this country was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment... It was the idea that people could talk, reason, have dialogue, discuss the issues. It wasn't founded on the idea that someone would get struck by a divine inspiration and know everything right from wrong. I mean, people who founded this country had religion, they had strong beliefs, but they believed in reason, in dialogue, in civil discourse. We can't lose that in this country. We've got to get it back.
  • But you don't have a chance if you can't find a job. I don't think it penetrates the minds of this Administration what it must be like for a factory worker to arrive home to his family with the news that he's been laid off. What it must be like not to know what the future holds for your children, because you don't know what the future holds for you. What it must be like to see the government take hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used to fund job training, unemployment benefits, or jobs programs — and instead to send that money off to people who have such staggering wealth that the new money won't make the tiniest improvement in their lifestyle. What it must be like to be told that tax cuts for the rich are necessary to create jobs for working people, and then to see jobs fall month after month for more than 30 months. If that doesn't break your heart, you don't have a heart.
  • Nothing could be a more serious violation of public trust than to consciously make a war based on false claims.
    • Conference of Military Reporters and Editors (October 2003)
  • I think General Eisenhower was exactly right, I think we should be concerned about the military-industrial complex. I think if you look at where the country is today you've consolidated all these defense firms into just a few large firms — like Halliburton — and with contracts and contacts at the top level of government. You've got most of the retired generals are one way or another associated with the defense firms — that's the reason that you'll find very few of them speaking out in any public way — I'm not. When I got out I determined I wasn't going to sell arms, I was going to do as little as possible with the Department of Defense because I just figured it was time to make a new start. But I think the military-industrial complex does wield a lot of influence — I'd like to see us create a different complex. And I'm going to be talking about foreign policy in a major speech tomorrow, but we need to create an agency that is not about waging war but about creating conditions for peace around the world. We need some people who will be advocates for peace, advocates for economic development abroad, not just advocates for better weapon systems. So we need to create countervailing power to the military-industrial complex.
    • Interview with Laura Knoy, New Hampshire Public Radio (5 November 2003)
  • I think we're at a time in American history that's probably analogous to, maybe, Rome before the first emperors, when the Republic started to fall... I think if you look at the pattern of events, if you look at the disputed election of 2000, can you imagine? In America, people are trying to recount ballots and a partisan mob is pounding on the glass and threatening the counters? Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a political party which does its best to keep any representatives from another party — who've even been affiliated with another party — from getting a business job in the nation's capital? Can you imagine a political party that wants to redistrict so that its opponents can be driven out entirely?...it's a different time in America and the Republic is — this election is about a lot more than jobs. I'm not sure everybody in America sees it right now. But I see it, I feel it.
    • Interview with Laura Knoy, New Hampshire Public Radio (5 November 2003)
  • I don't have labels. I believe in human beings, I believe in a strong national security, I believe in maximizing freedom... I can give you a whole list of things i'm for, but I believe in solving problems. I guess, more than anything else, I'm a pragmatist with strong beliefs in people.
    • Interview with Laura Knoy, New Hampshire Public Radio (5 November 2003)
  • I'm not running to bash George Bush. A lot of Americans really love him. They love what he represents, a man who's overcome adversity in his life from alcoholism and pulled his marriage back together and — and moved forward. But I'm running because I think this country must have better leadership in moving forward.
    • Remark, reported in The New York Post (24 November 2003)
  • The time has passed in America when this party can be the party of compassion and let the executive branch run foreign policy. It won't work. We have to be the party that can stand toe to toe with George W. Bush on national security, as well as the party of compassion.
    • Democratic candidate debates (9 December 2003)
  • I made the decision that I couldn't not run. I had to run. This country is in great danger. It's in great difficulty. It's being taken the wrong way by a leadership team that has no real vision for the country other than trying to posture and pose and aim for winning the next election. I think Americans deserve a more visionary, a more selfless and a more dedicated leadership than that.
  • Well, last I checked, there was no 'if' in the 15th Amendment. One person one vote isn't just a slogan — it's the highest law of this land. As president, I will not rest until every single American can cast their vote, and every single one of those votes is counted. We shouldn't have to wait for another Florida to fully fund election reform.
  • If Karl Rove is watching today, Karl, I want you to hear me loud and clear: I am going to provide tax cuts to ease the burdens for 31 million American families — and lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty — by raising the taxes on 0.1 percent of families — those who make more than $1,000,000 a year. You don't have to read my lips, I'm saying it. And if that makes me an 'old-style' Democrat, then I accept that label with pride and I dare you to come after me for it.
  • Maybe it's because I've never been in politics, but I don't believe that America is run by politicians in Washington. I believe it's run by people like us, in places like this.
    • True Values Tour (January 2004)
  • I believe in open, honest government, where we hold our leaders accountable. I believe in putting the national interests over the special interests. I believe in putting principle above politics. The bottom line: I believe we can do better. I believe we must do better. And if the system's broke — fix it.
  • I've forgotten more about national security than George W. Bush will ever learn.
    • Speaking at the 2004 Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, Richmond, Virginia — as reported by CNN (7 February 2004)]
  • The safety of our country demands an end to the doctrinaire, ineffective policies that currently grip Washington. Enough is enough! A safe America — a just America — that's what we want, that's what we need.
    • Democratic Convention (19 July 2004)
  • ... they said, "Sir, we want to tell you a joke." I said, "You don't have time to tell me a joke." They said, "Oh, you gotta hear this one." So I came in, they shut the door, and they said, "Here's"— I said, "What's the joke?" I said, "What's the joke?" They said, "9/11. Saddam Hussein. If he didn't do it, too bad. He should've! Because we're gonna get him anyway." I said, "But that's not funny." I said, "That's not very funny." They said, "It sure isn't."
  • The purpose of military is to start wars and change governments and it's not sort of...deter conflict? we're gonna invade countries? and you know, my mind was spinning...
    • Address to Commonwealth Club of California (3 October 2007)
  • This country was taken over by a group of people with a 'policy coup'! Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld, and...you can name a...dozen other collaborators from 'Project for a New American Century' they wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control. It went back to those comments in 1991, Did they bother to tell you that? Was there a national dialogue on this? Did senators, and congressmen stand up and denounce this plan? Was there a full-fledged American debate on this? Absolutely not, and there's still isn't...
    • Address to Commonwealth Club of California (3 October 2007)
  • Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, if you're an American you ought to be concern about strategy of the United States in this region, What is our aim? What is our purpose? Why are we there? Why are Americans dying in this region? That is the issue.
    • Address to Commonwealth Club of California (3 October 2007)
  • I think we should have international, legal community studies of cybersecurity and necessary laws, and countries should be encouraged to adopt these laws through the United Nations just like they adopt laws to prevent the abuse of children and protect human rights.
    There needs to be a multidimensional, multilayered and multi-azimuth defense. That is, defense has to look in all directions. When you're talking about cybersecurity, you're talking about being able to protect your points. It's not directed against a country, but to secure your points of access or specific end points or network access. It's not as though you're arming yourself against a specific threat — you're simply undertaking all aspects of protection.
  • I would ask Americans to think deeply about who should be entrusted with the nation's nuclear codes. There is a clear choice.
    On one hand, there is Donald Trump. He admits he doesn't read or study deeply, thrives on Tweet-style communications, has a thin skin and a deep drive to avenge any slight, and has demonstrated very little knowledge of national security, foreign policy or the policies and strategies concerning nuclear weapons in particular. Educating someone like this once he became President could be a difficult — and extremely dangerous for our country.
    On the other hand is Hillary Clinton, former Senator and former Secretary of State, a person who does read and study deeply, communicates with nuance and sophistication born of years of experience in public life, has proven herself strong and steady under repeated personal attacks, and has become through her service and studies an expert on foreign and security policies, including the policies and strategies regarding nuclear weapons.

Seton Hall Address (2002) edit

Commencement speech at Seton Hall University (13 May 2002)
  • It is customary at occasions such as this for some old person to pass on his accumulated pearls of wisdom and life story to the young.
    But this is not a customary year. It is a year marked by distinctive tragedy and challenge, by events that no one at last year's commencement ceremony could have possibly anticipated. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took the lives of so many — Seton Hall graduates among them — and have affected us so deeply that it is impossible to speak here today without acknowledging the witness to tragedy which this University and its students have borne.
    These events delivered a four-fold shock to us and our country. The shock of our country, under attack. The shock that others would hate so much that they would kill themselves to hurt us. The shock of death to the youthful and innocent. The shock that the murderers would claim to have acted in the name of God.
  • Had we seen an earthquake, or the results of a powerful storm, the devastation and loss would have been awful — but our country has seen terrible tragedies before: fires, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. We prayed for the lost, rebuilt for the survivors, and strengthened our laws, dikes, weather warnings and earthquake predictors. We prepare for an eventual recurrence of acts of nature...
    But 9-11 was not a natural catastrophe: these events were deliberate, conceived, organized and ruthlessly executed by human beings. And so, their significance must be assessed differently — and the actions to prepare for “next time” must be different, also.
  • They killed in the name of God. But they are not the first. This began in pre-history; the tragedy is that it persists today.
    Some would characterize the events of 9-11 as a clash of civilizations, and a conflict of religions. And to many it seems a simple and satisfying explanation.
    But others would suggest, correctly in my view, that such an interpretation is both wrong-headed and dangerous. They recognize a civil war within Islam itself, as contending factions compete for power. They would argue that we must influence the struggle where we can, by supporting greater attention to the secular structures in the Islamic world, and by encouraging our own American Islamic community to speak out in support of America's democratic values.
    Ultimately, your generation will have the decisive voice. You will determine whether rage or reason guides the United States in the struggle to come. You will choose whether we are known for revenge or compassion. You will choose whether we, too, will kill in the name of God, or whether in His Name, we can find a higher civilization and a better means of settling our differences.
    And this is not a new choice, not for your generation — it is a choice that many others have faced throughout history. Only now, we can hope that with your help and engagement we can find a new answer.

Twenty Year Vision for America (2004) edit

Manchester, New Hampshire (10 January 2004)
  • We'll still need our armed forces and we'll take every necessary action to make America safe — but we'll gain that safety not by force of arms, but by who we are and what we represent. For we should be an America not puffed up by pride in our own power, but rather an America humbled by the recognition of our common humanity. We must make sure that globalization helps people around the world, raising living standards and improving the environment everywhere — rather than leading a race to the bottom.
  • Working together, we can build a world in which the rule of law — not the rule of force — governs relations between states. A world in which leaders respect the rights of their people, and nations seek peace, not destruction or domination. And neither we nor anyone else should live in fear ever again.
  • As with science and technology, there could be a dark side of globalization, in which progress for some means poverty for others, as jobs and opportunities ebb and flow, securities and currencies fluctuate in value, and the tension between private profit and public good persists. But surely these are risks that we can manage in a world with an America more attuned to its larger purpose and responsibilities.
    The final frontier is perhaps the most difficult, but it's also the most important — and that's the frontier of the human spirit. For too long, people have allowed differences on the surface — differences of color, ethnicity, and gender — to tear apart the common bonds they share. And the human spirit suffers as a result.
    Imagine a world in which we saw beyond the lines that divide us, and celebrated our differences, instead of hiding from them. Imagine a world in which we finally recognized that, fundamentally, we are all the same. And imagine if we allowed that new understanding to build relations between people and between nations.
    Our goal for the next twenty years should be to finally recognize that our differences are our greatest strength. That's true not only here in America, but in all parts of the world, where we've allowed historic rifts to poison the well of opportunity. They've arisen from the natural prides and passion of humanity. Only when we recognize that — when we respect the human spirit — will we be a great nation and a great world. These are the steps we must take in the next twenty years, as we reach out for the newest frontiers.

92nd Street Y Cultural Center (2007) edit

92nd Street Y Cultural Center in New York City (27 Feb 2007)
  • 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.
  • The truth is, about the Middle East is, had there been no oil there, it would be like Africa. Nobody is threatening to intervene in Africa.
  • I'd like to get rid of landmines. I did participate in getting rid of laser blinding weapons. And I was part of the team that put together the agreement that got rid of laser blinding weapons. I'd like to get rid of nuclear weapons. But I can't agree with those who say that force has no place in international affairs. It simply does for this country. And I would like to work to make it so that it doesn't. But the truth is, for now it does. And so, I can't go against giving our men and women in uniform the appropriate weapons they need to fight, to fight effectively to succeed on the battlefield, and to minimize their own casualties.

Interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now (2 March 2007) edit

Are you bigger than your job? Because if you’re not bigger than your job, you get trapped by the pressures of events and processes into going along with actions that you know you shouldn’t
Gen. Wesley Clark Weighs Presidential Bid: “I Think About It Every Day” (2 March 2007)
  • About 10 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.”
  • It's wrong to fight in Iraq? Well, I think it's a mistake. I think it's a bad strategy. I think it's brought us a lot of grief, and it will bring us a lot more grief. I think it's been a tremendous distraction from the war on terror, a diversion of resources, and it's reinforced our enemies... We need the courage of the leaders in the United States government: the generals who could affect the policy, the people in Congress who could force the president to change his strategy. That's...the courage that's needed.
  • 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.
  • Well, I'm sure there are a lot of reasons why John would go back to the State Department. John's a good — he's a good man. But, you know, the question is, in government is, can you — are you bigger than your job? Because if you're not bigger than your job, you get trapped by the pressures of events and processes into going along with actions that you know you shouldn't.
  • I think it's [torture] 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... George Washington told his soldiers... “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.
  • People make mistakes. And one of the mistakes that the United States consistently made was that it could intervene and somehow adjust people's governments, especially in the Middle East.
  • The truth is, about the Middle East is, had there been no oil there, it would be like Africa. Nobody is threatening to intervene in Africa. The problem is the opposite. We keep asking for people to intervene and stop it. There's no question that the presence of petroleum throughout the region has sparked great power involvement.
  • These discussions with the Palestinians.... this administration has failed to lead. They came into office basically determined not to do anything that Bill Clinton did. I think that was the basic guideline. And so, they have allowed unremitting violence between Israel and the Palestinians with hardly an effort to stop that through U.S. leadership.
  • If you want to talk about tragedies, how about this one? We bombed what we thought was a Serb police station in Kosovo... we found that there were Serb police vehicles parked there at night, so we sent an F-16 in, dropped two 500-pound laser-guided bombs and took it out. We killed 80 Albanians who had been imprisoned by the Serbs there. They were trying to escape, and the Serbs locked them up in this farmhouse... So, I regret every single innocent person who died, and I prayed every night that there wouldn't be any innocent people who died. But this is why I say you must use force only as a last resort.
  • We had a malfunction with a cluster bomb unit, and a couple of grenades fell on a schoolyard, and some, I think three, school children were killed... And two weeks later, I got a letter from a Serb grandfather. He said, “You’ve killed my granddaughter.” He said, “I hate you for this, and I’ll kill you.” And I got this in the middle of the war. And it made me very, very sad. We certainly never wanted to do anything like that. But in war, accidents happen. And that's why you shouldn't undertake military operations unless every other alternative has been exhausted, because innocent people do die.
  • I think the United States military was as humane and careful as it possibly could have been in the Kosovo campaign. But still, civilians died. And I'll always regret that.
  • I'd like to get rid of landmines. I did participate in getting rid of laser blinding weapons. And I was part of the team that put together the agreement...I'd like to get rid of nuclear weapons. But I can't agree with those who say that force has no place in international affairs. It simply does for this country. And I would like to work to make it so that it doesn't...

President Trump's weak support of troops amid Russian bounty to Taliban shows lack of leadership (2020) edit

Opinion essay: "President Trump's weak support of troops amid Russian bounty to Taliban shows lack of leadership", USA Today (1 July 2020)
  • Fifty years ago, the men I commanded in Vietnam taught me what loyalty meant. I was a captain then, and A Company, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division was my responsibility. My troops and I were on patrol when we encountered a dug-in enemy force, and I was the first man hit — four rounds from an AK-47. I called the men to come forward and they ran forward, under fire and then, when we gained fire superiority, stood up and assaulted the enemy position. The men in my command put their lives on the line: Their courage saved my life. For the rest of my military career, there was no action I would not take to protect the troops in my command. As any good leader would.
    This is why I find it so galling that, as commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, President Donald Trump has done nothing despite the fact Russia has put a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That a president would do so little to protect the people to whom he has a sacred obligation is unfathomable. It is a dereliction of his duty as commander in chief, an abandonment of the troops who depend upon him and a betrayal of leadership.
  • Service members' lives demand a strong response. We should be slapping additional sanctions on Russia and freezing the assets of the oligarchs in Russian President Vladimir Putin's circle. We should be stationing more troops in Europe to counter Russia. We should not, as President Trump has done, give Russia a major strategic victory by pulling 9,500 troops out of Germany.
  • Unfortunately, the president's first reaction was not, “How can I protect the troops?” It was, “How can I protect myself?” He issued a Twitter denial that he knew about the bounties, then proceeded to launch irrelevant attacks at former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. As is so often the case with President Trump, the welfare of the nation and of our troops did not come up.
    This is not what leadership looks like. These are not the actions of someone who serves — or even cares about — the troops to whom he has a duty. These are the actions of a man concerned with self-preservation and little else.
    President Trump receives well-deserved criticism for failing to serve his country in Vietnam. Yet, given the lack of loyalty to the troops he has displayed in recent months, that might have been for the best.

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