Matt Drudge sets a trap for the Clark-critics by selectively excerpting his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 26, 2002. Maybe this is oppo research run amok, but Matt is offering as a "World Exclusive" a transcript available right here, and characterizing the general as pro-war, rather than pro-diplomacy. In a coals to Newcastle gesture, I will defend the general on this one - his full remarks are sensible and consistent with what I understand him to have been saying on Iraq. In fact, this is the General that ought to be a candidate - set him free, Chris Lehane!
CLARK: Thank you, sir. There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat...
I'm sure he has a rationale for what he's doing, but we don't always know it. He does retain his chemical and biological capabilities to some extend and he is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet.
OK, that is a bit of an "Aha!" moment. However, his main message is a call for a broad diplomatic effort, with emphasis on Al Qaeda, which we excerpt below.
MORE: The plot thickens - did we allude to the possibility of oppo research run amok? Now Drudge is presenting a statement from the Lieberman folks:
Joe Lieberman issued the following statement in response to the Drudge Report's discovery of congressional testimony from September 2002 in which Wes Clark made the case for war in Iraq. The report provides evidence directly contradicting Clark's repeated claims that he has been "very consistent" on the war "from the very beginning."
Statement by Joe Lieberman
"Yesterday, Wesley Clark attacked me for pointing out his multiple positions on the war in Iraq. It is no longer credible for Wesley Clark to assert that he has always had only one position on the war - being against it. His own testimony before Congress shows otherwise....
So, is this a hit by Kindly and Concerned Uncle Joe? For shame.
AND MORE: Re: Lieberman - Not so fast! Ed Gillespie of the RNC was wacking Clark in Little Rock. Ow, well, Lieberman, the RNC, how can one tell them apart?
Here are Gillespie's comments - there is more dirt than just some selective excerpting in there. Anyway, he mentions this transcript in the context of "Clark said Saddam had WMDs, so quit with the Bush lied nonsense", rather than "Clark was pro-war". No fingerprints!
The problem of Iraq is not a problem that can be postponed indefinitely, and of course Saddam's current efforts themselves are violations of international law as expressed in the U.N. resolutions. Our President has emphasized the urgency of eliminating these weapons and weapons programs. I strongly support his efforts to encourage the United Nations to act on this problem and in taking this to the United Nations, the president's clear determination to act if the United States can't -- excuse me, if the United Nations can't provides strong leverage for under girding ongoing diplomatic efforts.
But the problem of Iraq is only one element of the broader security challenges facing our country. We have an unfinished worldwide war against Al Qaida, a war that has to be won in conjunction with friends and allies and that ultimately will be won as much by persuasion as by the use of force. We've got to turn off the Al Qaida recruiting machine. Now some 3,000 deaths on September 11th testify to the real danger from Al Qaida, and I think everyone acknowledges that Al Qaida has not yet been defeated.
As far as I know, I haven't seen any substantial evidence linking Saddam's regime to the Al Qaida network, though such evidence may emerge. But nevertheless, winning the war against Al Qaida and taking actions against the weapons programs in Iraq, that's two different problems that may require two different sets of solutions.
... the critical issue facing the United States right now is how to force action against Saddam Hussein and his weapons programs without detracting from our focus on Al Qaida or our efforts to deal with other immediate mid and long-term security problems.
I'd like to offer the following observations by way of how we could proceed. First of all, I do believe that the United States diplomacy in the United Nations will be strengthened if the Congress can adopt a resolution expressing U.S. determination to act if the United Nations can not act. The use of force must remain a U.S. option under active consideration.
Such congressional resolution need not, at this point, authorize the use of force. The more focused the resolution on Iraq, the more focused it is on the problems of weapons of mass destruction. The greater its utility in the United Nations, the more nearly unanimous the resolution, the greater its utility is, the greater its impact is on the diplomatic efforts under way.
The president and his national security team have got to deploy imagination, leverage, and patience in working through the United Nations. In the near term, time is on our side and we should endeavor to use the United Nations if at all possible. This may require a period of time for inspections or the development of a more intrusive inspection regime such as Richard Perle has mentioned, if necessary backed by force. It may involve cracking down on the eroding sanctions regime and countries like Syria who are helping Iraq illegally export oil enabling Saddam Hussein to divert resources to his own purposes.
We have to work this problem in a way to gain worldwide legitimacy and understanding for the concerns that we rightly feel and for our leadership. This is what U.S. leadership in the world must be. We must bring others to share our views not be too quick to rush to try to impose them even if we have the power to do so. I agree that there's a risk that the inspections would fail to provide evidence of the weapons program. They might fail, but I think we can deal with this problem as we move along, and I think the difficulties of dealing with this outcome are more than offset by the opportunities to gain allies, support, and legitimacy in the campaign against Saddam Hussein.
If the efforts to resolve the problem by using the United Nations fail, either initially or ultimately, then we need to form the broadest possible coalition including our NATO allies and the North Atlantic Council if we're going to have to bring forces to bear. We should not be using force until the personnel, the organizations, the plans that will be required for post conflict Iraq are prepared and ready. This includes dealing with requirements for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance and preparations for a transitional governing body and eventual elections, perhaps even including a new constitution.
Ideally, the international/multinational organizations will participate in the readying of such post conflict operations, the United Nations, NATO, other regional organization, Islamic organizations, but we have no idea how long this campaign could last, and if it were to go like the campaign against the Afghans, against the Taliban in which suddenly the Taliban collapsed and there we were.
Matt Drudge may have missed that bit.