January 19, 2004,
"I've been against this war from the beginning. I was against it last summer. I was against it in the fall. I was against it in the winter. I was against it in the spring. And I'm against it now."
This isn't really a test after all, the answer is in the title of this article. But just for the exercise, please ask yourself the following questions:
Who said, in April of 2003, "Can anything be more moving than the joyous throngs swarming the streets of Baghdad? Memories of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the defeat of Milosevic in Belgrade flood back"?
Who said, at the same time: "Liberation is at hand. Liberation the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, eases lingering doubt and reinforces bold action. Already the scent of victory is in the air"?
Who said: "The operation in Iraq will also serve as a launching pad for further diplomatic overtures, pressures and even military actions against others in the region who have supported terrorism and garnered weapons of mass destruction. Don't look for stability as a Western goal. Governments in Syria and Iran will be put on notice indeed, may have been already that they are 'next' if they fail to comply with Washington's concerns"?
Who said: "If there is a single overriding lesson [from the campaign in Iraq], it must be this: American military power...is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don't try! And that's not hubris, it's just plain fact"?
Who said: "President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt"?
Who said: "Let's have those parades on the Mall and down Constitution Avenue but don't demobilize yet. There's a lot yet to be done, and not only by the diplomats"?
If you answered Wesley Clark to all the questions, you are correct. The quotes are from two op-eds Clark wrote last April for the Times of London. Taken together, they suggest that Clark's approval of the war was even deeper and more far-ranging than originally thought.
To be fair, Clark expressed some reservations in the articles. He cautioned that more work needs to be done in Iraq, "before we take our triumph." There was still resistance to be dealt with, by "armed persuasion." Looting had to be stopped, order restored, and humanitarian aid begun. And weapons of mass destruction had not been found.
Clark also wrote that the war had left the U.S. and Britain diplomatically isolated. Still, he said, "the immediate tasks at hand in Iraq cannot obscure the significance of the moment": "The scent of victory, if not the end of the operation, is certainly in the air."
Last week, Clark's supporters rushed to his defense over Republican accusations that Clark had supported the war in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in September 2002. A fair reading of Clark's testimony shows that he made statements that could be interpreted as supporting the resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq, and he also made statements that could be interpreted as questioning the need for such a resolution. Clark was, in short, playing both sides of the fence.
If the president went forward with war and all was a great success, Clark could say he was on board from the very beginning. If the president did not go to war, relying instead on extended diplomatic efforts that ultimately proved successful, Clark could say he was on board with that, too. And if either path ended in failure or political unpopularity, Clark could say he opposed the plan from the start.
Seven months later, in April 2003, with U.S. troops in control in Iraq, Clark made his choice. Liberation, "the powerful balm that justifies sacrifice," was at hand, and the U.S. had won a great victory. Clark was on board. It was only later, when the Iraqi insurgency proved more violent than expected and Clark decided to run for the Democratic nomination for president, that his position changed yet again.