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A Democrat with blood on his hands

By Lance Selfa | September 19, 2003 | Page 9

THE LATEST parlor game in Washington seems to be the "will he or won't he" debate about whether Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark will enter the Democratic primaries for presidential candidate. The prospect of a Clark candidacy has found support among people who should know better.

American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner admitted he was "star-struck" at the possibility. Michael Moore, who campaigned for Ralph Nader in 2000, has also encouraged Clark to run. "Michael Moore likes a general?" Moore wrote on his Web site. "I never thought I'd write these words. But desperate times call for desperate measures."

The most obvious reason for all this is that a telegenic, four-star general who graduated first in his class at West Point would make it harder for the Republicans to attack the Democrats for being "soft on defense." Fat chance.

In the November 2002 midterm election, the GOP painted Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, as an ally of Saddam Hussein. Despite voting to authorize the war in Iraq, Cleland still lost his seat to chickenhawk Saxby Chambliss.

Clark won't shock and awe the political machine that trashed Cleland. While his Internet promoters tout Clark's supposedly liberal positions on affirmative action and abortion, no one really knows where he stands on most issues. Clark is a blank slate on which liberals are writing their own fantasies.

For the sake of argument, let's say a Clark candidacy did neutralize the GOP's attack dogs. The question would still have to be, why should anyone--especially someone who opposes the Iraq war--vote for him?

If one opposes the Bush administration because of its "illegal," "non-United Nations sanctioned," "pre-emptive" war for "regime change" in Iraq, Clark should be last person to vote for. This is because he led--and continues to defend--an illegal, non-UN sanctioned, pre-emptive war for regime change in Kosovo in 1999.

The war over Kosovo--waged under the Democratic Clinton administration--provided a template for the wars Bush has waged in Afghanistan and Iraq. Knowing that it would face a Russian veto if it took its war plans to the UN Security Council, the U.S. chose to wage the war under the auspices of NATO.

The U.S. (with French and German support) laid before Serbia the Rambouillet Accord, a pact in which Serbia was asked to consent to a NATO occupation of its territory. Of course, Serbia rejected this, giving the U.S. the pretext for its war. Bush's weapons inspections farce in Iraq followed the Rambouillet script.

Clark, Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the war in Kosovo was meant to stop Serbian ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians. Instead, it provoked Serbian ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kosovars.

NATO deliberately targeted Serbia's civilians and their infrastructure of bridges, transportation and electricity. As in Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of civilians perished. And at the end of the war, Clark ordered British forces to block Russian troops' successful dash to carve out a Russian zone of occupation. British commander Michael Jackson refused, reportedly telling Clark: "I'm not going to start World War Three for you." Now NATO is occupying Kosovo, running a colonial administration that many foreign policy establishment figures think should be the model for the heretofore-disastrous occupation of Iraq.

In his new role as TV commentator, Clark criticized the Pentagon's bungling in the Iraq war. But he didn't criticize the underlying premise that the U.S. had the right to go to war. Zoltan Grossman, writing in Counterpunch, is right: "Far from posing a 'pragmatic' alternative to President Bush, Clark's ascendancy would be a failure for the peace movement...Democrats are well advised not to nominate a leader with blood on his hands."

If Clark runs, Democrats may end up nominating him, assuming that antiwar voters will support any Democrat against Bush. But the antiwar movement can't sell out its principle reason for being--for Clark or any other Democrat.

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