The Anti-war General?

Joel Bleifuss

When Michael Moore had the termerity to suggest at the Oscars that we were being led into war for “fictious reasons,” Gen. Wesley Clark was one of the only people to defend him on national television. Before Clark declared his candidacy for president, Michael Moore sent a letter to Clark encouraging him to run:This is war, General, and it’s Bush & Co.’s war on us. It’s their war on the middle class, the poor, the environment, their war on women and their war against anyone around the world who doesn’t accept total American domination. Yes, it’s a war—and we, the people, need a general to beat back those who have abused our Constitution and our basic sense of decency. The General vs. the Texas Air National Guard deserter! I want to see that debate, and I know who the winner is going to be. … I am sure there are things you and I don’t see eye to eye on, but now is the time for all good people from the far left to the middle of the road to bury the damn hatchet and get together behind someone who is not only good on the issues but can beat George W. Bush. … Yes, your country needs you to perform one more act of brave service—to help defeat an enemy from within, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, an address that used to belong to “we, the people.”Moore thanked Clark for “standing up … for all the millions who were opposed to the war but had been bullied into silence.” Yet how silent was Clark? In an April 10 column in the Times of London, Clark wrote: “Liberation is at hand. Liberation—the powerful balm that justifies painful sacrifice, erases lingering doubt and reinforces bold actions. … [President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair] should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt. Their opponents, those who questioned the necessity or wisdom of the operation, are temporarily silent, but probably unconvinced.”The next day, in a second column in the Times, Clark wrote: “The campaign in Iraq illustrates the continuing progress of military technology and tactics, but if there is a single overriding lesson it must be this: American military power, especially when buttressed by Britain’s, is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don’t try! And that’s not hubris, it’s just plain fact.”As Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting observed, “to label a candidate with such views ‘anti-war’ is to render the term meaningless.”But that appears to be the intent of the spin meisters of the Clinton political machine. The Clintons have lined up behind Clark in an effort to derail Howard Dean’s candidacy, which threatens both their influence in the Democratic Party and whatever presidential aspirations Hillary has. Newsweek’s Howard Fineman put it this way: Clark is a candidate who “is as anti-war as Dean” and therefore a “credible alternative” to a candidate whom “many Democrats” (read Democratic Leadership Council members) think “would lead to a disaster.”

Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

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