Questions about Clark’s “Consistency” on Iraq and al-Qaeda
Edward Wyatt of the New York Times paints Gen. Wesley Clark as “inconsistent” for saying in October, 2002, that there were links between al-Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq, but for later saying that there were no such links. Then he brings up the early interview in which Clark said that he would have voted for the Iraq war resolution, but then later clarified that he thought the war unjustified.
This sort of article annoys the hell out of me. It is again that black and white simplistic thinking and demand for absolute consistency, which allows journalists to play “gotcha.” I have been told by US government folks in counter-intelligence that they think there were low-level exploratory contacts between al-Qaeda and Baath intelligence. This allegation is plausible, and it is the sort of thing Clark was probably referring to in Oct. 2002. It is also meaningless. The contacts, if they existed, would only be important if they had gone somewhere or were at all likely to have gone somewhere. They weren’t, which is what Clark means when he says now that there were no (significant) Iraq-al-Qaeda links. Mukhabarat or secret police talk to all the thugs in the world. But al-Qaeda officials like Abu Zubaida and Khalid Shaikh Muhammad say that Bin Laden forbade them from cooperating with the secular infidel Baath. Nor would Saddam have been willing to trust al-Qaeda with anything really important or powerful. Hell, the Iraqi secret police probably talked to Israeli intelligence, too. So what? Nothing came of it and by 1992 the Israelis were trying to assasinate Saddam.
As for the Iraq war resolution, look at it again. It says that Congress authorizes Bush to pursue the War on Terror. Many in Congress wanted Bush to come back to them for a separate resolution authorizing an Iraq war, which by the Constitution he should have had to (the president can’t declare war all on his lonesome, even though the Imperial Presidency tradition has allowed presidents to do so de facto). Iraq was not in fact a bona fide part of the War on Terror. So it is not inconsistent to have supported the War on Terror resolution but to have been unhappy with what Bush did with it.
And why is consistency only being demanded of Clark, anyway? I remember W. campaigning on a platform of “no nation-building.” Now he has more state orphans to raise than the old woman in the shoe. As Don Rumsfeld, that
Buddhist sage, has said, “Things change.”