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Wesley Clark's Conspiracy Theory

The general tells Wolf Blitzer about the neoconservative master plan.

1:00 PM, Dec 1, 2003 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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DOES GEN. WESLEY CLARK SUBSCRIBE TO THE WEEKLY STANDARD? Commentary, maybe? Because he seems to know a lot about, as he puts it, the "neoconservative press." Yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition," for example, Clark said--not for the first time--that the Bush administration's war plans extend far beyond Iraq.

"I do know this," Clark told Wolf Blitzer. "In the gossip circles in Washington, among the neoconservative press, and in some of the statements that Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary Wolfowitz have made, there is an inclination to extend this into Syria and maybe Lebanon." What's more, Clark added, "the administration's never disavowed this intent."

Well, no. Here's what a senior administration official told the Los Angeles Times's Robin Wright last April: "The lesson of Iraq is not 'Watch out, the U.S. is going to invade.' We're not. . . . Do you think President Bush would do anything to prepare for an election like fight another war? He's not looking for more foreign adventures. We won't get ahead by invading Syria or Iran."

Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same argument when he visited Syria last May. The secretary traveled to Damascus shortly after major combat operations in Iraq had ended, Powell said, in order "to pursue diplomacy and mutual political efforts that both sides can be taking." The reason for the visit? "So the issue of war hostilities is not on the table."

Case closed, right?

Wrong. Clark has made his charge a central plank of his presidential campaign. Clark writes in his book, "Winning Modern Wars," that in November 2001, during a visit to the Pentagon, he spoke with "a man with three stars who used to work for me," who told him a "five-year plan" existed for military action against not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but also "Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan." Clark has embellished this story on the campaign trail, going so far as to say, "There's a list of countries."

Clark's proof? None. He never saw the list. But, the general recently told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "You only have to listen to the gossip around Washington and to hear what the neoconservatives are saying, and you will get the flavor of this."

You probably get the flavor of what Wesley Clark is saying, too. It tastes, as THE SCRAPBOOK pointed out three weeks ago, like baloney. And sometimes, as in the case of yesterday's interview with Blitzer, it tastes like three-week-old baloney.

Matthew Continetti is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.