The Blog

Flame Out

12:11 PM, May 11, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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General Wesley Clark's presidential aspirations peaked the day he announced his candidacy for the 2004 Democratic nomination. Smart and articulate and armed with the perfect resume for the Commander-in-Chief's job post-9/11, Clark has managed to transform himself from soldier-statesman to just another politician. According to the Union Leader, Clark told a group of firefighters the following:

"Right now we're being led down a path to nowhere," Clark told the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, who had gathered for the final day of their biennial convention. The group also received visits earlier in the week from Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Joseph Biden.

Clark called for a special prosecutor who would be empowered to go beyond the Justice Department in following the ramifications of the lobbying scandals that have engulfed the capitol.

Clark emphasized the importance of improving U.S. foreign relations, including dialogue between the United States and Iran. "We need a dialogue with Iran. I'm told we had opportunities to have that dialogue," he said. "It's been rebuffed three times....

The United States needs a regional strategy for the Middle East, which would include dialogue with both Syria and Iran. "We need to be talking to people even if we disagree with them he said....

In his speech, Clark, who has been a harsh critic of the Iraq war, also recalled the early days after Sept. 11, when he says he learned of plans to invade Iraq. About a week after the attacks, he said he visited the Pentagon and was told of the Iraq plan by the generals in the joint staff who used to work for him. "I was absolutely stunned," he said.

Several months later, after the United States had begun its war in Afghanistan, Clark asked if the Iraq invasion was still the plan. He said his military contacts told him, "'Oh sir, it's worse than that. This is the memo that outlines a five-year campaign plan: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and we're going to end up in Iran.'"

"I said, 'Is that a classified piece of paper?'" Clark said. "And he said, 'Oh, yes sir.' I said, 'I don't want to see it.'"

It's unclear if Clark addressed the question of whether we should just live with a nuclear-armed Iran if the only remaining alternative to stop or curtail the program is military action. There are strong arguments on both sides -- those who say "yes" we can contain a nuclear-armed Iran like we did the Soviets and those who counter that it would be a huge strategic blow to U.S. security interests -- but instead of engaging his audience on this question Clark trotted out the latest Democratic talking point on Iran and added in a conspiracy theory worthy of Howard Dean.

Evidently, America's repeated "rebuffs" to Iranian efforts to "dialogue" forced the regime to repeatedly break the promises made to the European Union that it would cease enrichment activity. Of course, it was not too long ago that Democrats were encouraging the White House to let the Europeans take the lead. But when that path hit a roadblock they changed their tune. And on Clark's memo nonsense, what can you say. Apparently, working with France to get the Syrian dictatorship out of Lebanon, especially following the regime's role in the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, isn't something the U.S. should be doing. Why? Because it gets in the way of constructively "talking to people" -- Assad in this case -- "even if we disagree with them" -- we disagree with Assad's green light to car bomb Hariri.

The fire fighters deserved better than what the general served up.