Kevin Drum, via Newsweek, has the following statement from Wesley Clark:

I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, and one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.

Kevin and his commenters have a good discussion about the merits of this alleged policy. My differences with Kevin on this one are minor and not worth going into here.

My instinct, though, is that Clark is simply lying. Why would he be running around the Pentagon, let alone getting classified information from Pentagon planners well after he had been fired? It makes no sense.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anthony C says:

    7 countries in 5 years? With the current rate of stretch? I simply don’t believe it. Simple as that. There are 101 reasons why it’s a ridiculous idea and I find it hard to believe that anyone at the Pentagon was seriously thinking about it.

  2. Ross Judson says:

    There are plenty of people at the Pentagon whose JOB is to think of crazy things. It’s a big organization. Why do you find it so difficult to believe that a staffer would mention to a former General that there are bigger things waiting? And exactly why would that information be classified? Having a staffer examine a potential military solution to a particular problem in the context of a complete menu of options, including diplomacy, makes an enormous amount of sense.

    Has there been a time recently when the US was _pleased_ with Syria or Iran? Of course we have military contingency planning, of course it occurs in a context, and there is no need for that to be classified.

    After all, deterrence is based on _lack_ of secrecy.

  3. Paul says:

    This difference is James, you “get” that clark is lying… Kevin gives him undue credibility.

    There was a discussion over at poliblogger a while back about how Gore’s lies were over nothing. Clark seems to tell whoppers that are far more premeditated than Gore and about far more important issues.

    Kevin says we have not had a discussion about our reply to terrorism. I’m not sure where he has been hiding.

    What this really shows is that Clark’s record is full of not just self serving lies but bizarre and conspiratorial lies.

    The discussion we need to have is whether Clark’s elevator reaches the top floor.

    He is starting to sound more and more like Ross Perot.

  4. Ross Judson says:

    Paul, you strike me as something of a mindless party line parrot. Let’s presume that the general is telling the truth. You have proof that he is not? Please tell us what it is.

    Based on what I know about you, which is roughly what you know about Clark, I am fairly certain that your own career is full of self-serving, bizarre, and conspiratorial lies.

    I am ready to believe you; show up with something — a quote, a reference, anything…

  5. Oh, James, I don’t know. I hear that ex-generals who were considered administration yes-men, were fired under nebulous circumstances, and generally lacked the respect of their underlings are regularly invited back to the Pentagon for off-the-record briefings on highly classified material.

  6. Anthony C says:

    I would put forward the idea that the onus is on Clark to state whether he believes the quoted 5 year/7 nation campaign conversation formed an accurate representation of the Bush administration’s plans. Because it seems to me from the context of the piece that that’s what he is implying. If it was just some wacky junior policy wonk fantasising aloud, why has Clark given it such prominence?

  7. Paul says:

    Ross you strike me as something of an ignorant moron.

    Now that the introductions are done, let’s chat facts shall we.

    #1) Clark made a wild claim that on the morning of 9/11 someone in the administration called him and asked him to blame 9/11 on Saddam.

    Later when questioned he said it was a think tank in Canada. Still later he said it was a think tank in the middle east. The think tank in Canada says he is nutz.

    #2) He made a wild claim that the Bush administration had him fired from CNN.

    When he was asked about it, he backed away from that statement saying something like “Well that is what I heard.”

    Keeping in mind that his “analysis” was so poor that Lou Dobbs told CNN producers that Clark was no longer allowed on his show because he was a self serving nutburger.

    #3) Clark made the wild claim that he called Karl Rove and offered to be a republican.

    Not a single shred of evidence supports this and Clark now admits he might be remembering that wrong too.

    #4) Clark now claims that while walking thru the halls of the Pentagon someone told him of the super-secret Bush plan for global dominance.

    My prediction is that Clark will back away from that EVEN THOUGH it was in his book.

    Now I ask… When someone makes these whacky assertions that are proven to be false and he himself even backtracks away form them, how on earth can he be taken seriously?

    Why don’t you get your head out your behind and admit this guy has a serious credibility issue brewing.

    Claiming you were the inspiration for love story is one thing, claiming the Bush wants to take over the wold and you are the only one that knows is another.

    So before you start with the name calling, why don’t you get your facts together and quit making an ass out of yourself.


    BTW I typed all this from memory of recent news stories. If you spend some time with google you might be able to find some times my memory was not perfect. (too lazy to google)

    But the fact is indisputable that Wes Clark has said some whacky things of late. That is the germane part of the post.

    He credibility is highly doubtful. As is yours.

  8. JadeGold says:

    A more plausible explanation is that James Joyner isn’t telling the truth. Joyner is supposedly USA (Ret)–has he never been to the Pentagon?

    On any given day, the place is lousy with retired O-6s and flag officers. It isn’t unusual for retired flag officers to receive briefings and/or sit in on planning sessions since these graybeards can sometimes provide corporate knowledge and insights from experience.

    I can only say Clark must really have the GOP rattled for them to gear up a ‘Clark-is-a-liar’ campaign so quickly.

    I suspect James Joyner knows better–but can’t resist the urge to engage in some partisan sniping.

  9. Ross Judson says:

    Paul, it’s amazing how little it takes these days to call someone a liar. I see it on both sides; the left (even, say, Kevin Drum) calling Bush a liar, and on the right we’ve got the same thing.

    #1 – I don’t see any particular reason, at this time, that it’s implausible that someone called Clark and urged him to talk about Iraq.

    #2 – “Wild claim”? I find it entirely probable that someone, somewhere in the current RNC or government apparatus, might have called CNN and asked that he be exchanged…or, you know, no interview. Who the hell knows?

    #3 – Please. It was a frickin’ joke, and entirely obvious to be so in the context of the conversation. Just because Sullivan picks it up and tries to make it into something else doesn’t make it so.

    #4 – Who the hell says it’s super secret? And who said it was a Bush plan? If the frickin’ army in this country _didn’t_ have contingencies and discussions on this kind of thing, they should lose their jobs. Like I said the first time, you have zero PROOF that this didn’t happen.

    Maybe we both oughta go off and google the news for a while. Maybe we oughta stop calling each other liars long enough to figure out what the truth really is.

    Or is your sense of TEAM better developed than your sense of ETHICS?

  10. Paul says:

    Ross, your “holier than thou” non-partisan attitude would be more believable if it were not for your first response to me.

    On #’s 1, 2, and 3 you miss the fact that CLARK HIMSELF is backing away form the statements. You seem more willing to believe his lies that HE does.

    I don’t have to call him a liar. He has all but admitted that they were pure falsehoods. How does pointing out that Clark lied and (basically) admitted to it make me partisan?

    (I am partisan but this is not what does it. 😉

    On #4 No, I can not prove a negative. Who can? But what I can (and did) prove is that the gentleman has a long history of telling (shall we say) tall tales especially in regards to this President.

    Is it therefore not reasonable to be doubtful of the claim?

    And stop for a second and give it the “sniff test.” Which is more plausible… That Bush really had a plan to take over 7 countries all at once or that a known fibber fibbed???

    And on your point that we have many war plans that are developed but never come close to see the light of day…

    That is true. But a Four Star General certainly knows the difference. So if it were a wild contingency plan Clark should not have put it in his book and made it sound like it was a real possibility. By doing so he mislead the reader. So even if you are right he is at best a wild exaggerator and at worst… a liar.

    Either way my point that we should get to the bottom of why he has told these tall tales stands.

    And no amount of your name calling can change that.


  11. Ross Judson says:

    Paul, in your comments on this entry you’ve called Wes Clark a liar no less than 13 times, and more if you read between the lines. Which, with your writing, we simply don’t need to do. There isn’t much in the way of hidden subtext.

    Please note that I haven’t called your guy anything similar.

    Exactly how does one change “This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan.” into the “super-secret Bush plan for global dominance”. See how your little mental game of telephone works? Quotes go in one end, and post-distortion, party-line spin comes out.

    I see it on the left and it pisses me off. I see it on the right and it pisses me off too.

    It is _entirely_ logical for the Bush Administration to _ask_ the military to plan a _contingency_ requiring military action in a number of Middle Eastern countries. Why do you not feel this is feasible? I’d be surprised if Bush hadn’t done it, at some point. Any President would. The Pentagon is five miles from my house, and believe me, there are a crapload of retired, ex, and otherwise departed military personnel in and out of there all the time.

    Yes, we should get to the bottom of it — the truth, not the barrel the RNC is currently scraping up crap from.

    Hey, here’s a thought — let’s NOT call Bush a liar, or Clark, or Dean…how ’bout we focus on POLICY for a change?

    If you can.

  12. melvin toast says:

    Arianna, I mean Ross… you’re off topic. The title of the POST is Clark Lies, II.

    It’s true though… what difference does it make whether or not people lie. Policy definitely trumps honesty. That’s why NOW supported Clinton even after it became known that he lied about that woman. Actually it wasn’t a lie. To be fair it depends on what the meaning of is is. So in that respect, when Clark says it came from the White House… he really meant A white house. I have lot of friends that live in white houses… So it depends on the meaning of white I guess… which perhaps is a racist reference… He was probably hinting that a Ku Klux Klan member told him to blame it on Iraq… See!.. Simple explanation!

  13. Jem says:

    Regarding Ross and Paul’s ongoing sniper’s ball, both seem to be veering toward the lunatic fringe. For what it’s worth, here are a few thoughts from a serving (reserve) military officer who’s worked in the Pentagon recently:

    1) It may be worth noting that Clark is a former JCS J-5 (Director, Strategic Plans and Policy) from April 1994 – June 1996 and regional commander in chief of Southern Command (June 1996 – July 1997) and European Command (July 1997 – June 2000)–as such, he has forgotten more than most military officers (even flag officers) ever know about campaign planning and what the roles and responsibilities of the various planning elements are. It’s pretty unlikely he wouldn’t understand exactly what he was told by a “senior military staff officer” about such planning and/or the discussions that undergird the planning process. There is, however, no way to verify what was said between the two. Certainly, discussions of that type are generally considered to be sensitive, and most plans are classified.

    2) I can assure all concerned that the words “plan” and “wild” do not belong in the same sentence–planning (even in a contingency) is a deadly serious business for the military.

    3) It would not be surprising to find that some thinking was going forward on actions against the Islamic members of the cast of “usual suspects” among the terror supporting states of the world.

    4) There is a good chance that Clark, like many retired flag officers, retains a security clearance to allow for participation in various policy forums (I’ve met participants and/or read papers generated by members of these things–some of them work for “beltway bandits” in the national security sphere but others have “day jobs” that don’t require security clearances).

    5) Bear in mind that a campaign plan does not necessarily involve conquering a nation (or even placing any troops at or within its borders)–it just means military activity conducted to influence the behavior of one or more states.

    BOTTOM LINE: Clark’s claim is not implausible, though it always makes me cringe when I see a flag officer talking publically about these kinds of things–they are generally not supposed to become public domain (it may be that he was encouraged to leak this information, but if the Administration wanted to send a message to the states in question, there are better ways to do it than going through Clark).

  14. JadeGold says:

    A few notes WRT Jem’s otherwise excellent comment.

    First, I’d disagree that ‘wild’ and ‘plan’ never occur in Pentagon planning; on the contrary, it happens all the time. Particularly, in the early stages of planning. As planning progresses–it is hoped impracticality and risk are groomed out of plans.

    Second, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that retired flag officers would receive such briefings in a formal, or informal, setting. The stark reality is there exists a pretty extensive ‘grapevine’ within DoD. Plus, you have to couple that with the fact Clark, as a senior retired flag officer, has a not inconsiderable number of active duty former subordinates who owe, in large part, their stars to Clark and continue to regard him as a mentor.

  15. Paul says:

    Jem you make some points…

    First, I used the term “wild” because I could not spell “contingency.” (that is a joke, but there is truth to it too.)

    Anyway but point is thus…

    First with Clark’s background of saying “wild” statements and then having to basically admit they were lies it is much harder to believe “The General Who Cried Wolf.”

    Second, let’s give The General Who Cried Wolf the benefit of the doubt. Let’s give him there was a contingency plan to do some sort of action against the whole middle east. (and I hope we have that plan and a few dozen others in our pocket)

    And let’s give him that some guy told him about it.

    Can you really tell me that the way he represents it is as a contingency plan? (I clipped an excerpt of his book below so you have more context)

    And if this were a contingency and he made it sound like a battle plan (drawn from policy) is that not a gross exaggeration at best or an outright lie at worst?

    SO even if your benefit of the doubt is true, it does not speak highly of him.

    Read the cut form the book and tell me what he is saying…


    This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. So, I thought, this is what they mean when they talk about “draining the swamp.” It was evidence of the Cold War approach: Terrorism must have a “state sponsor,” and it would be much more effective to attack a state than to chase after individuals, nebulous organizations, and shadowy associations.

    He said it with reproach—with disbelief, almost—at the breadth of the vision. I moved the conversation away, for this was not something I wanted to hear. And it was not something I wanted to see moving forward, either.

    What a mistake! I reflected—as though the terrorism were simply coming from these states….

    [then he goes on to say what is wrong with this POLICY]

  16. Ross Judson says:

    Hey, I enjoy a little sniping as much as the next guy. 🙂

    The thing is, I can absolutely see the Administration going to the military and saying, “OK…let’s say we want to go after Iraq. Show me a plan to do that. I also want to see a plan for the Hail Mary, should it turn out to be true that terrorism really is state-sponsored; show me what I need to do to take down a significant chunk of the Middle East.”

    “Breadth of Vision”? Sure. That’s exactly what it is. You can fundamentally disagree with the idea of conquering the Middle East, but as a leader evaluating ALL the options, it’s something you simply have to consider.

    You can bet that the US military has a ton of plans for different situations. They can’t all be used, but when the time is right, they’re not going to be caught with their pants down. At least not too far.

  17. Paul says:

    Maybe you missed my point

    I said: Let’s give him there was a contingency plan to do some sort of action against the whole middle east. (and I hope we have that plan and a few dozen others in our pocket)

    But you are dodging the point that Clark fibbed when he explained it in his book.

    And Hey- if making sure that the potential leader of the free world is not a congenital liar makes me “veer toward the lunatic fringe”–

    That is a position I will occupy proudly.


  18. JadeGold says:

    If anyone wants evidence there existed at least the framework or discussion of such a plan at the Pentagon, one need only recall the Perle-instigated Laurent Murawiec presentation (10 Jul 02) to the Defense Policy Board.

  19. Ross Judson says:

    Uh…dude, where is the lie in Clark’s book excerpt, as posted by you? Which part?

  20. Ross Judson says:

    “Proudly?” The best thing about pride is, it gets other people’s kids killed, in strange places.

  21. Paul says:

    Uh…dude, where is the lie in Clark’s book excerpt, as posted by you? Which part?

    Ross if you can’t read… then I can’t help you.

    Good luck