General Envy? Think Shinseki, Not Clark
While Democrats from Little Rock to Washington, DC go gaga over retired General Wesley Clark’s recently announced candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, other Democrats rightly question Clark’s past decisions and his future intentions. It is understandable that Democrats, weary of the crypto-fascism of the Bush administration, are willing to support any retired general for the highest office in the land. With Joseph Lieberman sinking fast in the Democratic Leadership Council play book, many Democratic neo-conservatives see Clark as the "anybody but Dean" candidate. Michael Moore, who is as fervently anti-Bush as anyone, sees Clark as the only candidate capable of beating Bush, merely because Clark is a former general who adds military-oriented "gravitas" to the Democratic field.
Allow me to offer up another former four-star general who witnessed firsthand the insanity of the neo-con clique that took over the national security and foreign policy machinery of the United States. Retired General Eric Shinseki. the former Army Chief of Staff, clashed repeatedly with the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith troika over the handling of the war in Iraq. After Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz publicly questioned Shinseki’s testimony before Congress that the United States would need 250,000 troops in post-war Iraq, Rumsfeld dissed the general by boycotting his Pentagon retirement ceremony. Rumsfeld decided it would be better to be hobnobbing it with Albanian mafiosi figures and old Balkan war buddies of General Clark in Tirana than in attending a ceremony honoring the distinguished 38-year career of the outgoing Army chief.
If General Shinseki decided to run for national office as a Democrat, he would help negate those who say the Democrats do not have the necessary national security credentials. Shinseki would also add to the mix a general respected by his former subordinates and colleagues — and that is something Clark cannot say about himself. Those Democrats who abhor the pro-war policies of Clark, a man who has waffled on his support of Bush’s war against Iraq and who was more than happy to bomb downtown Belgrade, including the main Yugoslav television building where a number of my fellow journalists were killed, can be assured that although Shinseki served in the Balkans theater, he was never accused by his fellow NATO officers of bellicosity and narcissism.
Would Shinseki, a decorated Japanese-American veteran of the Vietnam War, enter the political fray? All indications are that Shinseki has as much, if not more, political acumen as Clark. Shinseki recently spoke to a meeting of state politicians in Honolulu where he received standing ovations from over thirty State House of Representatives Speakers, both Democrats and Republicans. Shinseki publicly bemoaned the day-by-day deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq. A West Point graduate, Shinseki’s many tours in Europe, including one in Bosnia as the head of the NATO Stabilization Force, would place him in a superb position to repair America’s damaged relations with many of America’s NATO allies. Clark’s ill-tempered decisions, on the other hand, did not ingratiate himself to a number of his fellow NATO commanders during the Balkans Wars. Clark is the worst of all candidates as far as mending the transatlantic alliance is concerned.
A native of Kauai, Hawaii, Shinseki would be the first Asian-American to run for such a high office. That would certainly stem the GOP’s much ballyhooed attempt to win California, a state with a large Asian-American, voting-intensive population. Critics would argue that Dean and Shinseki are from small states that have only seven electoral votes between them. But Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter both proved that one does not have to be from a huge state to win the White House. And the last two Presidents from mega-state Texas have plunged the United States into costly and deadly wars. Small states, like small countries, are not necessarily so bad. After all, tiny Belgium and Luxembourg stood up to America’s insane war against Iraq. And it could be Vermont and Hawaii that help to pull America’s other 48 states out of the morass brought about by the Bush administration. As an Asian-American, Shinseki is also painfully aware how laws like the Patriot Act and its possible successors can be used to target specific ethnic groups for harassment and even internment by the government. And being from a liberal state like Hawaii, Shinseki would likely never utter the comment Clark made about Bush during the Democratic debate: "He’s neither compassionate nor conservative." Compassionate is fine but if Clark expected a conservative administration, he’s running in the wrong primary.
Shinseki would also relate much better to military veterans who despise what Bush has done to veterans’ benefits, including the cutting of $1.5 billion from veterans’ long-term medical care. And for the active duty military and their families who are facing extended tours of duty in Iraq, Shinseki is on record opposing the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz fuzzy game plan for Iraqi occupation. Unlike Clark, who was fired for dangerous brinkmanship in Kosovo, Shinseki wanted to put the reins on the neo-con rush to war and to do much more reasoned planning for an Iraqi military occupation.
Like other soldier-politicians, including Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall, Shinseki represents that rare military professional who understands that war can only be the final answer in diplomacy after all other options fail. Clark’s warmongering in the Balkans demonstrates he does not share with Shinseki that same honored philosophy demonstrated by a number of past military commanders, American and foreign, who traded in their uniforms for politician business suits.
Shinseki’s ignoble treatment at the hands of the neo-cons would also present the opportunity for a day of reckoning with the scoundrels who currently infest the body politic of America with an alien philosophy of constant warfare and global expansionism. Shinseki, as a national office holder, working hand-in-hand with a few of the anti-war Democratic candidates, would have my total support in purging the neo-cons and their doctrine from the American political landscape, once, and hopefully, for all.
WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of the forthcoming book, "America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II."
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com