FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gen. Wesley Clark Fights On and On

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

At the beginning of the Kosovo conflict,CounterPunch delved into the military career of General Wesley Clark and discovered that his meteoric rise through the ranks derived from the successful manipulation of appearances: faking the results of combat exercises, greasing to superiors and other practices common to the general officer corps. We correctly predicted that the unspinnable realities of a real war would cause him to become unhinged. Given that Clark attempted to bomb the CNN bureau in Belgrade and ordered the British General Michael Jackson to engage Russian troops in combat at the end of the war, we feel events amply vindicated our forecast.

With the end of hostilities it has become clear even to Clark that most people, apart from some fanatical members of the war party in the White House and State Department, consider the general, as one Pentagon official puts it, “a horse’s ass”. Defense Secretary William Cohen is known to loathe him, and has seen to it that the Hammer of the Serbs will be relieved of the Nato command two months early.

Adding to this humiliation have been numerous post-war reports from the ground in Kosovo making it clear that the air campaign supervised by Clark inflicted little damage on the Serb army. Derisive comments from Serb generals on the general ineffectiveness of Nato’s tactical air campaign have only rubbed salt in his wounds. Accordingly, on September 16, in a desperate effort to redeem the tarnished record of his military command, Clark summoned the Nato press corps in Brussels to hear his own version of events.

True to form, Clark’s presentation opened with a gross distortion of the truth: “From the outset of this campaign, we said we would be attacking on two air lines of operation. There would be a strategic attack line” against Serb air defenses, headquarters, supply lines and a “tactical line of operation against the Serb forces in Kosovo and in southern Serbia”.

In fact, neither Clark nor anyone else in the U.S. chain of command imagined that the war would involve more than a brief demonstration of Nato firepower in the forms of attacks on air defense radars, communications centers and other fixed targets, thus providing Milosevic with the excuse the U.S. thought he wanted to throw in his hand.
“The Joint Chiefs went along with [the war] on the strict understanding that it would last a maximum of two days”, says one Pentagon official with direct knowledge of these events. “No one really planned for what to do after that.”

Clark intended the briefing to provide unassailable confirmation of his wartime claims that Nato pilots had destroyed hundreds of Serb tanks and other heavy weapons. Yet he had a problem, since the teams he dispatched to Kosovo immediately after the war could only find 26 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces destroyed on the ground. Accordingly, Clark tried to dazzle his audience with military managerial techno-speak about the “building block methodology” employed in preparing his assessment, which permitted NATO’s supreme commander to add another 67 “successful strikes” to the “catastrophic kills” represented by the 26 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces he had already claimed.

With the sleight of hand of a true briefer, Clark left the impression in the minds of the press corps that in each of these 67 strikes the targets had actually been destroyed. But the “methodology” meant merely that the target was added to the score so long as two or more sources-i.e. the pilot’s claim, plus perhaps video footage or a report from someone else in the area-indicated that the weapon had hit the target. With such casuistry, Clark was able to inflate the total figure to 93-not far from the wartime boast of 110 such kills.

Even the paltry claim of 26 destroyed targets in this category should be viewed with skepticism. An alert friend of CounterPunch in the defense community points out that slide # 27 in the briefing features a “tank” destroyed by a U.S. Navy F-14 mission. Actually, slide #27 shows not a tank but a second world war U.S. tank destroyer known as the M-36, famously ineffective even when introduced in 1943, and later donated to Yugoslavia some time in the 1950s. Perhaps, our friend suggests, “The Yugos took one look at what they got, and then put the things in front of the nearest VFW-equivalent meeting halls. Then, along come [the Nato attacks] and the word goes out: ‘we need hulks to serve as decoys for the Americans to blow up.’ Wes Clark & staff collect the imagery and proudly display their ‘kill'”.

This same observer notes that the Pentagon is working on what will be a “lying, cheating, thieving” after-action report, basing his description on news that the work is being supervised by deputy defense secretary John Hamre, a noted time-server and catspaw of the uniformed military.

Among the many issues the report is not expected to address is the sudden disappearance, half way through the conflict, of the $2 billion B-2 stealth bomber, described by Clark as one of the “heroes” of the war. Forty-three days into the conflict, the B-2 was reported as having flown “nearly fifty” sorties. When the war ended after 78 days of bombing, an authoritative report stated that the B-2 had flown a total of 49 missions, indicating that it “fell out of the war” half way through. Presumably, the costly behemoths were deteriorating at such a rate that the Air Force decided to relegate the plane to its alternative mission as backdrop for President Clinton’s demonstrations of martial resolve on TV.

Another topic on which we may expect Hamre to remain diplomatically silent is the ingenuity with which the Serbs diverted the anti-radar Harm missiles launched in enormous numbers by Nato’s planes. Early on, the Serbs discovered that a microwave oven, adjusted to operate with the door open, appears exactly like an air defense radar to the $750,000 missiles – a very cost-effective exchange.

Despite such embarrassments, Clark can take heart from the fact that his influence on warfare already transcends the Balkans. Since Operation Allied Force laid waste to the Serbian civilian infrastructure, the targeting of such infrastructure has become routine and acceptable. The Israelis, who have for years shown relative care in avoiding the Lebanese infrastructure in their raids, were quick to change tactics, citing the Balkan operation as a legitimizing precedent. More recently the gangsters in the Kremlin have used the same justification for their terror-bombing of Chechnya.

Since Clark may be chagrined at his reception in post-war Washington, he should perhaps look to Tel Aviv and Moscow for a more fulsome recognition of his role in history.

CP

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail