"A POLITICAL PROBLEM CANNOT BE SOLVED BY MILITARY FORCE."- General Wesley Clark

 

Borders bookstore, Pentagon Center Mall, 17 Jul 2001

by

Colonel George Jatras, USAF (Ret.)

 

Colonel George Jatras, USAF (Ret.) and General Wesley Clark at Borders

Colonel George Jatras, USAF (Ret.), General Wesley Clark and moderator

 

Gen. Clark's presentation began at 7:00 P.M. and lasted about 25 minutes. He spoke about his military career, how he became involved in the Balkan situation and what he saw as the changing nature of modern warfare. The audience numbered approximately 150-200, of which only a handful were Serbian or Serbian-American. There were clearly more Albanians, including one who later claimed to be the nephew of Hashim Thaci, political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

To anyone who agreed with our policy in the Balkans, which seemed to include most of the audience, I'm sure the presentation was well received. While I agreed with some of Clark's theories on the relationship of political power and the use of military force, I was struck by the number of contradictions between what he said and what he had actually done in the Balkans and his self-serving spin on almost every issue. For instance, he referred to the "shame" of the German bombing of Belgrade in World War Two, which resulted in 17,000 killed in one day. Later in the evening when I reminded him that NATO, under his command, bombed Belgrade during Orthodox Easter week, he replied that "Belgrade was bombed during both Easters," as if that somehow made it alright. During his presentation he stated that a "political problem cannot be solved by military force." What a bizarre comment from one who directed the attack on Yugoslavia and advocated the use of ground troops in Kosovo. He also stated that in the realities of today our leaders have to get away from the "Cold War mentality." This from the man who wanted British General Michael Jackson to launch an air attack on the Russian force at Pristina airfield. Fortunately, General Jackson, in refusing to carry out the order, replied: "I'm not going to start World War Three over you."

Following his presentation, Clark took questions for about 20 minutes. Although the audience seemed overwhelmingly supportive of him, the questions were mostly critical; his answers were sometimes evasive but generally dismissive of the questioner's facts. When Nancy Hey asked him how he could justify the attack on a nation which had never harmed us and the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets and depleted uranium weapons whose effects would last for generations, Clark went into a long explanation of how the U.S. and the international community stood by and allowed the slaughter in Rwanda and how we could not allow that to happen in Kosovo where Albanians were being oppressed. When he received a question that was favorable or of a more general nature he went into great detail in his answer, certainly more than was necessary. It appeared that with a more comfortable question he wanted to use as much of the Q&A time as possible.

I was the third questioner. I began by explaining that I was retired military and I questioned our policy in the Balkans. I held up the flier which my wife, Stella, had distributed and said that I particularly wanted to ask him about the picture on it.

For those in the audience who did not have a flier, I began to explain the picture which showed General Clark in a congratulatory handshake with Hashim Thaci, leader of the KLA, which under the noses of KFOR had murdered or ethnically cleansed thousands of Kosovo Serbs and had destroyed more Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries than were destroyed in 500 years under the Ottoman Empire. Next to Thaci was Bernard Kouchner, Chief U.N. administrator in Kosovo, British General Sir Michael Jackson, and Agim Ceku, who commanded the Croatian Army in "Operation Storm" that ethnically cleansed 250,000 Serbs from Krajina and murdered thousands and who now commands the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), the thinly disguised successor to the KLA. It should be noted that the KLA, with whom we allied ourselves, at one time was designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. Of course, this is the same KLA about whom Senator Joe Lieberman said: "The United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same values and principles . . . Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values." (Washington Post, Apr.28, 1999).

    

Left to Right:

Hashim Thaci, UCK (KLA) leader;

Bernard Kouchner, UN Administrator of Kosovo;

Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, KFOR Commander;

Agim Ceku, Commander of KPC;

Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO Commander.

Thaci, Kouchner, Jackson, Ceku and Gen Clark

Photo from "Kosovo Crisis: a Study in  Foreign Policy Mismanagement" by Dr. Vojin Joksimovich.

 

I told General Clark that I wanted to ask him about these people whom he considered our allies. When I began to give the background of Thaci and Ceku, Clark cut me off and, after a brief back and forth exchange, he stated that if anyone wanted to discuss their opposition to the Kosovo War he would stay after the book signing. During the brief exchange I commented on some of his contradictory statements such as his opposition to targeting civilians when, in fact, that has exactly what he had done as was even publicly admitted by Sen. Joe Lieberman on FOX News Sunday, 05/23/99, when he stated that Clark's "military victory" included attacking civilian infrastructure targets to "break the will of the Serbian people." Clark's reply was, "I don't care what Joe Lieberman says, it isn't true." He then commented that the photograph was taken right after they had disarmed the KLA - another one of his fictions.

After taking two or three more questions, Clark signed books for about 30 minutes. Of the group that waited to talk with him, about six were pro-Serbian and seven or eight were Albanian. The man representing Borders began by saying that he wanted to give an opportunity first to those who had not asked a question, and also allow anybody that wanted a picture with Clark the opportunity to get one. This certainly appeared to be a ploy to use up as much time as possible so that the general would not be put one the spot.

Nancy Hey began the questioning by expressing her opposition to the U.S. being the "World's Policeman." Clark went into a long explanation of how we can't stand by while people are being killed, there's genocide and ethnic cleansing, etc., etc. He acknowledged that we can't be everywhere but in the case of Kosovo we could do something. When Nancy pressed him about not getting involved in other countries' civil wars and internal problems, his reply was, "Shouldn't we have done something about the Holocaust?" I told him that trying to equate Kosovo to the Holocaust was ridiculous. When another person questioned his position that we should have gone in on the ground as one that would have resulted in unacceptable casualties, Clark replied that the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo, which remain hidden to avoid the bombing was demoralized and probable would not fight. To support that claim, he cited the fact that there had been cases of desertion in Serbia during the bombing and reports of a mass desertion in Nis. Someone nodded in agreement, which encouraged Clark to go on. He also stated that as many as 20,000 to 100,000 Albanian soldiers where available to go in with the invasion, to which Thaci's "nephew" shouted, "And I 'd be there." In response to Clark's statement about the damage to the Yugoslav Army, to which we all expressed our shocked disbelief, Stella held up the Newsweek magazine with the article, "Kosovo Cover-Up," which documented the post-war survey by a U.S. military team that found NATO's claims of damage to the Yugoslav Army (JNA) grossly exaggerated. Clark's first response was that he hadn't seen the article. Then, when he looked at it his only comment was to dismiss the author as not knowing the facts regarding the "true" damage to the Yugoslav Army and the results of a subsequent survey. That any criticism "was just wrong" was Clark's standard reply to anyone who disagreed with him.

Stella Jatras then said that she wanted to address the fact that it was the U.S. media that virtually drove US foreign policy and how different the reporting was in the European papers. As an example, she held up copies of European newspapers, one dated 1992 with the headline, "Muslims 'slaughter their own people'," and The Sunday [London] Times titled, "Serbs 'Not Guilty ' of Massacre." (1995). That was in reference to the Markale marketplace massacre that was used as a pretext to bomb the Bosnian Serbs in August of 1995. She also quoted from Yossef Bodansky's book, "Offensive in the Balkans, The Potential for a Wider War as a Result of Foreign Intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina:" "As early as 1992, [Bosnian President] Izetbegovic outlined a very precise and uncompromising strategic political objective for the Sarajevo regime: To get the West to defeat the Serbs and establish a Muslim-dominated state for him," and, "The UN concluded that a special group of Bosnian Muslim forces, many of whom had served with Islamic terrorist organizations, committed a series of atrocities, including 'some of the worst recent killings,' against Bosnian Muslim civilians in Sarajevo as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intervention. These attacks escalated into premeditated attacks and atrocities committed against Bosnian Serb civilians trying to flee contested areas." Stella followed that with an article reporting that a UN report had confirmed Bosnian Muslim forces committed the massacre at the Markale marketplace. Clark then asked Stella, "Have you read the UN report?" She said that she had not but that it had been reported in Deutsche Presse that Bosnian Muslim forces were responsible. Clark repeated his question to Stella, "Have you read the UN report? Well, I have and the report states that they do not know who actually committed the Markale marketplace massacre." Several people immediately jumped in with, "In other words, based on the fact that we couldn't prove who committed the massacre, we used it as an excuse to bomb the Serbs anyway?" No reply.

At this point the Borders moderator said that Gen. Clark had another engagement and would have to leave. I objected, saying that the reason Clark had stayed after the book signing was because he had promised to answer my questions. Clark said, "O.K., one more question." I replied that there were so many contradictions in his presentation and his answers to the questions that it was hard to pick just one. However, to show how he twisted the facts to suit his purpose, I questioned his statement that Milosevic finally signed Rambouilet because of the success of the air campaign and the threat of a ground invasion. I contended that the air campaign was a gross misuse of air power and had failed to destroy any significant portion of the Yugoslav military; there was no consensus for a ground invasion; the NATO alliance was on shaky ground because more and more people in the NATO countries were having second thoughts about the air war against the civilian population of Yugoslavia and NATO leadership was desperate to end the war. Therefore, they offered Milosevic what he wanted all along, the excuse to say that he had tried to defend Kosovo and a way to stay in power. NATO removed the two conditions of Rambouilet that were unacceptable to the Yugoslavs, as they would have been to any sovereign nation: The stipulation that NATO would have access to all of Yugoslavia and be exempt from any Yugoslav laws, and that there would be a set date for a referendum on Kosovo independence in which only Kosovo residents would be allowed to vote. The fact is, in order to end the war NATO backed off of Albright's ultimatum that Rambouilet was not negotiable and Yugoslavia would sign or be bombed - a threat which in itself was a violation of international law. Clark, of course, disagreed and stated that the Yugoslav representatives had not even read the Rambouilet agreement before rejecting it and didn't know, nor care about the two conditions I cited. When two or three of the participants pressed him to answer whether he would have signed something like Rambouilet on behalf of his country, the general replied by saying how NATO troops in Yugoslavia would have helped Milosevic solve his problems rather than be a threat to him. The session broke up with applause from the Albanian group.

Some other observations from this meeting:

1. Though not surprising, it was disturbing how many people at the book signing were not interested in hearing any opposing views. Several people refused to accept any handouts.

2. At least three people I spoke to were unconcerned about the civilian casualties in Yugoslavia or other places we have bombed or imposed sanctions. One woman who said she was a military retiree, when I mentioned that sanctions against Iraq may have resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children because of the lack of medicine and such things as water purification chemicals replied, "So what? That 's Saddam's fault; we should have gone in and taken him out." I explained the military and political problems with that "solution" and asked, "How many dead Americans would it be worth to "take out" Saddam only to have him replaced by someone as bad or worse." She replied, "Whatever it takes."

3. I did have three people, two of whom said they were retired military, come up to me after the first Q&A session to thank me for my comments and say they were glad someone had spoken out in opposition to Clark.

4. I went to the presentation very much opposed to everything Clark stood for, but it wasn't until I heard him speak and answer questions that I realized how dangerous a man like this is. He really seems to believe the lies and distortions he puts out and supremely confident in his right to impose his will on the rest of the world. Probably most frightening, he can utter the most outrageous contradictions without batting an eye. At one point he talked about how much he likes the Serbian people (what would he have done if he didn't like them?); then, a few minutes later he said that the Serbian people would have to be "de-Nazified", a racist statement that condemns all Serbs.

5. The best way for me to describe my impression of General Clark is that he is what Colonel David Hackworth calls a "Perfumed Prince," the kind of general that we saw too many of in Vietnam and hoped never to see again in a position of responsibility for the lives of our GIs and the security of our country.

I wonder if being a Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas has anything to do with it.

In addition to the flier, I handed General Clark a copy of Stella 's "Open Letter to Lt. General Michael Short,"  antiwar, 11/3/99 and her article titled, "Srebrenica, Code Word to Silence Critics of U.S. Policy in the Balkans," antiwar, 7/3/00.

A final comment and observation: Here was an opportunity for Serbs and Serbian-Americans to have shown up in great numbers. To our disappointment, which seems to be the case all too often, there were only a handful who were there to challenge the lies that were being told. Of course, this does not apply only to Serbs. What we are doing to Serbia, how we are selling out our sovereignty to the "New World Order," and how we being perceived around the world should be of concern to all Americans.

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Colonel George Jatras served thirty years in the U.S. Air Force, including 230 combat missions in Vietnam, U.S. Air Attache' to Moscow 1979-81, Senior Air Force Advisor and on the Strategy Department Faculty, U.S. Naval War College 1981-83, and seven years in various assignments in Europe.