Gen. Wesley Clark was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, a Vietnam War captain, and a former presidential candidate for the Democratic party. He's also on the shortlist to be Sen. John Kerry's running mate.
Clark joined Chris Matthews in an episode of 'Hardball' to be aired Thursday, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. He talk about Iraq, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and whether he'd prefer to be in a barbeque with Sen. John Kerry or Pres. George Bush. Read an excerpt, below:
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL: Are we bogged down in Iraq?
GEN. WESLEY CLARKE: We're certainly heavily committed. I want to see is us turn over sovereignity and build an international organization. We need to take it out of the sole hands of the United States. Maybe it will work.
MATTHEWS: Do you think that plan will work?
CLARK: I'm not sure. It's too early to give up on the mission. There’s still a chance that responsible people in Iraq will hold the country together. We need to be careful not to continue that pattern of alienation, like abuses at Abu Ghraib. We need resolve, vision, and others involved from the international community. The people of Iraq shouldn’t feel like they’re under an American occupation. We just want them to move forward.
John Kerry and I, we’ve advocated for an international organization. A lot of the problems has come from bad decision making by the Bush administration. I hope the American people will hold them accountable for it.
MATTHEWS: In my interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said he was surprised at how this has been viewed as an occupation. Paul Wolfowitz said people were impatient. What do you think about that? Anyone who spends time in a third world country knows that we’re going to be viewed as occupiers.
CLARK: Both those people are in difficult positions. They don't want to admit the mistakes they made. Everybody in the administration was warned about what was likely to happen afterward. A lot of us testified, and met with them privately. And it doesn’t stop with Rumsfeld. It goes up to commander in chief. That’s where we need to start.
MATTHEWS: Do we have a problem that the president of the US has his ear to the neoconservative right? Did the president have the right circle to listen to?
CLARK: He has Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney. He had the most experienced foreign policy team that had come to the office in a generation. I don’t mean for this to sound partisan, but the president didn’t have the foreign policy experience.
MATTHEWS: Was he duped?
CLARK: I don’t know if he was duped, or if he came to share this ideas through a lot of conversations, and because of inexperience. It takes a lifetime of experience to understand foreign policy, like it does to understand business, or anything else. That’s why I’ve been concerned by the leadership of the country.
MATTHEWS: What do you think about the abuses at Abu Ghraib?
CLARK: I’m waiting to hear the results of the investigation. These reservists and soldiers went way beyond the line. I feel bad that the army has been tarnished, but these are the actions of a very few people. Also, if you look at it, since 9/11 there has been systematic move to undercut the Geneva convention. This is a slippery slope and dangerous ground. The Geneva convention was put in place to protect men and women fighting in war. When we tamper with laws like that, we endanger ourselves
MATTHEWS: If you look at a recent Quinnipac poll, it says that more people like George Bush. They’d rather go to a barbeque with him. Who would you feel comfortable going to a barbeque with?
CLARK: I think the American people will go beyond barbeques when it comes to selecting a president. I think that what we have to do is bring the real issues to the American people. John Kerry is serious, thoughtful public servant. He spent the rest of his life on public service.
MATTHEWS: But Americans have voted that way in the past, like last elections, where George Bush won on likablity.
CLARK: There were a lot of factors in that election, Chris, just like there are in this coming one.
MATTHEWS: Who would you rather go to a barbeque with?
CLARK: I like John Kerry, and I’d like to go with a barbeque with him. They liked him in Arkansas, they thought the was a thoughtful, serious candidate, when we spent some time down there.