William Dryer of Beldarblog has come to the defense of Wesley Clark. Specifically, he contends that the recent uproar over a 1994 photograph of him trading hats with known war criminal Ratko Mladic is little more than a tempest in a teapot:
Normally I would agree with Dryer. It's all too easy to point to a photograph by itself as evidence of incompetence. He aptly notes, for example, that President Bush recently had his picture taken after dropping his dog Barney. It wasn't a flattering photograph, and so left-wing bloggers jumped on it to embarass Bush. This was obviously dirty pool.
Whether Gen. Clark is more of an Eisenhower or a McClellan is still very much an open question, and one worthy of serious and thoughtful public debate. There are plenty of reasons not to take Gen. Clark terribly seriously as a presidential candidate, and even plenty of reasons to question Gen. Clark’s performance in the Balkins. But this photo isn’t one of them.
However, the photograph of Clark and Mladic isn't comparable to the Bush photo. Clark wasn't simply wrong to meet with Mlavic, he was wrong to appear in photographs looking chummy with the now and future war criminal. At the time, the photo was an enormous embarassment to the US, having been featured in numerous European papers. As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists summarized in December 1994:
Clearly, Clark made a terrible decision by meeting with Mladic, a decision made worse by posing in a photograph trading hats with the man. This is why he was condemned by the State Department, and it doesn't speak well of his political qualifications when he embarassed the US abroad. So I have to part with Dryer on this -- the photograph is a perfectly valid issue.
Critical as the military has been of President Clinton's sense of propriety, their own faces should have been a little red when the army's Lt. Gen. Wesley Clark-director of strategy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff-had one of those heart-warming military-to-military exchanges with Serbian Gen. Ratko Mladic. That's the same Mladic who was nominated in 1992 by then-Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger as a prime candidate for a war-crimes trial for his vigorous "ethnic cleansing."
According to State Department officials, Clark was asked twice to keep away from Mladic, but "he went anyway" according to the Washington Times (September 2, 1994). Clark's tête-à-tête with Mladic may be tame by Jane Fonda-visits-Hanoi standards, but, according to one U.S. official, "It's like cavorting with Hermann Goering." To further the embarrassment, a photo of Clark and Mladic, wearing each other's hats, appeared in several European newspapers (Washington Post, September 1, 1994).
Thanks for letting me know of this post via the comment on my own blog, Mr. Courrèges. (There's only one "R" in "Dyer," by the way; no biggie.)
But ouch! I'm <i>not</i> "defending Clark" by any stretch of the imagination. I've posted a reply in the comments on my original post.
[09/22/03 11:43 PM] [Posted by Beldar]
Ergh... I've been spelling your name wrong for some time now, haven't I? I'll try to correct that in the future.
[09/23/03 12:17 AM] [Posted by Owen]
I agree this is troubling. It's proof that perhaps Clark cannot be trusted, and may be only too willing to coddle dictators, a la Western European leaders. Sadly, I think he has this election in the bag, we don't just don't know it yet.
[09/24/03 03:31 AM] [Posted by SunKing]
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