Generals and principles
The higher he rises in national polls, the more often Wesley Clark will be smeared by Republican operatives who can depend on assistance from their friends -- and Clark's enemies. Among the favorite criticisms voiced by conservatives is that Clark was relieved from duty as NATO commander because he maneuvered around his Pentagon superiors during the Kosovo conflict. That accusation probably won't damage Clark politically, but various right-wing pundits are now feigning shock over it. (For historical context, see the career of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Although cashiered by President Truman in 1951 for insubordination, the old soldier was idolized by right-wingers and promoted the following year as a potential Republican presidential candidate.)
Most of the attacks on Clark coming from his former Army colleagues are rather vague, focused on his personality rather than his unassailable service record. Yesterday on "All Things Considered," a retired lieutenant general named Funk told NPR's Eric Westervelt that he "frankly wouldn't trust Wes, either. I think it has to do with character issues. I don't think it has to do with integrity. I never knew him, for instance, to lie to me or anything like that. But I wouldn't trust him under pressure. I've seen him get a little bit hyper under pressure. I'd worry about him in combat under pressure."
Really? Before Funk again slanders the man who so far surpassed him, he might listen to what NPR reported about Clark's combat history in Vietnam, where the young officer volunteered for service after graduating from West Point:
"In 1970, First Lieutenant Clark was wounded in the legs and arms by AK-47 bullets during an ambush by North Vietnamese troops. Despite being wounded badly enough to be evacuated, Clark stayed to fight and helped his unit mount a successful counterattack that earned Clark a Silver Star for bravery and a Purple Heart."
Or Funk might consult Richard Holbrooke's bestselling 1998 memoir, "To End a War," which opens with the awful episode when an armored personnel carrier plunged into a ravine and exploded, killing three American diplomats. Specifically, I would refer him to page 12, where he describes the scene immediately after the accident on the treacherous mountain road approaching Sarajevo:
"Since I was the only person on the mountain side who spoke both French and English," the former envoy writes, "I stayed on the road to work with the French while Wes descended [the cliffside]. We anchored a rope around a tree stump so that he could rappel toward the vehicle ... Huge plumes of smoke rose from somewhere below us. We could hear Clark yelling through his walkie-talkie that he needed a fire extinguisher urgently." In a later phone conversation with President Clinton, Holbrooke informed the commander in chief that Clinton "could be especially proud of the actions of his fellow Arkansan, and put General Clark on."
God is my intelligence source
A different kind of military officer seems destined for glory in the Bush administration. As military analyst William Arkin and NBC News have revealed, the officer now in charge of such sensitive missions as finding Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is an "intolerant Christian extremist" named Jerry Boykin. Among the intelligence feats accomplished by Gen. Boykin was the discovery of a mysterious dark cloud over the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He has since shared that revelation in a slideshow he presented to a church group:
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your enemy," he told the congregation. "It is the principalities of darkness. It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy."
Boykin has also received some domestic political intel from the Almighty. "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States," the general once confided to an Oregon congregation. "He was appointed by God."
[1:30 p.m. PDT, October 17, 2003]