Live chat with Wesley Clark

by Ted on January 7, 2004

Provided that I can figure out the technology, I’m going to be participating in an online chat with Wesley Clark and a dozen or so bloggers tomorrow (Wednesday) at 5:00 Eastern time.

Watch it here…

or log in.

Public IRC Server: irc://
Read-Only Channel: #wireside

UPDATE: I’ve never used IRC, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it going in time. CURSE YOU, TECHNOLOGY!

Here was my question:

I recently read an article in Inc. magazine about how the Democratic Presidential candidates are talking about international free trade issues in general, and NAFTA in particular. The article didn’t have a summary from you about your views. How would you describe your position on international trade?



Factory 01.07.04 at 12:12 pm


(it just had to be said :)


Motoko Kusanagi 01.07.04 at 2:32 pm

Maybe you could ask him about his military career and his war crimes.


Ted Barlow 01.07.04 at 3:07 pm

Maybe before you accuse a four-star general of war crimes, you should have some better sources.


Andrew Edwards 01.07.04 at 3:32 pm

Cool, Ted – congrats. You’ll be able to say that you imaginary-know Wes Clark.

Incidentally, why is this stuff always at times when I have work to do? Are they going to post a transcript?

Great smack in comment #3, btw.


Ted Barlow 01.07.04 at 4:12 pm


I’m absolutely sure that they’ll leave the transcript up on the campaign website. They ought to know that bloggers will want to reference it.


Motoko Kusanagi 01.07.04 at 5:36 pm

Oh, he has FOUR Stars!?! What a smack! Well, I better apologize then.

But there’s really no secret about his record as a war criminal; the Kosovo war was a violation of international law (the UN charter). And when, in May 1999, the bombing campaign against Serbia proved unsuccessful, Nato, with Clark as commander, openly decided to include civilian targets in the attacks, violating the Geneva convention.

I don’t suppose there’s a source good enough to convince you that your precious general (four stars) did something wrong, but if you’re really interested here’s a summary of the Nato crimes committed during the Kosovo war. It’s by Michael Mandel, a Canadian professor of law, who headed a team of lawyers that tried to have the responsible leaders charged, only to find that the ICTY is a joke.


ogged 01.07.04 at 8:30 pm

You’re going to have to do much better than that Motoko. Mandel argues that humanitarian intervention must be undertaken under aegis of the UN Security Council. That would have been impossible in this case, because Russia, which backed Milosevic, has veto power on the Security Council. Which is to say that any humanitarian intervention undertaken against Russia’s wishes would be ipso facto illegal. Forgive me if I take the humanitarianism and worry about the Security Council later.

But wait, you say, Mandel shows that there was no humanitarian reason to intervene.

Nobody could seriously maintain that the conditions for a repeat of the Bosnian bloodbath were there: this was not an all out civil war with well-armed parties of roughly equal strength on each side and huge ethnic enclaves fighting for their existence. These conditions simply did not exist in Kosovo.

This is laughably dishonest. What was there was one well-armed party with a penchant for ethnic cleansing threatening a mostly unarmed group of civilians. Mandel seriously pretends that the Kosovars were more safe because they were unarmed.

Mandel also asks,

And where, to resolve these enormous doubts about whether NATO acted out of humanitarian motives this time, is the evidence that these people have ever acted from humanitarian motives before?

Since we’re talking about General Clark, I wonder why you didn’t think to note that Clark was almost alone in pushing for a humanitarian intervention in Rwanda.

Finally, four star rank matters, because you don’t get to be a general, let alone one with four stars, unless you’ve proven yourself to many people over many years. So you bet we’re going to extend to him some presumptive generosity, and you haven’t shown us anything to change our minds.


Shai 01.07.04 at 10:44 pm

It’s funny that someone wasted their one question on “what is your favorite salad dressing?”. Is that like “boxers or briefs?” for people too high minded to watch MTV?


Cameron Barrett 01.07.04 at 11:01 pm

Hi Ted, I received your question in time and passed it on to the people who were moderating the discussion. I’m not sure why your question went un-asked. However, the chat lasted for only 30 minutes and the last 8 minutes of it were dedicated to taking questions from the active participants.

We’re planning on doing more live chats in the future.


Ted Barlow 01.07.04 at 11:15 pm

Hi Cameron. It was an honor to be asked, and I understand that time was limited. Such is life.


cure 01.08.04 at 12:24 am

Great question, Ted. I’m a pretty moderate guy who generally supports Clark and his brand of international liberalism, but there’s no way I could vote for a guy without a lucid trade policy (specifically, at least a general support for FTAA, further tariff reduction as proposed by O’Neill (one of the few positive things he was able to do), support for WTO and IMF (with some reform, of course) and decrease in ag/textile subsidies.

The current candidates, Bush included, simply show nothing near the level of dedication that Bush 41 or Clinton had for free trade. Dean’s Economics are terrible – remember his Labor Day comments?

(As an aside, I’d be interested in the CT crew’s comments on the Powell article in the new Foreign Affairs – interesting stuff.)


Ophelia Benson 01.08.04 at 1:41 am

I love these online things. I once asked Bernard Williams a question on one the Guardian did – a little more than a year ago – and he answered it. That was cool…


Ophelia Benson 01.08.04 at 1:47 am

I also – speaking of free trade – once asked my Congressman (Jim McDermott) a lot of questions about the WTO and the trade rep and how it all works, at one of his community meetings. I realize free trade is a good idea in a lot of ways, but what about the way the WTO can and does overturn environmental and labor laws? Do we really want one unelected, appointed by the president, trade rep having the final decision on all labor and environmental laws, with the criteria being whether or not they interfere with trade? Of course they interfere with trade – so how can such laws be safe? They can’t, not the way things work now. Not a good plan, it seems to me.


phil 01.08.04 at 5:01 am

So Ted, having tasted the much ballyhooed “access”, are you starting to feel like another Washington press whore?


cure 01.08.04 at 7:09 am


I never understood the “unelected” argument against the WTO/IMF. The UN and International Criminal Court are likewise unelected. Within the United States, the two most respected institutions (according to Zakaria) are the Supreme Court and the Fed, both unelected, and both with the power to make rather important decisions. Democracy is a great check on power, but it’s not necessarily the best master. Populism is often (perhaps usually?) a dangerous force.

As for the enviro laws, I don’t know if that interpretation is correct. The WTO should certainly be able to penalize member nations who used environmental or worker rights arguments that a basically a mask for protectionism. Few nations are outright protectionist these days, but it’s easy to cover up protectionist policy as protecting culture, workers’ rights, etc.. I’m sure that not 100% of decisions in this area are counters to protectionism, but the vast, vast majority are.

As for why the WTO doesn’t promote worker’s rights or environmentalism to the degree that many want, the argument is that the WTO’s purpose is trade liberalization (among other international economic issues). There are other intl. methods for helping workers’ rights and the environment, and I would think that most WTO economists support many of these non-WTO treaties and agreements. But they don’t want trade liberalization held up because Norway wants the child labor age raised to 18 – there are other, fantastic venues for addressing those types of issues.


motoko kusanagi 01.08.04 at 10:19 am


I said there were two reasons why the Kosovo war was a crime: because it was illegal under international law, and because the way it was conducted violated the Geneva Convention.

You addressed only the first reason. You are right that with Russia in the Security Council any resolution to bomb Serbia would have been vetoed. But that in itself doesn’t justify a war. I think the case for the “Humanitarian Intervention” has never been made, and it must be obvious that the burden of proof here is on the attacker. The headlines about mass graves were lies. Before the war claims were made that 200,000 ethnic Albanians were disappeared. After the war the number was 340. The exodus of Albanians from Kosovo took place after the bombing started. It was an effect and not a cause.

Illegal or not, the war was, of course, not started by Clark personally. If he’s a war criminal, as I believe, it is mainly because of the strategies used during the war. After the initial attacks on the Serbian army proved unsuccessful, Nato directed its efforts to civilian targets – see for example the Amnesty International Report (sorry, PDF) – hoping that this would frighten and demoralize the population. Calculated use of violence with the intention of installing fear for political reasons – isn’t that more or less the definition of terrorism? It is quite a triumph of propaganda if such bombing can be called “humanitarian”.

I still don’t understand how the number of stars on Clark’s uniform tells us about his guilt or innocence. Generals have been known to commit war crimes, just like soldiers. I’m certain that many qualities are needed for a military career, but I’m not convinced morality is one of them.


Ophelia Benson 01.08.04 at 2:24 pm


True enough about populism, but one advantage of election as opposed to appointment is that elected officials are more accountable. There are people who have serious doubts about the unelected Supreme Court and Fed.

Sure, I know all that about disguised protectionism. But how does the WTO distinguish between pseudo-environmental laws that are really disguised protectionism, and real environmental laws? That’s the problem, surely – there’s no particular reason to think it does, given that its role is to protect unhindered trade, not to protect the environment, or even to try to reconcile the two. And it has the power. The EPA can’t trump the WTO, but the WTO can trump the EPA. That’s not necessarily automatically always a good thing.

‘As for why the WTO doesn’t promote worker’s rights or environmentalism to the degree that many want, the argument is that the WTO’s purpose is trade liberalization (among other international economic issues). There are other intl. methods for helping workers’ rights and the environment’

Yes I know that, but the point is, the WTO has the final say. The WTO can veto labor law whereas labor law cannot veto the WTO. That’s the problem. You phrase it as if the two are simply equal competitors, and they’re not.


Andrew Edwards 01.08.04 at 2:56 pm


A big army with proven genocidal tendencies is threatening a mostly unarmed minority. What would you have done? Given Milosevic a big hug and hoped for the best? Issued a sternly-worded press release?

Many of the ‘civilian targets’ were infrastructural. Infrastructure is obviously also useful to the military, and has traditionally been viewed as a valid military target. The best evidence we have is that when NATO forces did attack those targets, they made an honest and diligent attempt to make sure that as few civilians as possible were killed. That’s not evil. And that’s not the sort of behaviour I associate with a ‘war criminal’.

Which is the real point. Prosecution for war crimes and the label ‘war criminal’ have generally, and rightly, been applied mostly to genuinely heinous crimes – the deliberate eradication of mass number of innocent non-combattants.* Even if everything you accuse Clark of is true, and even if all those things were done with malicious intent for no reason other than he’s a cackling mad villain from James Bond, even then he’s nowhere near the class of, say, the Khemer Rouge. Labelling him a war criminal is a deliberate attempt to link a not-so-bad (in my opinion, a good) person to genuinely evil people by giving them a common label. The word for that is a smear. Worse, it cheapens the word ‘war criminal’. When you use the same word for Wes Clark and Pol Pot, you strip yourself of the language to properly describe the attrocity of Pol Pot.

Please give it up.

* Incidentally, there’s also such thing as an innocent combattant. I’m interested that you seem to approve of blowing the hell out of as many teenaged soldiers as possible, even when knocking out a power grid instead could take the fight to the genuine bad guys who lead the army, rather than the innocent draftees who fight in it.

Just because the UN rule book, as written by rich white men 50 years ago, says that’s a better choice.


Andrew Edwards 01.08.04 at 2:57 pm

Ummmm, that bullet is supposed to be an asterisk.


Andrew Edwards 01.08.04 at 3:14 pm

Hold on. We’re taking this a step further. I hadn’t thought of it this way before, and I want to follow this path and see where it goes. Not sure I’m right, but let’s see…

Attacking soldiers results in the death only of (generally) poor young soldiers. In a world where conscription is quite common, those people are often largely moral innocents.

Attacking infrastructure and command and control results in the death of some poor young people but also some rich powerful people. In a world where civilian tyrants are our greatest evil, not all of those people are moral innocents.

We have rules that say that killing soldiers is fine, but attacking infrastructure (under certain conditions) is not.

Those rules were written by rich powerful rulers. By people who would be hurt if you attack infrastructure, but not hurt if you attack soldiers.

Are the rules just tools for the elite to protect themselves? And, especially when we know that so many soldiers are themselves largely moral innocents, is breaking the rules possibly morally preferable to following them?

Like I said, I’m not sure I’m right, I just wanted to chase that down. Anyone (esp. other than Motoko) want to help me shake this out?


Motoko Kusanagi 01.08.04 at 4:45 pm

Andrew, a few points:

(1) A war criminal is someone who violates the Geneva Convention and other international laws of war, so that’s a category that may include a lot of people, and some may be worse than others. If Clark violated those laws, using the term seems to the point to me.

(2) “A big army with proven genocidal tendencies is threatening a mostly unarmed minority. What would you have done?

I don’t know if we should go into all the details of the Rambouillet meetings, but there is quite some evidence to believe that a diplomatic solution was possible. Here’s a good article on the subject from Fair.

Anyway, like I said, the burden of proof here is on the party that goes to war and as far as I’m concerned it has not been met.

(3) “The best evidence we have is that when NATO forces did attack those targets, they made an honest and diligent attempt to make sure that as few civilians as possible were killed.

My point is that they didn’t make those honest and diligent attempts, but instead, carelessly or intentionally, killed lots of civilians. See the Mandel article or the AI link above.

(4) I argued that both the war and the war strategies were wrong, so to say that I “seem to approve of blowing the hell out of as many teenaged soldiers as possible” is dishonest.

(5) I don’t want to be uncivil, but I must say I found your remarks on morally innocent soldiers and guilty rich powerful people bizar. The rules were written to protect non-combattants, which makes sense to me. I’m not really interested in a discussion of the possible guilt of rich (or poor) civilian casualties.


Andrew Edwards 01.08.04 at 5:18 pm

One more round and then I’m out of this discussion:

(1) I’m not going to get into a debate about how you mean to use the term, but hopefully you’d agree that it’s thrown around far too nonchalantly, and that any word that applies to both Wes Clark and Pol Pot might be a shade over-broad.

(2) No, actually the burden of proof is on the GENOCIDAL DICTATOR.

(3) Right. Because Wes Clark is an agent of Sauron. Why on earth would he do that? Actually, don’t answer that question.

(4) Sorry. It’s not among your accusations at Clark, though.

(5) I’m just trying to think through some broader issues about the purpose and ethics of ‘war crimes’ as an entity. That wasn’t a debating point, and I freely recognize that I could be horribly, horribly wrong.


praktike 01.08.04 at 6:11 pm

does anyone really give a sh*t what kind of salad dressing Wes Clark likes?


Keith M Ellis 01.08.04 at 6:12 pm

Yeah, Anthony, but I liked your insights. I’ve thought that perhaps, post-war, a war’s civilian leaders should be selected by lottery for execution in the same ratio as the combatants’ and targeted civilians’ death rate. Or something. I believe war can be necessary, but I find it very irksome that the people who decide such things are seldom personally at risk.

Yeah, I’m thinking of you, George “Bring ‘Em On” Bush.


Kevin K. 01.08.04 at 6:57 pm

Regarding the salad dressing question controversy, I wrote a clarification on Clark’s site.


Andrew Edwards 01.08.04 at 6:57 pm

You’d be amazed how many people call me ‘Anthony Edwards’.

Made worse because I’m tall and white and wear glasses.


Jim Miller 01.08.04 at 9:48 pm

Just remember folks, to avoid confusion, don’t write international law, write either “international law” or, even better, international “law”, since the international kind is so far from real law that you will confuse yourself otherwise.

A few moments of thought should reveal the differences to you, if you have not considered the question before.

Killing large numbers of people is a serious matter; breaking an international “law” is not.


Tom 01.08.04 at 10:20 pm

“(2) “A big army with proven genocidal tendencies is threatening a mostly unarmed minority. What would you have done?”

I don’t know if we should go into all the details of the Rambouillet meetings, but there is quite some evidence to believe that a diplomatic solution was possible. Here’s a good article on the subject from Fair.”

That was why they expelled 100,000 Kosovars over the borber (, and ‘Cos Robert Holbrooke gave them a strong talking to during the negotiations? Wise yourself up, for chrissakes. The Serbs planned for the talks to fail, and the expel the Albanian Kosovars. Otherwise, why would they have moved in seven times the number of troops allowed under the October ceasefire during the Rambouillet talks (

An alternate account of the talks is given here:

Note that the Albanian Kosovars signed: the Serbians did not.

Sorry, mokoto, but the Kosovo intervention was a humanitarian action.

More info, from distinctly more reliable sources than mokoto uses, at


Tom 01.08.04 at 10:22 pm

You can also see the wide support the intervention had at the UN here:

Note the author is the Nation’s UN correspondent.


Motoko Kusanagi 01.09.04 at 9:39 am

That was why they expelled 100,000 Kosovars over the borber

How dishonest can you get? The ethnic cleansing took place after international monitors had been withdrawn and the bombing started. It was an effect of the Nato escalation of the conflict, not a cause.

Note that the Albanian Kosovars signed: the Serbians did not.

Very dishonest, again. When the bombing started there were two proposals on the table in Rambouillet. The “Rambouillet accord”, which was the proposal by Nato and the Alabanian nationalists, and a Serb “Revised Draft Agreement” formulated by the Serb national assembly.

The Rambouillet accord was presented to the Serbs as an ultimatum, with an appendix added, in which Nato demanded among other things “free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters”.

The Serbs rejected, the bombing started. And in the later negotiations, which led to the end of the war, Nato abandoned those last minutes appendices from the “Rambouillet accord”! Now tell me, were they really looking for a diplomatic solution?

More info, from distinctly more reliable sources than mokoto uses…

That´s a silly tactic. “My sources are more reliable than yours!”

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