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Clark Restates Stance on War in Iraq

September 20, 2003|From Reuters

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark said Friday that he would never have voted for war in Iraq -- 24 hours after he told reporters he probably would have supported the congressional resolution authorizing the United States to invade.

The retired four-star Army general and former NATO commander, who entered the 2004 White House race this week with no experience in elected politics, said his comments had been taken out of context. They were at odds with his public opposition to the war and caught some of his supporters off guard.

"I would have never voted for war," Clark said before delivering a foreign policy speech at the University of Iowa. "I'm a soldier. I understand what war's about, but I would have voted for the right kind of leverage for the president to head off war and avoid it."

In his first appearance in Iowa, where his rivals have been campaigning for months, Clark climbed on a chair to tell supporters at the Hamburg Inn that he had been eager to get to the state, which will hold its caucuses Jan. 19.

"The American people want informed, thoughtful, smart, compassionate, strategic leadership," Clark said. "That's what I learned to do in the United States Army."

More than 1,000 people attended Clark's speech, scheduled before he entered the race.

Clark, who headed the 1999 bombing campaign in Kosovo, reiterated his opposition to the way President Bush went to war in Iraq and called the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein a distraction in the battle against terrorism.

"Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, Egypt -- those are the central fronts in the war on terror," he said.

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