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Hannity

Gen. Wesley Clark on Revelations That Al Qaeda Ordered Strikes Against U.S. in 2005

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 23, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since 9/11, Al Qaeda and its allies have succeeded in carrying out horrific attacks across the world. Al Qaeda leaders have repeatedly made clear they intend to strike our country again.

January of last year, Usama bin Laden warned the American people, quote, "Operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished," end quote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARK STEYN, GUEST CO-HOST: That was President Bush today at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremony. The president talked about the declassified intelligence information that links Iraq and Al Qaeda and the ongoing threat we're facing from terrorists. Joining us now is the former NATO supreme commander, Wesley Clark.

General Clark, before we talk about the president's speech, this is obviously bad news about the death in Iraq. Do you think this speaks — just doesn't raise many optimistic hopes for the other men kidnapped?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Well, I think it's a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to the family of this man and to the families of the other soldiers. I hope we can get the other two back. I hope they're alive. I just don't know. We have to just trust our leaders over there to do the best they can to get them back.

STEYN: And I agree. Our thoughts are obviously with the Anzack family tonight. That brings us to the speech that the president gave at the Coast Guard Academy. Basically, whatever the arguments now, whether we should have gone to war in the first place and whether Iraq had anything to do with Al Qaeda, the fact is Al Qaeda is there now. So since that argument is moot, surely the president has a point there.

CLARK: Well, I'm not sure if the argument's actually moot or not. Yes, Al Qaeda is there. But most of the statistics that I've seen, the military intelligence says that Al Qaeda is less than 5 percent of the insurgent force.

We're actually in the middle of a civil war. And by being there in the middle of a civil war, what we're doing is, the pictures of the American soldiers in combat incite sympathizers of Al Qaeda. We're actually super-charging their recruiting efforts.

And if you were going to look for a center on the war on terror, I'd look at Pakistan. I’d look at maybe the resurgence of the Taliban. I might look at Britain. Britain has the greatest number, apparently, of disinfecting young Muslims who are looking for connections with Pakistan and seeking for ways to get into the fight.

So it's not clear to me that 170,000 Americans in Iraq is the best way to take the fight to Al Qaeda. I think it's probably the worst way.

STEYN: If you're promoting a U.S. invasion of Britain, I'd be on board with that. But you use this phrase “super-charging.” I mean, wouldn't it be true to say that losing in Iraq for the super power, for the great Satan to be defeated in Iraq, wouldn't that super-charge Al Qaeda's morale and the jihad's morale, including all those jihadists and want-to-be jihadists in Britain? Wouldn't that super-charge them more than anything?

CLARK: Well, I think you have to be very careful how you characterize what's going on in Iraq. For example, if the president of the United States characterizes what's going on in Iraq as the war between the United States and Al Qaeda, it's just being fought out in Iraq. And then we listen to the American people and we do pull our troops out gradually. There's no doubt Al Qaeda will then take advantage of it and claim they drove us out of Iraq and they're the great victors.

So, in a way, we're creating our own defeat by the pronouncements of our public officials. What we really need to be doing is helping the Iraqi government stand up its capabilities to take care of its own people, broker the political compromises that are needed on the ground, and deal with Iraq's neighbors, who have an interest and an involvement in some of that civil conflict right now.

ALAN COLMES CO-HOST: General Clark, it's Alan Colmes. Welcome back to our show.

CLARK: Thank you.

COLMES: President talking at the Coast Guard Academy today. And then, in synch with that, having this declassified intelligence. Is this a case of the president declassifying intelligence for political gain?

CLARK: Every administration does that, Alan, as you know. But this is not a new argument for this administration. This administration and this president have been saying from 2004 on that somehow that Iraq was the center of the war on terror. And it simply isn't true. It wasn't before we invaded. And we have provided our soldiers there as a good target for the terrorists to come after.

COLMES: He's also talking today about how important bin Laden is. But here's what President Bush said in 2002. Let's take a look. Well, apparently, we don't have that. Do we have that? We don't have that. Apparently, he said, "I don't think about him. He's not that important. You know, I barely focus upon him." That's what he said in 2002.

CLARK: You're not going to accuse the president of flip-flopping, are you, Alan?

COLMES: You heard that he said that back then.

CLARK: I heard him say in 2001, “Wanted dead or alive. “

COLMES: Right. Did we take our eye — did he take his eye off the proper target here?

CLARK: Well, I think all along the president's had a problem with the invasion of Iraq. It didn't go the way he expected it to go. It was an unjustified action. It wasn't necessary. It was an elective war. And he's been grasping at straws ever since.

Al Qaeda is a threat. Make no doubt about it. And there are people out there who want to harm the United States. I'm one of those who believe you must fight them most effectively. And that is through the governments in Pakistan and our allies in Western Europe, where there are Al Qaeda sympathizers. And you go after them.

COLMES: Michael Scheuer says that the next attack is likely to come from Pakistan, the former head of the bin Laden unit. That's where — or Afghanistan. Not Iraq. You agree with that?

CLARK: I think you've got to fight them first by cutting off their recruiting, and that means not inciting more recruits. Then you've got to use police and law enforcement.

And last, only as a last resort: military force, because military force has a counter-productive aspect of it. It's very visible. And it brings in more sympathizers and recruits, or in some ways it's counter- productive.

COLMES: General Clark, we make you very much for being on the show.

CLARK: Absolutely.

COLMES: Good to see you once again.

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