Retired four-star general Wesley Clark was the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000. Following his illustrious military career, he became a prominent Democrat, running for president in 2004 and supporting other Democrats financially and with endorsements since then. He was critical of the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks, saying, “You’d be taking them to the Better Business Bureau if you bought a washing machine the way we went into the war in Iraq.”
But this past week, Clark showed a side of himself not seen before. On an MSNBC interview, he called for placing “radicalized” Muslims in what sound like internment camps, both here in the United States and also in our allies’ countries.
In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, well we didn’t say ‘that was freedom of speech,’ we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.
If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they’re disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine, that’s their right. It’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict and I think that we’re going to have to increasingly get tough on this. Not only in the United States but our allied nations like Britain and Germany and France are going to have to look at their domestic law procedures.
Possibly the most disturbing part of his comments is that he suggests that people be put in these camps, even if they have yet to do anything:
We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized. We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning. There are always a certain number of young people who are alienated. They don’t get a job, they lost a girlfriend, their family doesn’t feel happy here. And we can watch the signs of that and there are members of the community who will reach out to those people and bring them back in and encourage them to look at their blessings here. But, I do think on a national policy level we need to look at what self-radicalization means because we are at war with this group of terrorists. They do have an ideology.
It’s an astonishing “Minority Report”-style approach to dealing with domestic terrorism where you are guilty (and apprehended) before you’ve committee the crime. And a call to return to the shameful legacy of internment camps like those we imprisoned Japanese Americans in during World War II is, simply put, beyond the pale. It’s worth noting that we are not officially “at war” right now so there is no “conflict” where we’ll one day say, “it’s over.”
Clark took to Twitter to defend himself, calling the characterization of his remarks “Blogogsteria”:
— Wes Clark (@GeneralClark) July 20, 2015
Never said “muslim”, “internment” or called for new camps. Blogosteria. See: http://t.co/OS7bVzhq7L
— Wes Clark (@GeneralClark) July 20, 2015
He didn’t mention Muslims but what else could he have meant when referring to “ISIS” since there are precious few non-Muslim supporters of ISIS? And HE was the one who mentioned WWII internment camps in his original statement, not the hysterical people in the blogosphere.
Clark also defended his statement on Fox News Radio’s The Alan Colmes Show saying that what he meant wasn’t internment camps but “prisoner of war” camps:
I’m saying we’ve got to deal with radicalization in our society… You’ve got to have a counter-recruitment program. If the counter-recruitment program doesn’t work — that is to say: if you don’t know who is looking at these Islamic websites, if you don’t know what their reactions are, if you don’t have anybody who can talk them out of it, if they persist in becoming enemies, and wanting to kill people — you’ve got to set up some milestones along that journey for them. And at some point they either get arrested, get treated as terrorists, or they get put in a prisoner of war camp. It’s nothing like what some people on the internet misinterpreted what I’m saying. We had Italian and German prisoners of war in the United States; here are people who fought against us, they were brought here and kept here for the duration of the conflict. You can treat people as criminals or you can treat people as POWs.
Again, without a war in progress, it’s difficult to see his “logic”. And, as he describes it, what he proposes sounds a lot more like “reeducation camps” like those used by repressive communist regimes.
As someone who admired Wesley Clark and thought he would have made a good president, I’m disgusted by his comments. The lack of repudiation of his hideous remarks by other Democrats is also very disturbing, particularly given his close ties to the Clintons.