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December 19, 2003 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

and peppering his talk with references
to the Torah. "Every federation would
call back and say, 'What a spectacular
speaker,''' Schnurmacher says.
Jewish family members say Clark is
always digging for more information
about his ancestors — though the infor-
mation hasn't altered his spiritual orien-
tation. "He's very warm, very family-
conscious," Salk says.
Clark invited all his Jewish cousins to
the recent wedding of his son, in Little
Rock. Another cousin, Barry Kanne,
has researched Clark's Jewish family tree
for him. The first time Kanne and
Clark met, around 1990, "we talked
about family," Kanne said.
Clark recently visited his father's grave
in Chicago. He also was close to his
stepfather, Victor Clark. "I was very
proud when I learned the story of my
father's family," Clark said. "I was
enthralled. I was very, very happy about
it. It was like a new world had opened
in front of me."
Each time he speaks to a Jewish audi-
ence, Clark mentions his father,
Benjamin Kanne, a corporate lawyer in
Chicago who once employed Richard
Daley, the future mayor. Kanne attend-
ed a Reform synagogue and was a mem-
ber of the Jewish Veterans of America.
"He had three loves other than his
family," Clark recently told the audience
at Temple Emeth, in Boca Raton. "He
loved politics, he loved pinochle and he
loved horses. He never made any

Catholic Conversion

Clark's talk of his Jewish background
somehow turned into why he converted
from Baptist to Catholic. At Oxford,
where he studied as a Rhodes scholar,
Clark met a Catholic priest who had
been an officer in the Cold Stream
Guards, an elite British army unit. "He
fought in World War II, he really knew
where things were," Clark said, "and so I
decided I would convert to Catholicism."
The congregation greeted the revela-
tion with stunned silence. The moment
was typical of Clark, who has the intel-
lectual's tendency to work thoroughly
through the topic of discussion. Since
he had started with his Jewish back-
ground, it seemed perfectly natural to
explain his Catholicism.
Similarly, a nuanced answer at the

launch of his campaign in September,
about how he would have voted on the
Iraq war, baffled many members of the
media and almost killed Clark's cam-
paign before it started.
Clark said he would not have joined
other Democrats in voting on the partic-
ular bill that sanctioned the war, but that
in theory he might have supported a war
bill as a means of pressuring Saddam.
Clark's refusal to reduce his message
to aphorisms is precisely what appeals to
many supporters. "He was a breath of
fresh air," said Esther Messinger after
the event in Boca Raton. "He combines
the intellectual background with mili-
tary experience."
Barbara Seaman, a feminist writer
who has raised funds for Clark in New
York, says he reminded her of Adlai
Stevenson, the Democrat who lost twice
to President Eisenhower. 'All the Jewish
women loved Adlai — he was charming,
witty and sophisticated," Seaman says.
Clark clearly relishes his reputation as
a warrior-intellectual even though, he
says, he was marked for hostile treat-
ment by others in the military the
moment he won his Rhodes scholarship
out of West Point, in 1968.
But even four-star generals have to
take orders, and Clark's tendency to
leapfrog the command structure some-
times got him into serious trouble. Most
notably, as NATO commander during
the Kosovo crisis in the late 1990s, he
allied himself with two civilians — U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
and the top U.S. envoy to the Balkans,
Richard Holbrooke — in advocating for
military intervention.
That relationship sidelined Clark's
direct superiors, including Defense
Secretary William Cohen who, despite a
successful mission in Kosovo, engi-
neered Clark's firing in 1999.
Clark says the day he learned he was
being fired was the worst in his life.
Clark acknowledges that he broke ranks
but says he had a higher duty as a sol-
dier, since the Pentagon's reluctance to
act against Yugoslav strongman
Slobodan Milosevic was immoral.
"When I watched Slobodan Milosevic
beginning a program of ethnic cleansing
in the Balkans again, I blew the whistle.
I said we have to stop it, and we are
going to stop it," Clark said.
Clark, who this week testified against

Milosevic at the Hague, said the ques-
tion of whether to intervene in Kosovo
reminded him of the U.S. failure to
help Jews in Hider's Europe. "It was a
sense of injustice and a recognition that
the United States had been wrong in
not having the courage to confront
Hitler," he said.
"We'd been wrong in turning our
backs on European Jews who needed
protection in this country. We turned
away a ship — we sent it away. Many
of those people ended up dead. It was
absolutely morally wrong.


"I was very proud
when I learned the
story of my father's

— Gen. Wesley Clark

Clark says he admires other soldiers who
break out of "following-orders" mode
and has singled out Israelis for mention.
He has expressed support for Lt. Gen.
Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's army chief of
staff; who recently angered Israel's prime
minister by saying the Jewish state is
hindering peace through its tough mili-
tary measures, and four former Israeli
spy bosses who have said Israel needs to
work harder to make peace.
"They've concluded that military
measures alone will not provide security
for Israel," Clark told the Council on
Foreign Relations last month. "I agree."
Like the other Democratic candi-
dates, Clark says Bush failed Israel when
he reduced the U.S. role in the Middle
East peace process during the first year
and a half of his presidency.
Based on his experience in Yugoslavia,
Clark envisions a multilateral approach
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying
that increased involvement by neighbor-
ing Arab states would give them a stake
in making the peace process a success.
He also sees NATO troops policing the
peace much further down the line.
Clark says he understands Israeli fears
about increased European and Russian
involvement and would make sure the
United States maintains its leading role.


"The United States has to be in the
lead. It's the United States' leadership
that's going to bring peace in the
Middle East," Clark said. "That's why I
fault this administration."
It's a message that could resonate
among Jews who appreciate Bush's soli-
darity with Israel, some Jewish
Democrats say. "I appreciate that
George W. Bush has supported Israel,
but going it alone has weakened Israel,"
said Ron Klein, the minority leader in
Florida's state Senate. "What support
for Bush you've seen in. the American
Jewish community is going to erode."
Clark's main Israel message is that the
Jewish state has a right to defend itself,
and he blames the Palestinians for initi-
ating the violence of the past three
years. "The Israeli government has a
duty to defend its people from the con-
stant onslaught of bombers who attack
innocent civilians on buses, in restau-
rants and on their way home from
prayer," he wrote in the Forward news-
paper last month. 'As a retired general,
I firmly believe that this is the least that
any society expects of its leadership."
His view on the security barrier that
Israel is building in the West Bank is
that the reason behind its construction
— the need to stop terrorists from
entering Israeli cities — outweighs con-
cerns that its route prejudges the bor-
ders of a future Palestinian state.
"The action of building a fence can
actually promote negotiations by creat-
ing" a "sense of urgency and a recogni-
tion among the Arab states that Israel
will survive," Clark said. "I would do it
through a negotiated settlement, but if
that's not possible, Israel's going to sur-
vive one way or another."
For the same reason, Clark has sup-
ported pre-emptive strikes against ter-
rorist leaders. Still, he balks at reports
that the United States has adopted
some Israeli tactics in dealing with Iraqi
insurgents, including blockading towns
and demolishing homes.
"Blowing up houses and things, I
think it's a mistake for the United
States," he said, pointing out that the
circumstances in Israel are different.
"For the United States to go into Iraq
and do that is a recipe for trouble down
the line," he said. "To take away some-
one's home, it's a permanent blot on
your ability to build a relationship." 11



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