SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, September 11, 2003

SCARBOROUGH: General, you, of course, sir, have served this country proudly in times of war, in times of peace. I know you were listening to General Al Haig’s words earlier about the importance of everybody lining up and supporting the president in a time of war. Do you take issue with anything he said?

CLARK: Well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dissent. In fact, I think it’s important in time of war. It’s one of the things I fought for during the Vietnam War.

I fought for my people who were in uniform over there searching their country. But I also fought for the right of people to take to the streets and protest that war, because I don’t think you can stop democracy because the country is under challenge. When the country is under challenge, I think you need democracy. You need to hold on to your fundamental values even more strongly.

If you take the position that General Haig gave-and I have the greatest respect and admiration for General Haig-he was my boss. And I learned a tremendous amount from him. And I think he has been a fantastic leader and made a great contribution, and still making it to this country.

But that having been said, I just couldn’t accept the idea that, if you have a different idea, you can’t express it publicly, because that leaves all of the authority and all of the challenge within the administration. Does it mean there shouldn’t be an election when there’s a war? And if it’s a war of indefinite duration, should we give up our democracy?

Look, we did this during 2002 in the election. We went into and supported a congressional resolution to go into Iraq. I was one of the skeptics. I doubted. I couldn’t quite see the evidence that compelled it. But, OK, we all went along with it. It turns out that there wasn’t an imminent threat. At least, no evidence has been produced to suggest that. It turns out that the operation was not planned effectively. It turns out that dissent, questioning, open challenge, would have produced a stronger, more effective operation, might have saved lives, would have certainly saved our fortune, and would have helped this country to be successful.

And so I think the dissent and criticism can have a very constructive purpose. And, indeed, it’s essential in a democracy to do that.