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Clark talks like candidate, bashes Bush

Ex-NATO commander: Iraq shouldn't be center of war on terror

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Wesley Clark, who once served as NATO commander and might have presidential aspirations, attacked the Bush administration Sunday for launching a war with Iraq on "false pretenses" and spreading the military too thin amid the global war on terrorism.

"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," Clark said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

Clark, who led the alliance during the 1999 Kosovo conflict, has been increasingly critical of the Iraq war. His criticism could be a prelude to an announcement that he will run for president.

Clark, a retired Army general, said more than half of the Army's deployable strength is committed to stabilizing Iraq, where American and allied soldiers face continuing attacks four months after Saddam Hussein's government collapsed.

"We've made America more engaged, more vulnerable, more committed [and] less able to respond," he said. "We've lost a tremendous amount of goodwill around the world by our actions and our continuing refusal to bring in international institutions."

He said that if Iraq "is the centerpiece of the war on terror, it shouldn't be."

A mostly U.S. and British force invaded Iraq in March after accusing Saddam of maintaining stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles. The coalition also accused Iraq of trying to obtain nuclear weapons. All allegations, if true, would be violations of U.N. resolutions.

So far, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. U.S. officials have said evidence found since the war began suggests that Iraq was still trying to produce them.

Clark has called on Congress to investigate allegations that the Bush administration overstated intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs.

The Bush administration has acknowledged that a 16-word passage should not have been included in the State of the Union Address as part of the pitch to wage war. The statement was based on British intelligence that could not be corroborated by the CIA and had been struck from a previous presidential address.

Bush has dismissed the criticism regarding the statement and other intelligence.

"It's just pure politics," Bush said earlier this month. "The American people know that we laid out the facts. We based the decision on sound intelligence. And they also know we've only been there 100 days."

Clark also lashed out at House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican.

Early in the Iraq war, Delay criticized what he called the corps of "blow-dried Napoleons" who appeared on television to analyze the progress of the coalition invasion. Clark was a CNN military analyst during the conflict but no longer works for the network.

"When our airmen were flying over Kosovo, Tom DeLay led House Republicans to vote not to support their activities -- when American troops were in combat," Clark said. "To me, that's a real indicator of a man who's motivated not by patriotism or support for the troops but by partisan political purposes."

Decision likely within weeks

Clark said Sunday that he will decide whether to run for president in two to three weeks.

"This is a very tough call for someone who hasn't been climbing the political ladder," Clark said. "I've been in public service my whole life, but it's been in the military. You're dealing with a new language, new groups, new issues, new ways of thinking about how to do this."

Clark has not declared his party affiliation, but said earlier this year that he had not considered challenging Bush as a Republican. Nine Democrats have entered the 2004 presidential race.

Supporters of a presidential draft campaign have broadcast television spots in New Hampshire, Iowa and Clark's home state of Arkansas to drum up support for a Clark bid. Clark said he has nothing to do with the effort, which he called "an authentic expression of political feeling," but would do nothing to discourage it.

Clark would have to scramble to raise money to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire, where primary elections will be held in January. Clark said money should not be an issue.

"The issue is the issues," he said. "What does America stand for? How do we want to behave in the world? What does it take to fulfill America's dreams at home?"

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