http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/12/p...800&partner=GOOGLE&pagewanted=print&position= January 12, 2004 THE RETIRED GENERAL Tape Shows General Clark Linking Iraq and Al Qaeda By EDWARD WYATT ANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 11 â Less than a year before he entered the race for the Democratic nomination for president, Gen. Wesley K. Clark said that he believed there was a connection between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda. The statement by General Clark in October 2002 as he endorsed a New Hampshire candidate for Congress is a sign of how the general's position on Iraq seems to have changed over time, though he insists his position has been consistent. "Certainly there's a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda," he said in 2002. "It doesn't surprise me at all that they would be talking to Al Qaeda, that there would be some Al Qaeda there or that Saddam Hussein might even be, you know, discussing gee, I wonder since I don't have any scuds and since the Americans are coming at me, I wonder if I could take advantage of Al Qaeda? How would I do it? Is it worth the risk? What could they do for me?" At numerous campaign events in the past three months and in a book published last year, General Clark has asserted that there was no evidence linking Iraq and Al Qaeda. He has also accused the Bush administration of executing "a world-class bait-and-switch," by using the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as an excuse to invade Iraq. At a town hall meeting here on Jan. 4, for example, General Clark said, "There was no imminent threat from Iraq, nor was Iraq connected with Al Qaeda." "If Iraq had been there as the base of Al Qaeda to organize and train everybody, then maybe we could have justified the attack on Iraq," he added. In an interview, General Clark said his more recent remarks were not inconsistent with what he said in 2002. In those remarks, he said, he was trying to explain that based on his knowledge of how the intelligence community works, low-level contacts almost certainly existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda, But, he said, that does not mean that Iraq had anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. The 2002 comments, he said, were based in part on a letter to Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, from George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence, which said that the C.I.A. had credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction. The content of the letter was reported in a front-page article in The New York Times on Oct. 9, 2002, the day that General Clark made the comments at the New Hampshire endorsement. "I never thought there would be any evidence linking Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein," General Clark said. "Everything I had learned about Saddam Hussein told me that he would be the last person Al Qaeda would trust or that he would trust them." "All I was saying is that it would be naÃ¯ve to say that there weren't any contacts," he said. "But that's a far cry from saying there was any connection between the events of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein." In his most recent book, "Winning Modern Wars," (Public Affairs, 2003), General Clark states, "No evidence thus far suggests any link between Saddam Hussein and the terrorists of Al Qaeda." On Thursday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no concrete evidence of a link between the terrorist organization and Iraq. The general's 2002 comments appeared on a home video of the press conference in Nashua at which he endorsed Katrina Swett for New Hampshire's Second Congressional District. A copy of the videotape was made available by a rival presidential candidate's campaign. General Clark's appearance with Ms. Swett has come up before in the presidential race. He advised her at the time that if she were in Congress, she should vote for the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut used that statement to accuse General Clark of inconsistency on Iraq. General Clark subsequently said that at the time he did not understand exactly what was in the resolution and would have voted against it. Similarly, on the first day of his campaign, General Clark said that he probably would have voted for the resolution on Iraq. He later said he "bobbled" the question and has asserted that he made clear well before the start of the war his belief that Iraq was not an imminent danger to the United States and, therefore, that an attack was not justified at that time. General Clark had known Ms. Swett and her husband, Richard N. Swett, a former congressman and ambassador to Denmark, when they lived in Denmark and General Clark lived in Belgium as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. In an interview, Ms. Swett, who is a national co-chairwoman of Mr. Lieberman's campaign, said she recalled General Clark as "saying pretty unequivocally" that a link existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Within days of the endorsement, General Clark was reported to be considering a run for the Democratic nomination. He had come to New Hampshire as a guest of George Bruno, a former ambassador to Belize who is now a co-chairman of General Clark's campaign in that state.