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Wes' Stand On Vieques Now Dems' Dilemma Al Sharpton Sounds Off
Wes' Stand On Vieques Now Dems' Dilemma
By DEBORAH ORIN and VINCENT MORRIS Post Correspondents
October 22, 2003
WASHINGTON - Wesley Clark was an ardent advocate of live-fire bombing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques - putting him at odds with virtually every Democrat in New York, The Post has learned.
It also puts Clark in conflict on the emotional issue with one of his most important backers in Congress - Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan).
Rangel said the revelation would not stop him from supporting Clark, but added, "I hope that when he's elected, over a drink I can give him hell over Vieques."
Clark jumped into the Vieques furor when he was NATO commander, contending that live-fire practice bombing on the island was vital for combat readiness of forces like those in the Kosovo war, which he commanded.
"I fully support every possible effort to continue the training at Vieques," Clark told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2000.
"To provide our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen with less than this optimum training in the future would be unconscionable, cause undue casualties and place our nation's vital interests at risk," he wrote in 1999.
During the Clinton administration, Clark opposed a four-month bombing moratorium, claiming that sailors and Marines "may not be fully combat ready" without Vieques' "realistic live-fire strike-warfare training."
Rangel was outspoken against the Vieques bombing runs - which President Bush halted under immense pressure from a wide variety of New Yorkers of both parties, including Gov. Pataki.
Rangel said: "I have to admit there's been very difficult issues I've raised with [Clark]. Some of his positions have been very Republican. I don't like that at all."
Democratic rival Al Sharpton said: "The issue for me . . . was not that we did not want our troops to be trained but we did not want the bombing causing environmental hazards and health defects."
Sharpton vowed to confront Clark at the Democratic debate on Sunday.
Clark's campaign yesterday didn't respond to requests for comment.
WESLEY CLARK: Favored live fire.
Al Sharpton Sounded Off On Everything From Statehood To Puerto Rico
HARDBALL For October 28, 2003, MSNBC
Chris Matthews, Norah O`Donnell, David Shuster, Howard Fineman, Frank Luntz
October 28, 2003
ANNOUNCER: Now, on HARDBALL with Chris Matthews,
MATTHEWS: Last night Al Sharpton sounded off on everything from statehood to Puerto Rico. Not statehood, independence.
MATTHEWS: Here at the "HARDBALL Debate" last night with the Reverend Al Sharpton. It was quite a night, I`ve got to tell you. I had an interesting debate with the Reverend about the whole question of Puerto Rico.
He was suggesting that the people of Puerto Rico would like to get independence, when it turns out that there`s never been an election in the history of island in which the people called for their independence. In fact, over and over again in the history of that island its commonwealth status has been reasserted over and over again by the voters. They like being associated with the United States. It`s good economics and it`s good politics.
Meanwhile a Harvard student asked Sharpton about Puerto Rico. Let`s hear this part now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Puerto Rico should be free, because I think that this country should represent freedom and self-determination for everybody.
MATTHEWS: Why do we keep voting to be part of America? They choose the commonwealth status every time, Reverend. Your facts are wrong.
SHARPTON: You asked me would we do it if they didn`t want it. The answer is yes.
MATTHEWS: You are saying we would keep them prisoner?
SHARPTON: We kept a Navy base there.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you the real question. The Puerto Rican people want to be independent from the United States?
SHARPTON: That`s another question?
MATTHEWS: What`s the answer?
SHARPTON: The answer is that there is a divided view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)