Ever seen Bowling for Columbine, Gen. Clark?

The conventional wisdom debunked.
Jan. 21 2004 5:37 PM

Wesley & Me

Ever seen Bowling for Columbine, General?

Background check, anyone?
Background check, anyone?

Who's the political odd couple of the campaign season: Judy and Howie? John and Teresa? Try Wesley Clark and Michael Moore. The union between the Silver Star winner and the self-described peacenik was consummated last week on the stump in New Hampshire. Clark embraced Moore's support, calling the best-selling author a "fantastic leader." In the press release, Clark's campaign lauded—in the first line no less—the "Academy Award winning director," whom the general himself described as an "enormous talent." For his part, Moore promised to do everything he could to help get Clark elected.

Moore hasn't always been so taken with Clark, at least if his Oscar-winning film Bowling for Columbine is to be taken at face value. Indeed, the documentary repeatedly slams the shining moment in Clark's career: stopping Serb aggression in Kosovo, the highlight of his tenure as NATO supreme allied commander. In fact, Moore suggests that the bombing tactics employed by NATO—and thus Clark—were in part to blame for the massacre at Columbine.

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An intriguing theory, to say the least. Moore starts the case against Clark in the opening monologue of the film. "It was the morning of April 20th, 1999," our narrator intones. "And it was pretty much like any other morning in America. The farmer did his chores. The milkman made his deliveries. The president bombed another country whose name we couldn't pronounce."

Actually, as any Clark supporter will tell you, the general can pronounce "former Yugoslavia" quite well. It's no secret Clark's role in the conflict is one his campaign stresses. On Clark's official Web site, author David Halberstam is quoted on Kosovo: "On the military side, the dominant figure had been Wes Clark."

Back in America, Moore finishes off the narration: "And out in Littleton, Colorado, two boys went bowling at 6 in the morning."

Thirty minutes later, Moore trots out exhibit B. For this, the director turns to primary-source documents: news footage from April 20, 1999. A montage begins: We see TV clips of helicopters, bomb targeting systems, and structural damage. "Largest one day bombing by U.S. in Kosovo War," reads the subtitle.

Cue voice of heavily accented reporter: "22 NATO missiles fell on the village of [inaudible name] ... deadly cargo was dropped on the residential part of the village."

Cut to Bill Clinton: "We're striking hard at Serbia's machinery of repression while making a deliberate effort to minimize harm to innocent people."

Cue reporter's voice, more carnage: "On the hit list were [a] local hospital and primary school."

Another subtitle reads: "One hour later."