Jan. 12 (JTA) The values of patriotism, faith, family and inclusion shape my thinking and my agenda for America, but I define them differently than the politicians and ideologues most often associated with these terms. Patriotism means living up to the image of America that inspires people all over the world to seek a new life on our shores. A Clark administration will strengthen America’s alliances abroad, promote the national interest through the power of persuasion and use force only as a last resort. Nowhere is American leadership more crucial than in the Middle East. It’s been more than three years since Yasser Arafat rejected a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In those three years, almost 1,000 innocent Israelis have been killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. And, as a result of the actions Israel has taken to defend itself, the suffering of the Palestinian people has increased. Now, without a credible negotiating partner, the Israeli government has decided that it has no option but to build a security fence. This barrier is a logical extension of Israel’s right to self-defense, but it is neither a long-term solution nor a sustainable substitute for peace. As president, I will send a high-level negotiating team to the region and task them with helping the parties renew and complete the peace process. When Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and I began our effort in 1995 to settle the conflict between Serbs, Bosnians and Croats, the task seemed impossible. But that year, I learned firsthand what concerted American diplomatic efforts backed by strong presidential support can achieve. As with the Bosnian peace effort, I will invest my energy and attention in working toward Middle East peace. America will be an honest broker and show the necessary leadership. In working toward peace, I will never lose sight of Israel’s security interests because I believe that honoring America’s commitments is part of what it means to be patriotic. Patriotism also demands the ardent support of American values around the world wherever they are challenged. The pervasiveness of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. So, too, must anti-Semitic crimes against Jewish institutions in Europe. When synagogues are bombed in Istanbul and set aflame in France, the United States must ask tough questions about the extent of anti-Semitism in Europe and work together with our allies to combat it. As president, I pledge to do so. Reverence for the separation of church and state is also central to American patriotism. Freedom of religion is a founding principle of our nation that has been attracting people to our shores for centuries. That’s why I believe that federally supported programs should be free from entanglement with religion. Faith-based social programs do excellent work, providing much-needed social services around the country. But the Bush administration crossed the line with its activist stance on faith-based initiatives, which have the potential to use federal funds to encourage religion. As president, I plan to keep the business of government separate from matters of faith. That is one of the reasons why I oppose school vouchers. Like both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, I grew up in the South, and faith was central to my daily life. It remains so today. My faith leads me to believe that the United States should use its potential for good in the world to prevent genocide, fight the spread of AIDS and ease the epidemic of hunger. As for family values, I believe in putting families first. That’s why I’ll implement a progressive tax reform that simplifies the tax code, relieves the financial strain on working families and reduces poverty. You cannot properly care for a family if you do not have a job or if you are constantly worried about losing your health-care coverage. A Clark administration will invest in jobs and increase access to affordable health care. My health-care plan will extend coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans including every single American child. We have a choice. We can keep losing jobs, mortgaging our children’s future, alienating our friends and neglecting our allies. Or we can change course. I will bring a higher standard of leadership back to Washington. The values that I am running on are American values; they are also Jewish values. I believe we can build an even better America and a more secure world. That’s why I am running for president. Retired four-star Gen. Wesley Clark was the supreme allied commander of NATO.
Wesley Clark’s statement