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UPDATE: Wesley Clark dropped out of the race on February 11, 2004.

Name: Wesley Clark
Birth date: December 23, 1944
Education: Bachelor's degree, U.S. Military Academy, 1966; master's degree, Oxford University, 1968
Military Service: Army, 1962-2000, including post as company commander with 1st Infantry Division; commander in chief of U.S. Southern Command; commander in chief of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander
Career: Investment banker, 2000-2003; CNN military analyst, 2001-2003
Family: Wife, Gertrude; one son
Quote: "One of the principles that we operate on in this country is that leaders are held accountable. The simple truth is that we went into Iraq on the basis of some intuition, some fear, and some exaggerated rhetoric and some very, very scanty evidence."
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Ex-general ends bid for nation's top office

(CNN) -- A lifelong soldier, retired four-star Gen. Wesley Clark crossed over to the political battleground with his decision to seek the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

The race marked Clark's first attempt at elected office. But his political bid ended prematurely -- February 11, 2004, five months after it began -- when Clark ended his candidacy for the nation's top job.

Former supreme allied commander of NATO, Clark had hoped to become the first U.S. general to become president since Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to the White House in 1952.

Clark had more recent history on his side, as well -- a common background with former President Bill Clinton. Clinton has known Clark for 40 years, both men attended Oxford University as Rhodes Scholars and both are Arkansas natives.

Clark grew up in the state capital of Little Rock, attending high school there before moving onto the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

As a young soldier, Clark excelled at West Point, graduating first in his class in 1966. His academic excellence earned him a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, given annually to a small number of the nation's top students, and he earned a master's in philosophy, politics and economics at the British university.

After Oxford, Clark went to Vietnam, where he served as a company commander with the 1st Infantry Division. He earned several decorations, including a Silver Star that was awarded after he was shot in the right shoulder, right hand, right hip and right leg during a February 1970 battle.

While many of his colleagues left the armed services after the war, Clark stayed on and rose up the military ranks.

A graduate of the National War College and, later, an assistant professor at West Point, he trained officers and soldiers in the 1970s and 1980s. He also worked as a White House fellow and a special assistant to the Office of Management and Budget.

During the Persian Gulf War, Clark was the commanding general of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. From 1992 to 1994, he commanded the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, and conducted three emergency deployments to Kuwait.

He served as the senior U.S. military member of the team that put together the 1995 Dayton, Ohio, peace accord, giving him an inside look at the tumultuous Balkans region.

From 1996 to 1997, Clark headed U.S. Southern Command in Panama, where he oversaw U.S. security policy in Latin America.

In July 1997, Clinton appointed his fellow Arkansan as the commander in chief of the U.S. European Command, and Clark became NATO's supreme allied commander, where he again was immersed in the ongoing conflict in the Balkans.

He led NATO's successful 11-week air campaign against Yugoslavia, which was aimed at halting the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Clark pushed for a more aggressive assault and reportedly urged the Pentagon to allow him to plan a ground invasion of Kosovo if the airstrikes failed.

His stewardship prompted differences with officials in Washington and some European capitals. Pentagon sources told CNN that Clark's bosses at that time -- Defense Secretary William Cohen and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton -- were often frustrated by what they believed was Clark's penchant for going around them to deal directly with the National Security Council or State Department to thwart orders he didn't agree with

Those differences led Cohen to end Clark's NATO command three months early, replacing him in spring 2000. Cohen later acknowledged there was "friction" between him and Clark.

Clark shrugged off the criticism in an September 17, 2003, interview with CNN.

"I think what you have to understand about the armed forces, it is a -- it's a competitive bureaucracy. People enter it at the bottom and they come out at the top. There's a lot of gossip. There are some sharp elbows in there."

Clark returned to his Little Rock home and entering the private sector for the first time since high school. He joined Stephens Inc., an Arkansas-based investment bank, first as a consultant and later as a managing director. Clark also wrote a book, "Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo and the Future of Combat," and maintained a public profile as a CNN military analyst and a public speaker.

Behind the scenes, he began probing the possibility of a presidential run. Time magazine reported that Clark met in November 2002 with several top Democratic donors and fund-raisers -- months before the ex-general even declared his party affiliation.

Clark crisscrossed the country and appeared often on television in the subsequent months, voicing his opposition to President Bush's decision to attack Iraq and his views on both international policy and protecting the U.S. mainland while generally avoiding specifics on domestic issues.

"I've got ideas on national security and strategy," said Clark, pointing out he's a "military person" in a September 12, 2003, interview with CNN.

During the campaign, Clark slowly rolled out detailed economic policies, health care plans and other initiatives tied to domestic issues.

But the military veteran still got a hefty share of backing from those voters most concerned about national security and the Iraq war, but not enough support to sustain his presidential run.

After skipping the Iowa caucuses, Clark finished third in New Hampshire's primary and won one of seven states -- Oklahoma -- in contention February 3, falling further and further behind Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Clark ended his presidential run a day after placing a disappointing third in the February 10 Virginia and Tennessee primaries.

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