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General Tommy Franks

Marvin R. Shanken conducts an exclusive interview with America's top general in the war on terrorism.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Gen. Tommy Franks, Nov/Dec 03

(continued from page 5)

CA: Can't some of the more than 40 people who've been captured tell us, show us or give us the status of the programs and where they might have been? Or are they saying they don't exist?
Gen. Franks: We'll see what the recording from Dr. David Kay turns out to look like. You know, he's our man on the ground controlling the search that's going on right now. We'll see what his product looks like when Dr. Kay begins to talk about that. And we shouldn't decide yet what we think is going to be the result of his efforts over there.

Now, to the 40 or so of the 52 in custody. It's very interesting when people will say, "I had nothing to do with this. I never saw this. I never handled this particular sort of program." And you bet a whole lot of these people in this top 50 or so say, "Not me" or "It doesn't exist." But what is striking is the number of people every day, the number of Iraqis every day who say, "I heard" and "I was told" and "I have a friend who has an uncle who has…" and "If we go and look here." That kind of information is coming to our forces every day and it is not correct for us to believe that all Iraqis are saying, "No, there was no program. It never existed." Because that, sir, is not what a great many Iraqis are saying.

CA: Would it be fair to say that David Kay is being successful in his assignment, and that he has found things that haven't been reported yet?
Gen. Franks: His assignment, in the short form, might be: "Go find these weapons." Probably, more correctly, Dr. Kay is in the business of confirming or denying the existence of the program and of weapons. And I do not know over the last 30 days what he has put together.

CA: How about the 31st day? Going backwards.
Gen. Franks: If I go back to the time that I left the job, I was very satisfied with two things. The first thing was that our government had decided to place one man in charge of all this confirm or deny activity. The search. I was very pleased with that. I was very pleased with the formation of his team inside Iraq and with its relationship with military people who were going to go do the work. I don't have a comment about whether or not I was pleased with where they were at that state, because they were just getting going.

CA: Can we assume that because nothing has come out in the press that he's just holding on to information until he is satisfied with his efforts?
Gen. Franks: Absolutely. That would incline me to believe that the facts are being gathered in a way that will permit the exposure of those facts to be available to everybody in this country without permitting the leaking of microscopic pieces here and there in a way that's designed to influence. I think what Secretary Rumsfeld and what George Tenent are doing is gathering facts. And I'm satisfied with that process.

CA: We took a fair amount of time before we invaded Iraq, and Saddam Hussein had plenty of time to cooperate to have prevented the attack. That having been said, did we give up some large advantage in allowing him to do certain things to prepare himself for the war or did he just not believe that we'd ever do it, that the political landscape wouldn't allow it?
Gen. Franks: I don't know that he'd associate it with the political landscape as much as he might associate that view that we would not do anything to begin with because he thought that nothing would happen. I hope I live long enough to get far enough into the future to be able to sit on a vantage point and look back and have a full appreciation of the validity or the lack thereof of some of the things I believe.

But I believe that our forces achieved operational surprise in the military operations that started. I believe that the tactical configurations of Iraqi units at the time that our military operations started, did not represent the tactical configurations of armies which believed that a war was just about to begin. I believe that the coalition was successful in achieving surprise against the regime.

CA: The date of the invasion was what?
Gen. Franks: Nineteenth of March.

CA: When did you propose and/or receive instructions about which day was designated to launch the attack? How far in advance? And was that date ever changed before it actually happened?
Gen. Franks: The date was never changed. And I probably sensed rather than knew the date.

CA: How far in advance?
Gen. Franks: A week or two in advance.

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