Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation's convention yesterday at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Retired general
backs war effort

The former leader of the Afghan
and Iraqi campaigns speaks
at an isle convention

Retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, one of the architects of the Afghanistan and Iraq war plans, says voters should remember Sept. 11, 2001 -- and the country's response to the terrorist attacks -- when they vote for president in November.

"I am not a politician, and I am not going to be (one). You ought to do whatever is the right thing to do, and whatever you decide should be informed by how you felt on the 12th of September, 2001," Franks told more than 6,000 delegates to the American Farm Bureau Federation's 85th annual convention yesterday at the Hawai'i Convention Center. "What were you willing to do as Americans?"

Franks, who commanded the U.S. Army Central Command until August and became well known as a top commander during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, said he is an independent.

However, the four-star general said he supports President Bush's efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"This next up-and-coming election year is going to be interesting, and you ought to do whatever you think is the right thing to do," said Franks, a Vietnam veteran.

Franks spoke for nearly 45 minutes without a prepared text or note cards. Wearing a wireless microphone, he shunned the podium and roamed across the stage sprinkling his speech with vignettes of his life and sparks of humor.

At one point, Franks jokingly referred to Florida, where he lives in retirement: "I'm an independent because if you are Republican or Democrat there, they don't count your vote."

He repeatedly referred to his audience of farmers and ranchers as "the backbone of America."

He drew applause and a standing ovation when he pointed to an American flag on stage and said, "Ain't this a great country?"

The retired general, whose career in the Army began in 1965, said he applauded the action Bush took after the attacks on the World Trade Center but added, "You're not going to get a political pitch from this old soldier."

Franks said he was on his way to Pakistan when he watched a commercial jet crash into the second tower of the World Trade Center on television. Immediately, Franks said, there were "no doubts in my mind" that Osama bin Laden and his militant al-Qaida followers were responsible since they had the "capacity, money and hate."

He said the people in both Afghanistan and Iraq are better off today than they were before the United States invaded.

When asked if the continuing loss of life in Iraq is worth the price, Franks said: "Of course, because the price we seek is a way of life. It's a way of life I grew up with, and it satisfies me greatly when people like Saddam Hussein has a really bad Christmas, which he just had."


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