On 'Scarborough Country' Monday, MSNBC host Joe Scaborough spoke with Ret. Gen. Tommy Franks on the Fighting in Fallujah. Franks detailed incredible behind-the-scenes accounts of the war on terror in his book “American Soldier.”
Scarborough also asked Franks about the recent election results (Franks supported Pres. Bush's re-election bid), as well as the rumors that the retired general might be up for a new national intelligence director post.
God on the battlefield
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: There were reports over the weekend that the troops preparing to liberate Fallujah spent a great deal of time praying, reading the Bible and singing religious songs together.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS (RET.): I have told a lot of people I never met an atheist on a battlefield.
You know, young men and women who are about to enter battle sit there and they think about things. They think about their families. They think about their buddies. They think about their faith. And it is a very, very interesting thing, but I would not expect that we will have very many of our young people engage in this battle to include Fallujah that, as we are seeing right now, who are not going to their God in a very introspective way.
National intelligence director?
SCARBOROUGH: Now, speaking of “The New York Times,” your name was brought up for the post of national intelligence director.
William Safire wrote this: “In the war on terror, a new job will be created atop the intelligence world during the lame-duck session. National intelligence director, here's mentioning the shockingly awesome retired General Tommy Franks.”
General, I just wanted to ask, have you been contacted by the White House and would you consider accepting the position of national intelligence director?
FRANKS: Joe, I have not been contacted by the White House. And I really don't think there's a place for an old retired guy like me.
I said jokingly to my wife the other day, we were talking about things like this and I said, “Well, you know, honey, I gave at the office. So, I don't think there's a political future for us.” But I'm honored by what Safire said. One of my friends mentioned that to me earlier. I think it is kind of cute.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, right now, I know a lot of people would really want you to get back involved in public service. You certainly have already given at the office.
On Operation Phantom Fury
SCARBOROUGH: The eyes of the world tonight are on Fallujah. American troops are sure to suffer casualties taking on this terrorist stronghold.
I want to ask you a tough question, General. Did our leaders make a terrible mistake retreating from Fallujah this past spring and turning it over essentially to the terrorists and the former Baathist thugs that ran Saddam Hussein's dictatorship?
FRANKS: I don't think so, Joe. It reminds me of the old radio show. There are a lot of stories in the big city. I think there have been a lot of stories in Iraq.
I think, if you think back to a time in April when we were engaged with our Marines in Fallujah before, there was a dynamic in Iraq that had not yet taken place, and that is Prime Minister Allawi having been named. Back at that time, we were dealing with a group of 25 people who were trying to sort of fathom the future of Iraq and who should go where and what should the military work be in that country.
And so there was enough uncertainty at that time that I actually believed then and I believe today that a wise decision was to cordon that city of Fallujah, pay attention to it, to let our intelligence people work, and I believe, as we see the story of Fallujah unfold today, we will see the fruits of our labors as we did that. The intelligence will, if not be perfect, it will be better.
The specific objectives, the tactical objectives of those troopers on the ground, to include the Iraqis, as they go into Fallujah will be much more sound than our objectives would have been last April. And so, I thought it was the correct approach then and I believe we will see the results of that approach as we watch Fallujah unfold now.
SCARBOROUGH: So, how ugly do you think it is going to be for our troops as they go into Fallujah and how well armed are our enemies tonight?
FRANKS: I think our enemies tonight are well armed. I think we will see improved explosives in there. I think we will see lots and lots of light machine gun-type weapons. I think we'll rocket-propelled grenades. I think we will see some suicide bombers. But I also suspect that our commanders on the ground, John Abizaid, George Casey, and all those young men and women who are going to be doing the hard work, are pretty thoughtful people.
And I suspect there will be a surprise or two headed in the direction of the terrorists as all this unfolds.
On supporting President Bush for re-election
SCARBOROUGH: You came out front during the presidential campaign and supported George Bush. You said that fighting in Iraq was like a multiple choice test.
FRANKS: That's right.
SCARBOROUGH: And this is something that you also brought up. You either fight the war in terror over there or you fight the war in terror in the streets of America. Do you think in the end that your logic is ultimately what sold American voters on the president's Iraq policy, that they would rather fight the war on terror over there than fight it in the streets of America?
FRANKS: Joe, I think that's part of it. I think the thing that caused more than anything else the vote to go the way it went was respect for the leadership that they see in George W. Bush. A lot of people have asked me over the last, oh, four or five months, why did you become visible in supporting George Bush? And I said, it is all about leadership.
It is about taking a decision and staying with that decision, being able to look American families directly in the eye and say this is not easy. It will not be easy. We entered a new era in our country on 11 September, 2001, and at every step along the way, we have seen George W. Bush willing to take the fight wherever the fight needed to be taken.
It isn't that I think Americans wouldn't rather not be involved in a war. All of us who have sons and daughters and grandkids involved in this thing would rather have them right here at home. There is no question about that. But we have a long history in this country of doing what we need to do in order to guarantee the future for those who follow us.
I believe this is an example of that. I think the thing that swung the vote in this country, at the end of the day, America looked into the eyes of the two candidates and said, where am I going to get the best leadership? They settled on George Bush.
How long in Iraq?
SCARBOROUGH: General, I remember back serving on the Armed Services Committee in 1995. Bill Clinton brought people up to Capitol Hill, told us that our troops were going to be Bosnia for one year. Of course, he was about 10 years off.
How long should Americans expect their troops to be fighting in Iraq and fighting the type of war that they are fighting right now?
FRANKS: Tough call, Joe. Time will tell. When we saw the cease-fire in Korea back in the mid-1950s, there would have been some pundits back then who said, “Well, all right, we now have this stabilized so we will see all the Americans come home.”
And you know as well as I do that, all these years later and 37,000 Americans still committed in South Korea represent, you know, a state of truth. That's what we see. I think what we should expect to see, rather than looking at total numbers of troops involved in Iraq or in Afghanistan, for that matter, is to see what the trend looks like. Let's see what the trends look like in six months.
What does the trend look like in a year, 18 months? I have told many people I suspect we will have Americans committed in one way or another in both Afghanistan and Iraq and potentially in other places for the foreseeable future. That doesn't mean that I think we will see 140,000 or 150,000 American troops committed in Iraq. I think we will see the numbers come down, but I don't think we should put a point on a calendar and say, by this point, we will have only this number of troops left, because I think there's too much certainty involved in the evolution of a society toward democracy, and that's what we have to stand behind in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
SCARBOROUGH: General Tommy Franks, author of “American Soldier,” thanks for being with us again tonight in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. It is a great honor, always.
FRANKS: Joe, my honor. Thanks a lot.