Matt Drudge reports on an interview which will appear tomorrow in Parade Magazine with General Tommy Franks, who led the effort in Afghanistan and Iraq. Franks talked with Parade to promote his new book, American Soldier, and has a few surprises for readers:
* The biggest surprise for him was that they’ve found no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the “reason we went to war.” He says multiple Middle Eastern leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, told Franks that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In January 2003, Mubarak said point blank to Franks, “Saddam has WMD – biologicals, actually-and he will use them on your troops.”
* Franks singles out White House Counter-terrorism Czar Richard Clarke as never providing him with “a single page of actionable intelligence” and of engaging in mostly wishful thinking. Franks also believes the U.S. invested too much in electronic spy surveillance and not enough in spies. “We can’t send a Princeton-educated New York lawyer to infiltrate al-Qaeda. To get information, we have to marry the devil or at least employ him. You have to deal.”
Franks also thinks that the world is “far safer” with Saddam in custody and out of power, and he believes that the US should stick it out in Iraq for at least five years. It may not play well during a presidential election, but the Iraqis will not be able to provide effective security for quite some time to come, and we cannot afford to leave Iraq to return to chaos. Franks claims “disappointment” with the Iraqi response to the fall of the Ba’athists. He though Iraqis would seize the moment and rise to the occasion, taking it upon themselves to secure vital functions. Instead, they chose to loot and pillage in the aftermath of Saddam’s fall, and Franks understandably does not much trust them now.
The charge against Richard Clarke is intriguing, because it’s the second time in two weeks that the long-term counterterrorism apparatchik has come under fire for his job performance. The 9/11 Commission noted that Clarke blew the cover on an operation in the late 1990s that might have allowed the CIA to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, by warning the United Arab Emirates to get its diplomat out of the camp where Osama held court. Now Franks, who was in the best position to know, says that Clarke couldn’t come up with anything actionable, a damning statement of his effectiveness across two wars.
It’s certainly a much different portrait of Clarke than we got in March, especially from Viacom, the parent of CBS, when both were shilling his book shamelessly. I doubt they’ll be as interested in Franks at 60 Minutes, unless HarperCollins happens to be another Viacom subsidiary.