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President Honors Three With Nation's Highest Civilian Award

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2004 – President Bush today bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor on three men who he said "have played pivotal roles in great events and whose efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty."

Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Ambassador L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer III and retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony.

Tenet served as director of central intelligence from 1997 until he resigned this summer. "Early in his tenure as DCI, George Tenet was one of the first to recognize and address the growing threat to America from radical terrorist networks," Bush said. "Immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, George was ready with a plan to strike back at al Qaeda and to topple the Taliban. CIA officers were on the ground in Afghanistan within days."

Bremer served as Iraq's civilian administrator between the war and the handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government. "When America and our coalition needed a seasoned diplomat and a manager to help the people of Iraq emerge from decades of oppression, I knew where to turn," Bush said.

"For 14 months Jerry Bremer worked day and night, in difficult, dangerous conditions, to stabilize the country, to help its people rebuild and to establish a political process that would lead to justice and liberty," the president said. "The job was demanding, requiring personal courage, calmness under fire and hundreds of decisions every day."

Bush noted that Bremer's leadership helped the Iraqi people meet every step on the road to democracy while he was in the country. "Every political benchmark that the Iraqis set for themselves and that Jerry helped them meet was achieved on time or ahead of schedule," the president said, "including the transfer of sovereignty that ended his tenure."

After presenting a brief summary of Franks' early life and military career, Bush said the general's greatest challenges and greatest service came when he commanded U.S. Central Command.

"Tommy Franks led the forces that fought and won two wars in the defense of the world's security, and helped liberate more than 50 million people from two of the worst tyrannies in the world," Bush said. "In Afghanistan, America and her allies, with a historically small force and a brilliant strategy, defeated the Taliban in just a few short weeks.

"The general likes to say that no plan ever survived the first contact with the enemy, but in Iraq Tommy Franks' plan did," the president continued. "A force half the size of the force that won the Gulf War defeated Saddam Hussein's regime and reached Baghdad in less than a month, the fastest, longest armored advance in the history of American warfare.

"Today the people of Iraq and Afghanistan are building a secure and permanent democratic future," Bush said. "One of the highest distinctions of history is to be called a liberator, and Tommy Franks will always carry that title."

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Related Sites:
Transcript of Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony, The White House, Dec. 14, 2004

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