Franks Adds Humor About His Career to Serious Speech About Global War on Terrorism
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
GROTON, Conn., Jul. 25, 2003 Army Gen. Tommy Franks said he wasn't surprised when Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay were killed in a pitched battle in Iraq. The general who led international coalitions in Afghanistan and Iraq even predicted the demise of the pair's father.
During a July 23 speech to more than 470 educators, administrators, parents and military personnel during the 5th annual Military Child Education Coalition conference at the Mystic Marriott Hotel here, Franks presaged that if Saddam is alive, informants will turn him in, just as they did his sons.
"I'll even put a timeline on it," said the 34-year veteran who is retiring on Aug. 1. "I suspect that within 60 days Saddam will be confirmed dead or he'll be in custody."
Franks noted that unlike Osama bin Laden, who is supported ideologically by millions of people in the Arab world, Hussein and his Baath Party leadership were hated because they tortured and killed their own people.
Franks, a member of the MCEC's national advisory board, said he's proud of the difference MCEC makes for military families, especially the children.
"When I think about 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq and all the trials and tribulations (and) issues our country and the free world faced, I think about those pictures my bride put up of our grandkids," he said, referring to pictures of his 6-year-old granddaughter and 3- year-old grandson that his wife, Cathy, showed on a large screen in the Marriott's ballroom during her introduction of him.
"We woke up in September a couple of years ago and recognized America's vulnerability, a little bit about American attitude, a little bit about respect for our flag, our country and our grandkids," Franks said.
"We're not ever going to be what we were," Franks emphasized. "The men and women in uniform are charting the course today for the next 200 years."
When asked why the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, his answer was, "The alternative is not good. Isolation in the 21st century is not a winner for this country."
The nation did what had to be done in Afghanistan, and there are still about 9,000 American service members there, Franks said. "They're going to be there for awhile," the general added.
"They're going to be subjected to heat and danger every day," he said. "We went to war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, and 75 days later, 26 million people were free in that country -- free to be what they want to be, free to make mistakes, and free to face 2,000 years of bad history.
"Afghanistan today is not a harbor for terrorism," Franks continued. "And the next attack on the Pentagon or the World Trade Center will not be planned in Afghanistan. American men and women in uniform did that for us (and) our grandkids."
The same thing happened in Iraq four months ago on March 19, he said. "The greatest threat this country faces and the greatest threat our grandkids and unseen and unknown generations in the future face is the potential link between terrorism and real bad weapons -- weapons of mass destruction -- chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons."
Franks said no one knows better than he that American sons and daughters are getting killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the alternative is not acceptable. He said the nation isn't going to sit back and let something that exists beyond its shores change the American way of life.
"We look back and know what was," he noted. "We look forward and we don't know, but we suspect, so we have an obligation to do what your military is doing right now.
"For that," Franks said, "I say thank you on a personal level because my grandkids are in a military family. The men and women in uniform, like their dad (Franks' son-in-law), will pay whatever price is necessary to pay to gain the objective of the global war on terrorism, which is the security of this country for the next couple of hundred years."
Calling the coalition against Iraq the largest ever built, Franks said that when he left command of Southern Command, 62 nations were represented at the headquarters in Tampa, Fla., "all pitching in."
"We have the most capable armed force in the world that's the good news," he said. "We have the most capable armed force in the world that's the bad news. If we're going to take care of what we need to do, we're going to be in a lead role for a long time."
Therefore, Franks said, since the nation knows that the men and women in uniform are going to be involved in the war on terrorism for a long time, "let's take care of their kids. Let's not leave one behind."
Turning his attention to MCEC, Franks praised the organization and the educators for their efforts in taking care of service members' children so the troops can concentrate on getting the mission done and not have to worry about how their children are doing in school.
The general's wife, Cathy, is co-chair of the MCEC Transition Counselors Institute and a trainer for the organization.
"Not only are all the military families like our daughter and son-in-law (an active duty Army major) and our grandkids blessed by what you do, but also people who wear the uniform are blessed also by what you do for their families," he told the audience.
Earlier in his speech, Franks kept the audience laughing with his special brand of humor, mostly about experiences in his life. One of his comical life encounters happened when he went to his hometown of Midland, Texas, to deliver a speech. He said his former high school principal walked up to him and said, "Damn! Four star general, huh?"
"I said, 'Yes sir, I remember you very well. Thank you very much for the compliment,'" Franks said.
"That wasn't exactly how I meant it," the principal retorted, according to Franks. "I didn't remember you being the brightest bulb in the socket."
Franks said he looked at the principal and said, "Ain't this a great country!"
Then, the outgoing internationally known combat commander relayed that thought to his pride in today's military. "Ain't this a great country, made more so by our men and women who serve so proudly in uniform."