Franks: "I would say this: I believe that any nation that wants to control its borders can do so. [Somebody needs to tell that to George W. Bush]
Transcript: Gen. Tommy Franks, Commander -- Central Command
Monday, April 14, 2003
Following is a transcribed excerpt from FOX News Sunday, April 13, 2003.
TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: General, we know six or seven American servicemen today have been found in Samarra, which is a town between Baghdad and Tikrit.
GENERAL TOMMY FRANKS, COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMAND: Right.
SNOW: Is it your fear that they were being housed there as human shields?
FRANKS: As a matter of fact, I don't have the full content of the, you know, the way they were picked up, but what I'm told is that someone came up to our Marines, who were moving along the road headed toward Tikrit, and said, "Here shortly, you're going to come in contact with a number of Americans, and just so you know, they're there." And so the tip came from an Iraqi.
And so, I believe that our guys picked them up on the road.
SNOW: All right. And they are in good condition?
FRANKS: That's to the best of my understanding, yes.
SNOW: Up and walking?
SNOW: And how soon can one expect to see them?
FRANKS: Well, I don't know, but you can bet that about as soon as I walk off of this -- walk off this little soundstage here, I'm going to go see what kind of details I can get from them.
SNOW: Are you getting this sort of intelligence now on the ground from Iraqis?
SNOW: They're leading you to Americans?
FRANKS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SNOW: They're leading you to former regime members?
SNOW: They're leading you toward weapons of mass destruction?
SNOW: So, you think...
FRANKS: Now, the difficulty -- now, let me caveat it a little bit. The difficulty you have is that so many Iraqis, which we see on TV, thanks to you, waving, you know, waving flags and hugging and so forth, and these average Iraqis come up just in huge numbers and say, "Come here, we want to show you something, and let me tell you where something is."
And in many cases, they are pure, but they don't know themselves. And so we just established this huge (inaudible) list of places we want to go and things we want to look at. And yes, the Iraqis are helping very much in getting that done.
SNOW: So there are some things on that list.
FRANKS: Oh, absolutely, sure. And we go to every one of them.
SNOW: Including possibly other Americans?
FRANKS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SNOW: Do you think you're going to be able to get out all the POWs and MIAs?
FRANKS: Oh, gosh, I don't think we could predict that at all. I think it would be a true blessing if we were able to do that, and I don't think we -- I don't think we can count on it.
But I can tell you this. Even though we can't count on it, we can work at them hard. And we have been, and we will.
SNOW: How many towns right now in Iraq are still under regime control?
FRANKS: Well, actually, I don't know of any. But the fact is that there are a lot of cities in this rather large country. And I think you have seen, and certainly I have seen, as these wonderful young troops from U.K., Australia and Americans have moved across this country, they have covered a lot of ground in a short period of time.
And in many cases, we have simply bypassed villages and towns and so forth. And now we will go to each and every one of them, and be sure that we don't have some last, small stronghold in that country.
SNOW: How long do you think that will take?
FRANKS: I really don't know, Tony. I told someone a little bit earlier that you actually have -- let me use the term "bookends." If you have a really fractious sort of country, where everything is just wrong everyplace, then the number of soldiers involved in taking care of that is rather large, and the amount of time required to do it is rather long.
On the other hand, if you have at the other bookend, if you're able to see that the Iraqis themselves are taking charge of their governance and their police functions and all of that stuff in the large majority of these cities and population centers, then a much smaller force and a much shorter period of time.
FRANKS: And actually, Tony, right now, we don't know where we are between these bookends.
SNOW: Based on what you've seen, though, you have Iraqis coming up and giving you intelligence...
SNOW: ... that has led to the freeing of American citizens.
SNOW: Is it your estimate that they believe Saddam Hussein is dead and therefore they can act freely?
FRANKS: Wouldn't say that, but what I would say is that it is obvious to us that it has become obvious to them that Saddam Hussein can no longer harm them.
SNOW: Characterize the resistance.
FRANKS: I'll use the term "spotty." We have had our people in some places where they had a hell of a fight, and I think that's been pretty obvious. We have had our people go to other places, where in fact, we were ready for just a huge fight and, in fact, had been greeted by people who were simply saying, "We're pleased all the regular army people have left, and here's all their equipment."
And so, highs and lows, in terms of where this enemy has chosen to fight.
SNOW: How many of the remaining fighters, what percentage, give me a rough estimate, of those remaining, are foreigners?
FRANKS: Oh, gosh, I don't know, because I'm not sure how many fighters there are. But let me give you this, which may be better insight than that really soft answer.
We have divided Baghdad into block zones, that's the way we describe the work that's going on in downtown Baghdad. And I think there are 55 or 60 zones in that city. Probably 10 to 15 of those zones, we're not sure about yet. And we expect to find groups of five to 25 hardcore folks, who, as Don Rumsfeld calls them, dead-enders.
And we've seen that, I think you've seen in recent days a heck of a fight our people got in around one of the major mosques in one of those block areas in Baghdad.
Now, we have found, in some cases, that these hardcore people are Iraqis, Special Republican Guard or Ba'athists or SSO and so forth, but we've also found a number of foreigners involved in those populations. And I'm not sure right now what the breakout would be between Iraqis and foreigners.
I do know that we are seeing a number of foreigners, and I mentioned earlier, we're seeing a number of Syrians. These are mercenaries. I mean, we've seen the recruiting pamphlets that were used to bring these people into Iraq.
SNOW: Do you believe the Syrian government could have prevented their coming into Iraq?
FRANKS: Oh, gosh. I mean, I could give you some -- I could give you an opinion, but if I did, it would be the opinion of a soldier rather than, you know, a policy opinion.
I would say this: I believe that any nation that wants to control its borders can do so.
SNOW: If fighters come across those borders going after Americans, isn't that an act of war?
FRANKS: Well, I wouldn't go there at all. I mean, that's not a call that I think any soldier would make. I do know that, in a number of cases, we have stopped people coming into Iraq, and in some cases, we have taken them as enemy prisoners of war. In other cases, we have sent them back on their way. And so, that's probably the best I could do.
SNOW: Have coalition forces intercepted any Iraqi -- intercepted and captured any Iraqi leaders making their way out of the country?
FRANKS: It's hard to say, because, well, I'm not going to give you a cute answer. I will say coalition forces and some Iraqis with whom we have contact have taken some people trying to escape from Iraq.
SNOW: So some of those leaders, whose names we may not yet know, are in custody now?
FRANKS: Right. That's correct.
SNOW: Where are they?
FRANKS: Well, I wouldn't tell you that.
SNOW: You sure?
FRANKS: Come on, Tony, you know I wouldn't tell you that. They're in western Iraq.
SNOW: What was your reaction when you saw the Saddam statue toppled?
FRANKS: Personal reaction: a degree of vindication of one view, not vindication of, you know, the usual plan, does it vindicate the plan and all that. That's not what I'm talking about. Vindication of one particular notion.
I believe that we have believed for a long time that this population of 25-million-plus Iraqis lived beneath a yoke of a regime which they viewed as a terrible regime.
FRANKS: And the sign of the Iraqis, especially the man with the sledgehammer, you remember the scene, brought to my mind the fact that that is exactly right, these people really do want a way of life where they can take advantage of the tremendous wealth that they have in their country, something that the average Iraqi has not been able to take advantage of for decades now.
SNOW: There has been a lot of talk about when the war ends. Does the war end only when the first democratic ballot has been cast?
FRANKS: I don't know. I think that's up for our president to decide, along with...
SNOW: He said it's up to you to decide.
FRANKS: Well, actually, I think President Bush said the same thing with this that he said in Afghanistan, and that is, I'll know when the military phases of this operation are over because the ground commander, and in this case, it just happens to be me, will tell me, and that is absolutely true.
We have a phased operation, Tony. We wanted to set conditions, we wanted to conduct decisive combat operations. Let me describe that for just a second. The destruction of the Republican Guards and the regular army forces and the Special Republican Guards and so forth. Decisive military operations. And that's where we are now, and we're moving toward the end of that.
And when I sense that we have accomplished each of these phases, then I tell Secretary Rumsfeld, and we tell the president of the United States. And then he forms judgments about the way ahead.
SNOW: So Secretary Rumsfeld said they're moving on to stage four, which is stabilization.
SNOW: Stabilization may take some time. Now, you've heard a lot of people saying, "Why didn't you expect looting? Why didn't you anticipate this?"
SNOW: Did your armies succeed more rapidly than even you anticipated?
SNOW: Did the seizure of Baghdad take place before it was possible even to get in place the means of stabilizing?
FRANKS: Tony, I think your question is a very good one. I think that the only part of the question that I -- and it's not the question, it's the notion of the criticism that I bristle to just a bit -- is the implication that a great many things haven't been done during the course of this what I described as decisive combat operations.
I think you know that several military organizations and civil affairs and engineers and electricians and people who do water work and that sort of thing, have been with -- and military policemen, have been with each of our combat formations as it has, as that formation has moved through Iraq.
And, actually, I had not seeing anything going on in Baghdad or in Mosul or Kirkuk or anyplace else that I thought was terribly surprising. I count back during the fall of the wall, the Berlin Wall, and in so many other places where, when the yoke is removed, the people just become wild.
And I think the measure of merit for us is how quickly is this lawlessness, looting and so forth, controlled. And I don't believe that a period of two, three, four or five days is a sufficient period of time for us to begin to criticize ourselves and say, "Oh, gosh, if we had just had more of this and less of this, it would have been better."
And so I'll just say what I guess you've grown accustomed to hearing me say.
The plan's working just fine, and we're remaining on the plan. So we feel pretty good with it.
SNOW: We're going to take a quick break. When we return, General Franks talks about weapons of mass destruction.
SNOW: Now, the conclusion of my interview this morning with General Tommy Franks.
SNOW: Weapons of mass destruction. You've said today that there may be 2,000 to 3,000 possible sites?
SNOW: These are individual sites you know of...
FRANKS: Individual sites, right.
SNOW: ... you've targeted? You're ready to visit one by one.
SNOW: So you have absolute confidence that there are weapons there?
FRANKS: I have absolute confidence that there are weapons of mass destruction inside this country. Whether we will turn out, at the end of the day, to find them in one of the 2,000 or 3,000 sites we already know about or whether contact with one of these officials who we may come in contact with will tell us, "Oh, well, there's actually another site," and we'll find it there, I'm not sure.
But I am sure that there weapons in the country, yes.
SNOW: Have any weapons left the country?
FRANKS: I don't believe so. I don't believe so.
SNOW: So the rumors that Syria may have some, you're not buying it?
FRANKS: Not up to this point. I think that what we do is -- let me answer it this way.
In this sort of a military campaign, what you want to do is you want to move to isolate the centers of power very, very quickly. We're pleased with the way that happened.
We believe that that isolation occurred in a way that the remnants of this regime may have an opportunity for one or five or 55 of them to escape, but not to move -- but not to move items and so forth outside the country.
SNOW: What lesson do you think terrorists or regimes that sponsor terrorism should take from this war?
FRANKS: Hard for me to say. If I were a terrorist or a sponsor of terrorism, my take-away would be that the president of the United States and that the people of my country are joined by, perhaps, a community of nations larger than any we may have ever seen on this planet, with incredible resolve to stand in the face of this problem: terrorism, the export of violence, trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.
So, if I were looking for a lesson to take away, it would be, whoa, these people are really resolute in this matter.
SNOW: Do you believe last week was the beginning of a new era of democracy in this region?
FRANKS: Don't know. One can hope.
I think what we are so proud of is governments which permit their populace to be involved in a process that provides them freedom, provides them liberty. And I think what we will see in the month and years ahead in Iraq will provide a bit of a model for how that can be done.
Because, Tony, it will be the Iraqi people who decide how to do that, and they will do it on their terms.
SNOW: Do you expect to be in Baghdad -- you, personally -- within the week?
FRANKS: Well, that would be my guess. But not necessarily for a parade. I mean, I may just go there with a very small staff for the purpose of seeing my people.
I call these people with whom I work the band of brothers, and they are absolutely incredible. I'm talking about a ground component commander by the name of David McKiernan. I'm talking about a naval guy by the name of Tim Keating. I'm talking about a special operator, whom you got that coffee cup from the other day, by the name of Gary Harold (ph). I'm talking about Buzz Moseley, our air component commander.
I think it is entirely fitting for this band of brothers to sit and talk and have a chance to see their young people who are doing this hard work in and around Baghdad. And so I will seek an opportunity to make that happen.
SNOW: Let me ask a couple of parting questions.
FRANKS: Yes, sir.
SNOW: First, if you can, give us a one- or two-sentence summary of this war.
FRANKS: Pride. I have -- I have great -- I'm very proud of my country. I'm very proud of my country, because the people of America support what this is all about. I'm proud of America's leadership, because, in every case, the leadership of the United States of America has given me everything that I've asked for to do this.
FRANKS: I'm very proud of the troops and all their leaders, from not only our own country, but also United Kingdom, Australia, and there are others, who are participating in all of this, because it actually is a unified effort, and we ought to all be very proud of it.
And so pride is what comes to my mind.
SNOW: OK. Very quick answer to this one, then one more, and I'll be done.
Are you happy with the embeds?
FRANKS: I think I said very early in this effort, I'm a fan. I'm a fan of media embeds, and it's for a very simple reason: I believe that the greatest truth that's available to the world about what's going on is found in the pictures that come from the front lines where the war is being fought.
I believe that every step we remove ourselves from the fact of the picture, we become less precise in our description of what's happening. And so, if we believe in the First Amendment to our Constitution, and if we believe in the power of having our country know the truth, then the embeds have carried us a long ways in the direction of making that happen.
SNOW: Finally, you got a pack of those cards?
FRANKS: I can probably get you one, Tony.
SNOW: All right.
FRANKS: Thanks a lot.
SNOW: General Franks, thank you so much.
FRANKS: God bless. Thanks a lot for doing it right. We appreciate it.