COLLEGE DROPOUT WHO'LL MASTERMIND WAR
From Richard Wallace US Editor In Washington
Daily Mirror - March 18, 2003:
THE military mastermind behind the invasion of Iraq is a country
music-loving university dropout known affectionately to his grandchildren
Four-star general Tommy Franks, 57, should be sitting on his porch back
home in Texas smoking his favourite cigar and sipping a margarita.
GOING UNDERGROUND: Franks
Instead, the golf-loving soldier is 30ft underground, directing battle
operations in a nuclear bomb-proof bunker in Qatar.
When he was due to retire last summer, George Bush persuaded the taciturn
6ft 3in general to stay on for another year because he was one of the few
senior US officers who actually got on with rough-edged Pentagon chief
One defence official said: "Rummie takes a lot of handling and Tommy
knows how to handle him.
"Basically let him blow off steam, then get on with the job."
Colleagues say Franks plays up his country bumpkin roots - his recent
verdict on eating sushi for the first time was "fish bait on a plate" -
to disguise a shrewd and sometimes manipulative character.
Rumsfeld himself admits: "Tommy's intelligent and quick and he knows his
stuff. He cares only about what is the most effective way to put military
power on a military target." Born in Oklahoma and brought up in Midland,
Texas, he went to the same high school as the president's wife Laura,
although they didn't know each other.
His retired headmaster remarked to the general at a recent reunion: "You
were not the brightest bulb in the socket." Franks replied: "Ain't this a
Franks dropped out of the University of Texas to join the army as a
private and saw action in Vietnam, where he was wounded three times and
awarded three Purple Hearts for bravery. It's a period of his life he
refuses to discuss.
After Vietnam he returned to college, then graduated into the officer
corps, serving in Germany, Korea and the Gulf War, among other
assignments, on his way to his current job as head of Central Command.
He is a devoted family man, married to his wife Cathy for 34 years. Their
daughter, Jacqy, is married to an army major and has two children. Jacqy
admits that having a four star general as a father takes some getting
She says: "I know the man who is Pooh to his grandchildren, who builds
Lego spaceships and plays Santa Claus."
Franks, who earns £100,000 a year, was recently at the centre of an
investigation after accusations that his wife sat in on classified
briefings and billed her travel arrangements to the Pentagon. He was
His day starts at 4am with 30 minutes on the treadmill accompanied by
country tunes or Fifties rock 'n' roll.
He then checks his emails before his first meeting at 6.30am.
Franks says the best part of his job today is being with the troops.
Whether at his HQ or in the field in any of the 25 countries that he's
militarily responsible for, he seeks out soldiers, cracking jokes and
even hugging them.
He says: "Here I am, 57 years old and still waiting to grow up. One thing
I am sure of is that the kids who are doing this are a damn sight better
than I was when I was that age."
And the worst part of the job? "It has to do with lives lost.
"It can be American troops, it can be coalition troops, it can be
civilians, bystanders, kids. When they are killed, when they are maimed
by mines - that is the worst part."
But he has no doubts about where the blame lies if the Iraqi campaign
goes horribly wrong.
"If this doesn't go well, it's my fault because not a single thing I've
asked for has not been granted," he says.