10 Questions For Tommy Franks

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General Tommy Franks commanded the U.S. military during its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq before retiring last summer after 38 years in uniform. He surveys his career—and the wars he led as head of the U.S. Central Command—in a new book, American Soldier, due out this week from ReganBooks. He spoke with TIME correspondent Mark Thompson.

WHY DO THINGS SEEM TO BE GOING SO POORLY IN IRAQ? It's a very good thing when a major war fight is quick. On the other hand, if you want to reconstitute, rebuild, reconstruct the country, that is never ever going to be done in a year or 18 months. I don't know whether the Administration permitted or encouraged the media in our country to believe that this was going to be easy, but it happened. There came to be created an expectation that even a superpower can't meet.

SHOULDN'T A SUPERPOWER BE ABLE TO GET THE ELECTRICITY IN IRAQ TURNED BACK ON AFTER MORE THAN A YEAR OF TRYING? It's disappointing. One can hope that the Iraqis are all going to shoulder the load, do it quickly, but in reality they have chosen not to do that. They have not risen to the responsibility as quickly as I would have hoped.

IN YOUR BOOK, YOU ABSOLVE YOURSELF, PRESIDENT BUSH AND DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD OF INADEQUATE POSTWAR PLANNING. SO WHO'S RESPONSIBLE? It's possible to underestimate the difficulty inside our bureaucracy as well as inside the international bureaucracy when it comes to things like fund raising. The planning, in fact, incorporated the need to rehire a quarter of a million Iraqis who had been in the military. When they all went home, they were unemployed. The question is, How long does it take to generate funding in order to re-employ these people? Unfortunately, it took too long.

WELL, WASN'T IT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION THAT DISBANDED THE IRAQI ARMY? Actually, the Administration didn't disband it—it melted away. It's a blessing when an army melts away rather than dying in place. On the other hand, if what we're after is to get reconstruction going, then that simply represents 250,000 angry young men.

COULDN'T THE U.S. HAVE CALLED THEM BACK TO DUTY? We would have been wise to do that, and in my view we should have done that.

DO YOU FEEL MISLED BY THE PREWAR INTELLIGENCE ASSERTING THAT SADDAM HUSSEIN HAD WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION (WMD) AND LINKS TO AL-QAEDA? I do not feel misled at all. Actually, I'm very thankful that he didn't have the WMD. What would you have had us do? Stand by and wait until he did have them? I do believe there were assets inside the Saddam regime who were working with international terrorists, and I believe that al-Qaeda were among them.

WHAT'S IT LIKE TO WORK FOR RUMSFELD? I wish Don Rumsfeld had had an easier, less-centralized management style. That does not imply that Don Rumsfeld screwed up the war. It says that I—and I suspect a lot of other people—would have had a whole lot better feeling undertaking these very important matters if Don Rumsfeld had been a very concerned people person.

DO YOU THINK BUSH SHOULD BE RE-ELECTED? The way I'm going to mark my individual ballot I'll keep to myself. Whether we like Bush or not, the quality of his judgments and the quality of his leadership has been honest. I respect him for that. I'm leaning in that direction. I have not been formally asked to come to the Republican National Convention. My feelings were hurt that I was not invited to the Democratic National Convention.

DOES A PRESIDENT WITH A GOOD MILITARY RECORD MAKE A BETTER COMMANDER IN CHIEF? A good military record, like John Kerry's, certainly does not hurt him in the eyes of people in the military. Does that mean you need to have service in the active component of the military in order to be a good President? I don't think so.

HOW ARE YOU SPENDING YOUR TIME THESE DAYS? I'm supporting things like the National Park Foundation and the Fallen Heroes Fund. God has blessed my wife Cathy and me with sufficient material capability. Now it's a matter of figuring out whom we can help, especially as it relates to the troops and their families. It's a cool thing to do.