Skip to comments.NYT: War Figures Honored With Medal of Freedom (taste the bitterness at the Times)
Posted on 12/15/2004 5:44:55 AM PST by OESY
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 - President Bush on Tuesday bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on three of the central architects and executors of the war in Iraq, one of the president's strongest efforts yet at putting a formal stamp of success on a war whose outcome is still a question.
The recipients were Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the overall commander of the invasion of Iraq; L. Paul Bremer III, the chief civilian administrator of the American occupation of the country; and George J. Tenet, the longtime director of central intelligence who built the case for going to war.
"Today this honor goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events," Mr. Bush said, surrounded by members of his administration in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, "and whose efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty."
It was a remarkable moment in a city still gripped by uncertainty about whether Iraq will become the democracy Mr. Bush speaks of almost weekly or descend further into chaos and American casualties. Mr. Bush has never looked back, at least publicly, saying in an interview last summer that his only "miscalculation" about the rise of the insurgency grew from the "catastrophic success" of the military invasion.
In his public remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Bush carefully sidestepped the questions and second-guessing that have followed his Iraq policy and discussed in his own Situation Room over the past two years. Each of the medal recipients made crucial decisions in events that were driven by murky intelligence, a sharp internal debate over how large a force was needed to fight the war and the unanticipated rise of an insurgency that war planners had expected would be wiped out long ago.
"I don't think history will be as kind to these gentlemen as the president was today," said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and a former officer in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. Mr. Bush, he said, is "still trying to put a good face on serious mistakes. This is the continuing motif: Everything is working, and we should reward ourselves for that."
Mr. Bush would hardly be the first president to use the medal to reward the architects of military action - both when events have gone badly and when they have gone well. In the last 24 hours of his presidency in January 1969, Lyndon Johnson gave out 20 medals, including to McGeorge Bundy and Walt W. Rostow. History is still revisiting decisions they made in Vietnam.
At the end of the Persian Gulf war in 1991, a clear success - though it left Saddam Hussein in power - Mr. Bush's father gave medals to his entire war council: Gen. Colin L. Powell, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and the national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Mr. Bush was more restrained on Tuesday, leaving Mr. Powell (who received a second medal of freedom a few years after his first), Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, off the list.
Mr. Bush's press secretary, Scott McClellan, deflected questions about how Mr. Bush arrived at his choices, saying, "I would let his remarks speak for themselves."
Mr. Tenet's assessments of Iraq's unconventional weapons, and the huge gaps that became evident in America's intelligence system, became the focus of investigations into how Mr. Bush and his administration built a case for war. Mr. Bush made no mention of that or of the shake-up at the C.I.A. after Mr. Tenet's departure, but he praised him as "one of the first to recognize and address the growing threat to America from radical terrorist networks."
Mr. Bremer's efforts to rebuild Iraq began with great promise, and he was compared to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who ran the occupation of Japan two generations ago. But in Mr. Bremer's case, the security situation declined precipitously in the second half of his tenure - a result, Mr. Bremer said recently in remarks that he did not intend to become public, of the Pentagon's failure to provide enough troops to secure the nation.
Inside the White House, there is still significant debate about Mr. Bremer's judgments, including his decisions to disband the defeated Iraqi army and to pursue an aggressive policy of "de-Baathification," the broad exclusion of former Baath Party members from the newly reconstituted interim government. Those moves are widely regarded as fundamental mistakes that departed from the White House's occupation plan and alienated hundreds of thousands of armed and unemployed troops, some of whom joined the insurgency.
On Tuesday though, Mr. Bush reached back to Mr. Bremer's "life of service" as a diplomat and his early expertise in counterterrorism. "For 14 months," Mr. Bush said of Iraq, "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."
Mr. Bush reserved some of his warmest praise for General Franks, a native of Midland, Tex., who argued behind the scenes with his boss, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, that the invasion of Iraq would require more troops. That is now the accepted wisdom, including in the Pentagon, though General Franks has often been criticized for failing to plan for the occupation as well as he planned for the invasion.
Mr. Bush praised General Franks for the swift toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and said that in Iraq "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."
But he could not resist a jab at a fellow Texan; Mr. Franks went to high school in Midland with Laura Bush. The president repeated a story that General Franks tells about himself, concerning a high school reunion the general attended in Midland, where Mr. Bush was also raised.
"Tommy's old principal told the general, 'You weren't the brightest bulb in the socket,' " the president said. The general, Mr. Bush said, replied, "Ain't this a great country?"
"This honor goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events," President Bush said Tuesday during the ceremony.
President Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday on three central figures of the Iraq war: from left, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who led the invasion; L. Paul Bremer III, who led the occupation; and George J. Tenet, who as intelligence director built a case for war.
Buggy-whip Media is just so tranparent.
Why can't they keep their damn opinions out of their news stories? Is it that hard to do? That's why papers have editorial pages!!!
So, George Tenet was "one of the first to recognize and address the growing threat to America from radical terrorist networks"? Yeah, I guess 9/11 testifies to that. Sure, let's give the guy a medal!
The Clymers at the Slimes sure got their panties in a wad. They better get used to it. W's got a whole lot more time to do a whole lot more stuff. Hehehehe....
What really gets me is this whining that somehow more troops would have stopped all the problems we are dealing with. That's the answer. Take into account the fact our troops have a bullseye on them while the enemy hides in the civilian population. They are dirty and ruthless. The real failure was not taking Falluja earlier, as well as other trouble cities. But every war can be criticized looking back at it and yet they are calling for Rumsfeld's head because it wasn't perfect and our enemy doesn't obide by the Geneva Convention.