Bush Awards Freedom Medal to Tenet, Franks, and Bremer

Bush Honors Tenet, Franks, Bremer (CBS-AP)

President Bush awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor Tuesday to three men central to his Iraq policy, saying they had played “pivotal roles in great events.” Mr. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who oversaw combat in Afghanistan and the initial invasion of Iraq, former CIA Director George Tenet and former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer.

Franks is a retired four-star Army general who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. He didn’t decide until last summer to endorse Mr. Bush’s re-election, but then spoke on the president’s behalf at the Republican National Convention and campaigned for him through the fall. Mr. Bush said Franks “led the forces that fought and won two wars in the defense of the world’s security and helped liberate more than 50 million people from two of the worst tyrannies in the world.”

Tenet left the CIA in July after seven years as director. He has been criticized for intelligence failures before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the never-proven prewar allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Bush credited him as “one of the first to recognize and address the threat to America from radical networks.” He said that after Sept. 11, Tenet was “ready with a plan to strike back at al Qaeda and to topple the Taliban.”

Bremer was the top civilian U.S. official in postwar Iraq, overseeing the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government in June. “For 14 months Jerry Bremer worked day and night in difficult and 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 said.

While some have blamed Franks for some of the planning failures that have plagued the post-major combat operations phase in Iraq, he is certainly deserving of the honor after having led two successful war efforts. It is rather odd to honor him with the nation’s highest civilian honor for military action, though, especially since he has presumably already gotten military decorations for his leadership of CENTCOM.

I’ve got no real strong view on Bremer either way. He faced a thankless task in harm’s way, so I can hardly begrudge him a medal.

But Tenet? This one I don’t get. He was the Director of Central Intelligence during the period when al Qaeda was planning its biggest attack on the United States. He was the guy who said Saddam’s ongoing WMD program was a “slam dunk.” Why he would get a medal for that is beyond me.

The White House’s Statement on Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients doesn’t provide any additional clues.

Update (1630): Radley Balko, Christopher “Spoons” Kanis, and Jon Henke share my bemusement over the Tenet choice.

Update (1750): As does Jeff Quinton, who does some research on the awarding of the Medal for military service.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dan says:

    But Tenet? This one I don’t get. He was the Director of Central Intelligence during the period when al Qaeda was planning its biggest attack on the United States. He was the guy who said Saddam’s ongoing WMD program was a “slam dunk.” Why he would get a medal for that is beyond me.

    It would require you to postulate more… nefarious intentions to George W. Bush.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Tenet’s being rewarded for being the fall guy on Iraqi WMDs, of course.

  3. ken says:

    Do we really need any more evidence that Bush doesn’t understand accountablity?

    Of course Bush himself has never been acountable a day in his life but to reward people for incompetence is really weird.

  4. Bill Johnson says:

    It’s interesting that General Franks is being honored by the President he supported for re-election, yet it was Franks who led our forces into Iraq in the first place, in wholly insufficient numbers.

    Moreover, I am told by someone in a position to know in the Pentagon that Franks first asked, then literally begged Rumsfeld for more troops, supporting General Eric Shinseki’s position, but was unwilling to make a real stand when Rumsfeld resisted.

    Now General Franks is in civilian clothes, on a book tour and out of harm’s way, while the men and women he took to Iraq die by the hundreds, are maimed by the thousands, forced to stay on active duty long after their contracts end, and must dig ballistic glass out of dumps for their vehicles…with no end in sight.

    Freedom medal, indeed.

  5. kappiy says:

    I had heard that Bush was giving these medals to Bremer and Tenet and I thought that the person informing me of this was getting their information from the Onion.

    Actually, it fits in with Bush’s total rejection of reality, evidence, and results. The worse one performs, in this man’s deluded eyes, the more cause for celebration.

    At the rate he’s going, he’ll give a medal to Bernie Kerick by the end of the week.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Par for the course for Bush. These guys preside of over a distaster and he gives them a medal. Meanwhile our guys in Iraq die because the incompetent Rumsfeld can’t get them the armor they need. I note there has not been a peep in here about McCain & Hagel’s comments about Rumsfeld.

  7. LJD says:

    The left loves to armchair quarterback national policy, with 20/20 hindsight, even when they do not have, and will likely never know, all of the information on which those decisions were based.

    So why stop at that? Doubt the merit of three men who have sacrificed much in their personal lives for their love of country. And the Republicans are the ones stifling progress with their “inquiries”. Sheesh.

  8. TXDem says:

    We could go round and round about whether these men deserve a meritous award; the problem, to me, seems to be which award it is.
    Past recipients of the Presidental Medal of Freedom include writers, actors, philanthropists, scholars, politicos, rich people, and the Pope. Check out past recipients, and see how Tenet, Franks and Bremer fit in with the crowd. Judge and think for yourself, America.

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    VP, Grateful Web