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