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Context of 'Shortly Before June 22, 2001: CENTCOM Commander Franks Says the US Must Prepare for ‘Another Pearl Harbor-Like Event’'

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Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), warns that the United States must prepare for an “asymmetric” attack resembling the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941 that led America to enter World War II. In a speech to the Operations Security Professionals Society, Franks says, “The asymmetric threat is serious and deserves our focused thought and preparation.” (“Asymmetric warfare threats,” according to the Washington Times, “include efforts by weaker powers to defeat stronger ones using attacks that can include weapons of mass destruction, the use of computer-based information warfare, and terrorism.”) Franks continues, “The point is to avoid another Pearl Harbor-like event by recognizing the threat and preparing to meet this growing challenge.” He says the US military will address how to deal with asymmetric threats in its ongoing defense transformation efforts. [Washington Times, 6/22/2001] The 9/11 attacks, which occur less than three months after Franks issues this warning, will be described as an example of “asymmetric” warfare, like what Franks is referring to. [BBC, 2/9/2004; Russett, Starr, and Kinsella, 2009, pp. 12; van Baarda and Verweij, 2009, pp. ix; Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, 3/9/2010] They will also be frequently compared to the attack on Pearl Harbor in the days after they occur. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/2001] As commander in chief of CENTCOM, Franks is in charge of US military operations in a region that goes from North Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula, to Central Asia and Afghanistan. After 9/11, he will become “one of three men running the Bush administration’s military campaign against Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization,” ABC News will report. [CNN, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 1/7/2006] He will lead the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. [United Press International, 8/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Thomas Franks

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, the location of CENTCOM headquarters.MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, the location of CENTCOM headquarters. [Source: Jason Robertson / US Air Force]Army General Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), says his biggest fear is that terrorists will attack the World Trade Center. Franks gives a presentation to the CENTCOM intelligence staff at the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, about what he thinks the major threats facing the US in the Middle East and Central Asia are. When he finishes, a young sergeant asks him, “General, what keeps you awake at night?” According to Computerworld magazine, Franks replies, “The thought of one tower of the World Trade Center collapsing into the other tower, killing thousands of people.” But in his memoir, published in 2004, Franks will write that he answers, “A terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York—that’s what keeps me awake at night.” Franks, according to his own recollections, then elaborates, saying, “If international terrorists were to strike a major blow against America, I fear the specter of the nation’s military operating as combatants within our borders for the first time since the 1860s.” Therefore, he continues, “the thing that keeps me awake at night… is the possible use of our armed forces against American citizens.” Military personnel, he says, are “not police officers, sheriffs, or the FBI,” and so if they “were ever required to act in that capacity during a major emergency like an attack on the World Trade Center, the effect on America could be devastating.” He concludes by saying, “Martial law would not sit well in a free and open society.” [Computerworld, 10/21/2003; Franks, 2004, pp. 236-237] As CENTCOM commander, Franks is in charge of US military operations in an area covering 25 nations in North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. [CNN, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 1/7/2006] He will lead the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. [United Press International, 8/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Thomas Franks, US Central Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

General Tommy Franks allegedly tells Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who is on a visit to US Central Command: “Senator, we have stopped fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan. We are moving military and intelligence personnel and resources out of Afghanistan to get ready for a future war in Iraq.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 3/26/2004] (In his memoirs, Graham quotes Franks as saying that “military and intelligence personnel are being re-deployed to prepare for an action in Iraq.”) [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 125; Knight Ridder, 6/18/2005] Franks will deny making the comment. [Knight Ridder, 6/18/2005] The New Yorker magazine will also report on a redeployment of resources to Iraq at this time (see Early March 2002). [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] In 2009, Graham will tell a Vanity Fair reporter: “In February of ‘02, I had a visit at Central Command, in Tampa, and the purpose was to get a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan. At the end of the briefing, the commanding officer, Tommy Franks, asked me to go into his office for a private meeting, and he told me that we were no longer fighting a war in Afghanistan and, among other things, that some of the key personnel, particularly some Special Operations units and some equipment, specifically the Predator unmanned drone, were being withdrawn in order to get ready for a war in Iraq. That was my first indication that war in Iraq was as serious a possibility as it was, and that it was in competition with Afghanistan for materiel. We didn’t have the resources to do both successfully and simultaneously.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Thomas Franks, Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan

Gen. Tommy Franks says during a news conference in Qatar: “There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.” [Washington Post, 3/23/2003] The four-star general says he gets information about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction every day, noting he has “no doubt” that Iraq possesses them. He states some of this information is good intelligence while other is speculation. Franks also says he knows that more than two dozen Iraqi SCUD missile launchers are unaccounted for since the end of the last Gulf War. [American forces Press Services News Article, 3/22/2003]

Entity Tags: Thomas Franks

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

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