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Who is Tommy Franks?

And why are U.S. Troops under British Command?

by Christopher Bollyn
6 March 2003

Four-star general,
Tommy Franks

If any question why we died
Tell them because our fathers lied.
- Kipling

With some 2,000 U.S. Marines to be placed under British command - and an untold number of America's elite soldiers already taking orders from the C.I.A. - serious problems could result from a confused and unusual chain-of-command in Iraq.

Several thousand U.S. soldiers will be taking orders directly from foreign commanders in the event of a joint military invasion of Iraq's southern port of Basra. Meanwhile, an untold number of elite U.S. soldiers, already in Iraq, is serving under the command of the CIA. While the Pentagon and Langley refuse to discuss these matters, military experts warn that a confused chain-of-command could cause "some quite serious problems" in the heat of battle.

In what is described as an "unprecedented" development since World War II, some 2,000 U.S. troops will be placed under British command in the event of war on Iraq, London's Financial Times reported on March 4.

The 15th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Force was named as one of the American units expected to be under British command. The U.S. Marines will be under the "technical command" of British Brigadier Jim Dutton, commander of Britain's 3 Commando Brigade. The U.S. Marines would "most likely" accompany a British-led force of some 4,000 Royal Marines in an amphibious assault on the southern city of Basra, Iraq's only port.

"The unusual arrangement by which the Pentagon will hand over control of some of its forces to a British field commander" was said to have been done in order to give a political boost to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is under "intense pressure for his support of military action in the Gulf."

"This is a surprise departure from usual U.S. policy," Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies, said. "There must have been quite a lot of political maneuvering in the background to achieve this."

Heyman, a former British army officer, expressed concern about how the line of command would work in practice after British defense officials confirmed that U.S. Marine commanders could question an order from a senior British officer by going over his head to U.S. Central Command, based in the Gulf emirate of Qatar and directed by U.S. General Tommy Franks.

"It is not an ideal situation. In the heat of battle this could cause some quite serious problems. I suspect Jim Dutton is trying to figure out at the moment exactly what this means," he said.

Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan said he could not discuss the matter. When asked about U.S. Marines falling under British command in the field, a spokesman for the Secretary of the Navy, said, "I don't have any information about that."

"That is correct, some U.S. troops will be under British technical command," Jonathan Spencer, spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defense, told American Free Press. However, Spencer refused to answer when asked if any British troops would be under direct U.S. command, or why it was necessary for U.S. troops to be under British command.

Britain's Minister of Defense Geoff Hoon said Britain has 30,000 troops in the region while the U.S. is reported to have more than 200,000.


"Overall command is [U.S.] General Tommy Franks, the four-star general," Spencer said. "Tommy Franks will work jointly with Air Marshall Brian Burridge, Britain's National Contingent Commander."

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is a "unified joint command," which has developed from the concept of the Rapid Reaction Task Force initiated by President Ronald Reagan. Central Command is under the direct command of only three men: U.S. President George W. Bush, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and General Tommy Franks.

CENTCOM has no forces of its own. Troops and assets from the various branches of the military are allocated to Franks' command in order to carry out his mandate. Franks has been mentioned as the man who will govern Iraq in the event that U.S. and British military forces occupy the Middle Eastern state of some 25 million people.

Spokesmen of CENTCOM refuse to answer questions about Franks' background, which is very sketchy, and few details are found in any of the published biographical sources. Biographical entries about Franks are quite unusual in that they do not include the names of his parents or his religion.

Asked about why so little information is available about the man who will lead U.S. armed forces in war, a Defense Dept. spokesman said: "He's had his bio out that he wants to put out. He has certain rights."

"Because we are in a different age, that is force protection," Pentagon spokesman Dan Hetlage said about the secrecy behind Franks' background. "That's a personal decision [to release personal information]. It makes no difference [his religion]. He takes his orders from the President. Would it make a difference if Gen. Franks or Gen. Hetlage were in command?"

Franks is said to be the only child of Ray, a Wynnewood, Okla., construction worker, and Lorene, a seamstress and homemaker. Soon after his birth in 1945, his family is said to have relocated to George W. Bush's former hometown of Midland, Texas, where Franks was a lineman on the high school football squad, who apparently made little impression. When Franks first surfaced as the commander of CENTCOM, journalists could find no one in Midland who could actually remember him having lived there.

An archivist in Midland checked the town records for American Free Press and found the Franks family listed only from 1955 to 1962, during which time Ray Franks worked at a local hardware store. Oddly, from 1945 to 1955 there is no mention of the Franks family in Midland records, according to the archivist. The same year Tommy finished high school, the family apparently disappeared from Midland records.

Having attended the same high school in Midland as the president's wife, Laura Bush, Franks moved to Austin where he attended University of Texas for about two years before dropping out and joining the army. After serving in Vietnam, Franks was selected to participate in the Army's "Boot Strap Degree Completion Program," and subsequently attended the University of Texas, Arlington, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration in 1971.

Franks collected three Purple Hearts in Vietnam although how he was injured is not a matter of public record.

After a long career in the army, Franks, who is an artillery specialist, was promoted to general by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen and placed in charge of Central Command, which is responsible for the entire Middle East area.

"My faith in God is important," Franks said in an interview, however, it is not known which faith he belongs to. Although it has been said that Franks is of Russian Jewish extraction, the son or grandson of Khazar Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union, like Gen. Wesley Kanne Clark (who was raised as a Protestant in Little Rock), the religious and ethnic background of Tommy Franks is simply not known.

"That in itself says a lot," independent investigator James W. von Brunn of Easton, Maryland, told AFP. "He's hiding something," Von Brunn said. Having conducted "an intensive search" into Frank's background von Brunn "was unable to find anything."


"Hordes of Rambos" serving under the CIA's Deputy Director of Operations James L. Pavitt are already scouring Iraq searching for targets and testing Iraqi responses according to the German news magazine Der Spiegel.

Der Spiegel's March 1st cover story featured photos of the CIA's heavily armed advance commandos moving through Iraq. These paramilitary forces, bearded and without uniforms, appeared to include Middle Eastern men alongside American recruits from elite U.S. forces.

"Specialists from the US' large reservoir of elite troops are being assigned to Langley, a move that has infuriated the commanders of these highly effective Pentagon units," Der Spiegel reported. "They [U.S. Dept. of Defense] are being forced to give up their people, while the CIA takes the credit for their successes."

The CIA recruits it's "shadow warriors" in the bars of Fayetteville, North Carolina, near the headquarters of the U.S. Army's elite Green Berets. The CIA pays its special commandos just under $10,000 more than the Pentagon pays its soldiers, the article said.

Teams of elite soldiers are also "officially borrowed" from the Navy Seals and the special forces of the air force. When a soldier is transferred to Pavitt's clandestine paramilitary units, his military papers are modified to mimic an honorable discharge into civilian life, according to Der Spiegel.

Asked about the factual basis of the story CIA spokesman Tom Crispell told AFP, "We are not going to comment on the story." Asked if active U.S. military personnel are serving with Pavitt's paramilitary squads in Iraq and Afghanistan, Crispell said, "We would not comment" on military personnel being seconded to the CIA.

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and the different branches of the U.S. military all refused to answer any questions about the practice of transferring elite soldiers to the CIA or the legal status of such irregular fighters. Many of the prisoners being held by the U.S. military in Cuba have been denied prisoner-of-war status because they have been classified as "unlawful combatants" because they belonged to paramilitary groups and did not wear identifiable uniforms.

President George W. Bush has officially elevated the CIA to the leadership position in the war against terrorism, according to Der Spiegel. FBI agents must now report the findings of their terrorism investigations to the Director of the CIA, it said.

"For the first time since Vietnam and Watergate, CIA special commandos are once again permitted to commit murder, and can do so without consulting the White House," the article said.

"We are doing these things. We have always done these things," Pavitt, the CIA's head of clandestine operations, said in a speech to the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Law and National Security on January 23.

"We understand that secrecy is a grant of trust, not a grant of immunity. We understand that we act in the name of the American people, and that we must act in keeping with the laws they honor and the values they cherish," Pavitt said.

A former CIA expert on Iraq, Robert Baer, speaking of Pavitt's Directorate of Operations, the home of the CIA's paramilitary army, said it is "the only institution within the federal government that devotes itself entirely to the task of breaking laws - the laws of other countries."


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