NICEVILLE, Fla. – The United States should have quickly reformed the Iraqi army after most of its soldiers walked off the battlefield and got them "working for us," retired Gen. Tommy Franks (search) said Tuesday.
Franks, who oversaw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, told reporters it may have taken "a couple billion dollars," but that he would have liked to have put Iraqi troops "back on the payroll right quick."
"What we could have done better, should have done better, what I would have liked to have seen done better, once they were gone, is hire them back," the former Army general said before making his first Florida campaign appearance for President Bush.
Neither Bush nor Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) should be blamed because Congress never appropriated money for that purpose and no other country offered to pay for it, Franks said.
"I fault bureaucratic behavior in my own country and in the international community," he said.
Franks spoke with reporters before addressing a staunchly Republican, pro-Bush crowd of about 800 at Okaloosa-Walton College in this military town. Niceville is within earshot of warplanes landing and taking off at nearby Eglin Air Force Base.
Visiting the Florida Panhandle after appearing with Bush in Colorado, Franks also disputed statements attributed to him in "Intelligence Matters," a new book by Sen. Bob Graham (search).
The Florida Democrat wrote that Franks told him in February 2002, more than a year before the Iraq invasion, that his resources already were being shifted for that conflict.
Graham also contends Franks told him fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere should take priority over invading Iraq.
"Not at one point — ever — did I ever question the need to move into Iraq," Franks said.
Franks said Saddam Hussein (search) already was harboring terrorists and that eight years of U.S. pilots getting shot at while enforcing sanctions against Iraq was enough and it was time to act.