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Former CENTCOM head Gen. Tommy Franks Reacts to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Death

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 8, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Joining us in an exclusive interview, the former Centcom commander, General Tommy Franks is back with us.

General, this is a great day for the country. This is a great day for our security, a great day for the security and peace in the world. Your thoughts?

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: It is indeed, Sean, a great day. Proud to be with you on a day like today.

HANNITY: It really is. You know, one of the things I guess you must be really proud of, General, is that, with all the talk and all the politics that have gone on at home, the troops have been steadfast. They dug in and they've been doing their job and ignoring a lot of stuff that's been happening here at home. Talk about that.

FRANKS: A hundred percent, you bet, Sean, 100 percent. I think the president had it right when he said it's a great day for the troops. Indeed, it is a great day for the troops. And I'm amused by questions from people who say, "Well, do you think this represents a turning point in Iraq?" And I don't think it represents a turning point, because I think we're what you'd call on plan.

I think what we're seeing is the evolution of a strategy. We saw what we saw today with the politics; we saw what we saw yesterday with the death of Zarqawi. I think America has an awful lot to be proud of, and I think our troops deserve a big hand.

HANNITY: General, I got to tell you, when I got up this morning, and I turned on the FOX News Channel, and I got to see that video, with pinpoint accuracy those 500-pound bombs, one after another, being dropped on this man and this location, I got to tell you, it gives me goose bumps, sir. I am literally amazed at the ability of our military to do something like this.

Let's talk about the ability of our troops and how they could pull off something like this.

FRANKS: The best armed force in the world, Sean. You know, we have been saying that for a while. I think America has an awful lot to be proud of. These young men and women truly are superb. Our technology is the best the world has ever seen.

And what we have to do, as a country, is we have to not get so far from 9/11 that we forget about the magnificence of these young people who are doing...

HANNITY: Absolutely.

FRANKS: ...just what our constitution says they're supposed to do, with the right kind of gear, and just stay with this business until it's done.

HANNITY: You know something, General? I got to tell you, I'm glad to hear you say that. There seem to be two sides in this country right now: those with a pre-9/11 mentality; those with a post-9/11 mentality; those that understand that we've got to win this war; and those that clearly want to politicize it for their own personal benefit.

FRANKS: Right.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this — I want to show you — we've got pictures of this man, who has maimed, killed, murdered, slaughtered so many people. I can't even believe, General, that there's even an emerging controversy over what I'm about to ask you. There are some people saying, "Oh, maybe we shouldn't be allowed to release these photos."

And I think this is a clear message we need to send to the world: This is what happens when you have a doctrine and an unmatched fanaticism that feels justified in the killing of innocent people. Isn't it a good thing to release these photos?

FRANKS: Yes, absolutely. One of the things you learn, if you deal in the Middle East, is you have to provide the compelling truth if you're going to stand up and argue with the likes of Al-Jazeera, just to be very candid with you.

We have to have the proof so that people in the Middle East recognize that this work has been done and that we are deadly serious about continuing to do the work, until we have given Iraqis a chance to be on their own.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, General, it's Alan Colmes. It may surprise you, but I agree with what you just said about showing the photos

FRANKS: Hi, Alan.

COLMES: Hello, sir. I also certainly agree about the wonderful abilities of our military.

But let me ask you this: Michael Scheuer, who for 22 years was head of the bin Laden unit of the CIA, says we deliberately passed up repeated opportunities to get Zarqawi before the Iraq war and that we had three attempts and it was turned down by the NSA. Do you know anything about that?

FRANKS: Yes, I think that's absurd on its face. You know, one of the great things about this country is that people are free to say to you, Alan, anything they want to say. The difference between them and me is that I know what I'm talking about. And that is absurd...

COLMES: So that's a lie?

FRANKS: ...on its face.

COLMES: Would Zarqawi be more valuable to us if he were alive?

FRANKS: I don't think so. I think Zarqawi is extremely valuable to us right now, in that he's dead. And the reason I say that is because the people in Iraq see more evidence every day of their economy coming along, of their security coming along. And Zarqawi is a piece of giving the Iraqis a chance to build for their own security. They see their politics come along, as we have seen announced within the last 24 hours.

COLMES: How dependent on him was the insurgency?

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKS: It doesn't mean everything's going to be great?

COLMES: Let me ask you: How dependent on Zarqawi is the insurgency? And what effect does his death have on the continued insurgency?

FRANKS: Yes, and I think that's a fair question. And I think time will tell.

One of the things that I think we know Zarqawi did for the insurgency is to provide — oh, I don't know — a moral anchor for those who were about the destruction of Iraq from within with this insurgency.

Now, that doesn't say that now that Zarqawi's dead everything's going to be great and, gosh, the insurgency will fall apart. Not at all.

But you've got to recognize that Zarqawi, as an operator, was a pretty good one. And of all the things that we've heard discussed in the last 24 hours, there has not been much mention of the fact that Al Qaeda and the insurgency in Iraq will be less potent and less capable because Zarqawi was a capable recruiter and leader, and he's no longer at the helm.

COLMES: But let me ask you this.

FRANKS: And that's good news for us.

COLMES: Is this a more symbolic victory than it is a victory, in terms of truly reducing the amount of carnage and deaths going on in Iraq? Or is more symbolic?

FRANKS: I think it depends on whether you look short term or long term. I think the president had it just right when he said: Well, everybody calm down, because we're likely to see increased violence and difficulty in the immediate future.

But the issue for us is to build over time, so that the Iraqis can control their own destiny, and that's what I think we'll see. I think we all should expect to see increased difficulty in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the Zarqawi death, because a lot of the bad guys over there are going to step forward and try to make a point.

But make no mistake about it: We are winning this, and you saw evidence of it in two points in the last 24 hours.

HANNITY: General, you're in big part responsible for the great success today. You got the ball rolling there. Congratulations to you and these great troops of ours, and thank you for being with us, sir. We appreciate your time. Thank you.

FRANKS: Congratulations to the troops and to this administration. Thank you.

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