This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Jan. 31, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST:
Our top story tonight: The people of Iraq have taken their first steps towards a democracy of their own. A short time ago we spoke with the former commander of Centcom, General Tommy Franks.
HANNITY: General Franks, thanks for being us once again. Good to see you, sir.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: My pleasure, sir. How are you doing?
HANNITY: I'm doing terrific. By the way, congratulations. Your book did so phenomenally well and very well deserved. I enjoyed every bit of it, "American Soldier." I know it will be out in paperback in a couple of months.
But let me ask you this, General, because you're a very big part of the reason why yesterday was possible. What were you feeling as you were watching all of this unfold?
FRANKS: Well, I don't know. I guess elation mixed with a sense of caution, recognizing that there's an awful lot of work to be done. But hey, we ought to not — we ought to not underestimate the impact of seeing this — this election in Iraq, right in the heart of the Arab world. It's a big deal, Sean.
HANNITY: It is a big deal. And I know, we're going to do some of the politics here in a minute. What does it mean in your estimation, thought, I mean, because this is the day you worked towards.
HANNITY: And this is now a new beginning here. Unimaginable even two years ago.
FRANKS: I'll tell you what it means to me. I — I have sort of an offset view of it, perhaps. I think you and I have talked before about the difference between terrorists and terrorism, you know.
Terrorists, you're talking about Al Zarqawi or Bin Laden. The problem with terrorism is something that sort of has evolved over time as a result of entire civilizations, groups of people, who have no hope.
Look, what we saw yesterday was evidence of the fact that in Iraq there is — there is a new hope. So that's what I thought about when I saw it. And I felt good about it.
HANNITY: Was it as inspiring to you as it was to me and a lot of other people? The idea that...
HANNITY: ... people did this in spite of the threats of terrorism, despite...
HANNITY: ... the chance they may die, in these overwhelming numbers. What does that tell us about the Iraqi people?
FRANKS: Well, I think it says something about the Iraqi people. You know, people who go around and hold that purple finger up in the face of terrorists who have said, "Look, if you vote we'll kill you." My gracious!
We look at our own election here some months back, and we get 50 to 55 percent, and it's a huge turnout for our own country. And no one was trying to — no one was trying to shoot us at the polls. I was proud of the fact that I exercised my right as an American.
And look, I am really proud of the fact that — that the Iraqis in the face of just incredible — I don't know, threat — stepped out and went to the polls. It's a big deal.
HANNITY: What does it — what does it mean, if you look at long-term strategy for the region? What does it mean for the region? What is Iran thinking today and Syria thinking today?
FRANKS: Thinking about what the president said during his inauguration speech; you know, spreading the light of liberty, spreading the opportunity for freedom.
And now in the middle of the Arab world, we have the first practical example of — of some eight million Arabs going to the polls, which they hadn't done in, gosh, forever, to exercise their Democratic right. It's a big deal right in the heart of the — right if the heart of the Middle East.
And so sure, I think it will have — it will have an effect on what we see going on between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
HANNITY: Let's talk about some of the politics leading up to this. Senator Ted Kennedy was very outspoken just three days before these elections took place. And he said that our troops, the guys that you led, General, that they're part of the problem in Iraq, not part of the solution.
What — well, first of all, why would he have said this three days before? And what's your reaction to it?
FRANKS: I think we're blessed in this country by being able to have politics. And you know, I respect the senator, because he is that, because he is a senator. He was elected by the people of the state of Massachusetts, and he is able to stand forth and present the message as he sees it.
My view as a soldier first and as a leader of soldiers is that young men and women have been charged, in accordance with our Constitution, to stand on foreign soil and to do — and to do the work they have been asked to do by our government.
I'm proud of the work they have done. I think the work they have done was vindicated yesterday. I mean, my gracious, look, you have a void in Iraq. You have some 25 or 26 million people who have been without positive leadership for decades. You have American soldiers who have first liberated and then, secondly, occupied a country in order to provide for security working with Iraqis.
And now we have the Iraqis themselves stepping forward by way of election to take charge of their own destiny. That's powerful. Now, we'll see in the days ahead what the role of America as part of this military coalition turns out to be in the future.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: General, it's Alan Colmes. It's good to have you on the show tonight.
FRANKS: Hi, Alan. Thank you.
COLMES: And you understand it, you see it as I do, that Ted Kennedy was not denigrating those who served but he was critical of a policy? And I hope the soldiers and those serving — and I would like to get your reaction to that. It's OK to criticize a policy.
COLMES: He denigrating of those [servicemembers] who are risking their lives for freedom.
FRANKS: Alan, I think what we saw in the senator's comments was — is politics. I think we're looking at political posturing in our own country, and some like it and some — and some don't.
But we ought not to take away from the men and women who wear the uniform of service of our military by believing that they are shortsighted, narrow or not very smart.
Look, these young men and women serving in Iraq understand exactly what's going on in our country, vis-a-vis politics.
FRANKS: And they also have a great deal of confidence in what they're doing. All you have to do is go ask them. The troops in Iraq today will tell you what they think.
COLMES: Isn't there some political posturing the other way, for those who say...
FRANKS: Of course.
COLMES: ... well, Democrats would rather have rape rooms; Democrats would rather have mass graves; and if Democrats are in power that's what would be going on. I mean, clearly some Republicans would say that as if Democrats also don't love liberty and freedom. But we might disagree about the policies that get us there.
FRANKS: Sure. I think we'll always disagree about — about policies and, you know, approaches to problem solving. That's why we have this powerful two-party system.
The results of the last election sort of speak for themselves. And, you know, on one side of the aisle we're very positive. And you know, on the other side of the aisle we're very positive. On the other side of the aisle, we don't necessarily feel so good about it. And we're — and we're — we're seeing the posturing of politics in our own country right now. And I think Americans recognize that.
COLMES: If Iraq is such a success, is this a model we should use in other countries?
FRANKS: I don't think you'll find a precise model in Iraq or in Afghanistan for what we want to do in Iraq. I don't think you'll find a precise model in Iraq for what we may want to do in any other part of the world.
I think each one of these is sort of a unique condition, a unique circumstance. But I think — I think the common thread that, no matter which side of the aisle we sit on, Alan, the common thread in all of this is that people around this planet do rise up when they're — when they're offered an opportunity to be free.
COLMES: I guess some of us do ask questions about the policies that got us there. And was there another way to achieve this that would have resulted in fewer casualties, fewer American lives and not as much of an expenditure and an ongoing war effort that we don't see the end in sight?
FRANKS: We're going to remain engaged in Iraq. There is no question in my mind of that. I don't know what the numbers will be. But we're going to stay there because of a little story that I may — that I may have mentioned with you guys once before. If I did, pardon me. If I didn't it's worth — it's worth mentioning.
We were out on the book tour, and this lady came up to me, and she — an elderly lady, and she said, "Some people are going to ask you what's our exit strategy? Tell them for me it's when we win."
Well, you know, you can say that's a little bit one-sided and not deep. I personally took it for exactly what it was. We're going to be involved in Iraq. And we're going to be involved elsewhere until, in fact, we have secured, first, the United States of America from the threat of terrorism, and secondly, until we have built people around this planet who are willing and able to become partners and neighbors.
HANNITY: All right. We have more of our exclusive interview with General Tommy Franks coming up right after the break.
COLMES: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." I'm Alan Colmes.
We now continue with General Tommy Franks.
HANNITY: When a senator with the power and so-called prestige as Ted Kennedy three days outside of this election says our military has become part of the problem in Iraq, when he uses the loaded term "quagmire," when he calls the president a liar, as he repeatedly has, he's leading these troops in harm's way, can't you say that this has a detrimental effect on the psyche and the morale of our soldiers? Is it — does he not cross a line here?
FRANKS: Oh, Sean, I don't know. I think it would be easy to say sure, he crosses the line.
But first off, you know, we've got to remember that these troops who are doing the work over in Iraq really do understand why they're there, and they really do understand what politics looks like in this country.
Do I agree with the senator? Of course not. I don't agree with the senator. What I have said, what he said, of course, I would not have. On the other hand, I have not been elected by the people of one of the states in the country to be a senator. He has.
HANNITY: You could be, though. If you announced today, I'm telling you, you could win.
FRANKS: Well, but you know, I've told an awful lot of people I could probably put up with the politics. I'm not sure I could put up with the media, Sean.
HANNITY: Well, certainly you could with this show, because we're good friends.
John Kerry was on "Meet the Press" yesterday with Tim Russert. And he said no one should try and over-hype this election. He even had a hard time saying that the election was legitimate.
He said Iraq was more of a terrorist threat today. The world is less safe today.
How could one senator be so wrong? And how could he say that and not consider the impact that this has on the — on the troops?
FRANKS: Well, I don't know. That's a line that is sort of familiar. What we saw during the campaign.
Look, those kinds of words were laid out before the American people back in October and November, and the result speaks for itself.
I simply don't agree with — with the senator, but I would not want to take away from him the ability to say what he said.
FRANKS: Look, we have a way — we have a way of having, at any point in time, precisely the governing in this country that we deserve, and Sean, you'd agree with me on that, because we elected him. We put these senators in place.
HANNITY: Well, there's nothing wrong with saying that they're irresponsible, though, General.
FRANKS: Well, you can say they're irresponsible. I simply say that I disagree with the points they make.
COLMES: Senator — excuse me, I just made you a senator. How do you like that? See, you seem so diplomatic, I thought that you were a senator for a second.
FRANKS: I've always been that way.
COLMES: According to the National Intelligence Council and the CIA director's think tank, Al Qaeda went from being in 45 countries to being in 60 countries. They also say Iraq is a magnet now for international terrorist activity.
Do you agree or disagree with that assessment?
FRANKS: I recall from the days immediately following 9/11, the number — the number that I've heard used for a long time has been in more than 60 countries. And I believe that's been the case since 9/11/01.
And so I would take issue with that a little bit. I think that we're seeing Al Qaeda cells operating in some number around — around 60 countries.
I do believe that — that what we have seen going on in Iraq has — has served as a magnet for Jihadists and — and for terrorists. And I think — I personally think that's OK. I'd like to have them more localized, because at the end of the day, the Iraqis and the coalition that we see in place in Iraq is going to kill and imprison an awful lot of terrorists. And I think that's good for us.
COLMES: But if that's — if that's true, then Iraq, and Ted Kennedy is right; Iraq is not safer. How can you at one point say all these people are freer and more liberated and it's also the center of terrorism and there's more terrorist activity? Can they both be true at the same time?
FRANKS: Well, Alan — well, Alan, what I would — what I wouldn't say is that Iraq is more safe. I would not say Iraq is more safe. I would say today Iraq is much more democratic than it ever has been in its history.
I think it will take — it's going to take more time for Iraq to become safe, for Iraq to become as secure as we want it to be. I will say that I believe that we in the United States of America are more safe than we were when we entered Iraq almost two years ago.
COLMES: General, John Kerry mentions a four-point plan on "Meet the Press." He also talked about elections being one and congratulated that this would take place.
But he also talked about international involvement. He also talked about training, and he also talked about reconstruction and then said, we've fallen behind on the other three.
Isn't he correct, that all those points have to be addressed as well? It's not just about elections?
FRANKS: I think it's about elections. I think it's about the establishment of security. And Alan, I think you've read at least pieces of my book, and I know Sean has, wherein I said...
COLMES: Sean read them to me.
FRANKS: Well, it's — I mean, well, I won't comment on that, but I'll say that what has to happen is, as we move forward in tandem in a whole variety of areas, and I grouped it into two simple pieces.
One is security and the other is, I don't know, civil affairs. It's the ability to bring electricity. It's the ability to establish governance. It's the ability to bring clean water supplies. It's the ability to establish an oil export capability that matches what Iraq really can do.
And so I think all of those things have to move forward together. But I believe we make a mistake if we take a success which is just enormous, like the one we saw yesterday, and denigrate that success or say, well, it's really not that big a deal.
Look, all you need to do is go to the Arab world, any place you want to go, and they'll tell you. It's a really, really big deal.
HANNITY: As we continue on "Hannity & Colmes," I'm Sean Hannity.
We continue our exclusive prime time interview with General Tommy Franks.
HANNITY: One of the things, I guess, that is so inspiring to me, General, is that this was unimaginable just two short years ago.
FRANKS: You bet.
HANNITY: I mean, and I don't know why some people aren't as impressed as I am when hundreds of thousands of skeletons are pulled out of the ground in mass graves.
HANNITY: That's all ended, and now people are voting for their leaders. Or rape rooms, or closed torture chambers are closed, or that, you know, Iraqi women are now living their lives fully, which they never had an opportunity to do before.
I would imagine from your vantage point, having helped in this liberation, that that is just an enormously tremendous feeling for you and your fellow troops.
FRANKS: It is a tremendous feeling for me. And again, you know, you've covered some — some of the people involved in this. I think of young Corporal Martinez, who was terribly disfigured by having been burned...
FRANKS: ... and has been in the media of late.
Look, you're talking about a young man who has essentially given all in support of his country, to do what we are bound to do if we're in the military, bound by our Constitution to do.
There's an awful lot to be proud of. And so it rubs me wrong when people, when people have negative things to say, but at the end of every day, I look at it and I say, "Well, ain't this a great country?"
Look, what we're doing now is we have young men and women who are fighting and dying in order to promote this notion of liberty and provide some 26 million people in Iraq the opportunity to choose for themselves.
And hopefully, in five years or 10 years or 20 years, some of their elected representatives will also feel free to stand up and perhaps denigrate or perhaps make negative comments about others in the government or perhaps the Iraqi military.
But what we need to do right now is we just need to get on with it and we need to stay after it until we have seen this thing through to the conclusion that the lady told me about, and that conclusion is, we win.
COLMES: Hey, General, look, I appreciate what you said. You do put your life on the line. You are a hero, and people you serve with are heroes and put their lives on the line so people like me and Ted Kennedy can speak out. And we're fighting for that kind of liberty in Iraq so that there can be that kind of free speech there. So...
FRANKS: I wouldn't have it any other way.
COLMES: ... it gets under my skin when people who don't agree with me politically get angry at me for speaking out. You're fighting for that right there, and some people believe that protects our right here, as well. So...
FRANKS: You know, I fight for the right for you, and I, Alan, to disagree. I mean, it's a wonderful — isn't it great for you to say, "Well, General, you know, I just simply don't agree with what you said"?
Or for me to say, "Well, Alan, look, I simply don't agree with what the senator said"?
I don't think we need to carry it to the extreme. Look, the American voter knows what's going on. And — and we're — I'm perfectly satisfied to let the American voter decide whether Senator Kennedy or John Kerry said what was appropriate to say. Our voters will take care of that.
HANNITY: Hey, General, if you look at the opposition when Reagan was confronting the evil empire, the Soviet Union, you look at the battle and the contentious political battles, in this particular case, I guess it's par for the course in some respects. But we have other challenges: North Korea, Iran.
HANNITY: What are your thoughts as we move forward? What are — what are the biggest challenges you see on the horizon in terms of world peace and the security for the American people?
FRANKS: Yes. I think security for the American people is what is what — is what we need to remain focused on. I think we need to — to take words from the past, to remain ever vigilant. I believe that we ought not to predict what will evolve in either Iran or in North Korea or elsewhere.
We should stand on principle, and it is unwavering principle that says, if you threaten the people of the United States of America, you do so at your own peril. That is sufficient.
Look, I have disagreed with so many in the past who have taken what has been referred to as the military option off the table. We don't ever do that.
FRANKS: What we do is we say the full might of the country and so don't tread on me.
HANNITY: General, will you ever consider running for office?
FRANKS: Not at all.
HANNITY: I think you'd be a great politician. I would vote for you.
FRANKS: You're such a nice man. You're such a nice man, but, heck, that's because our politics in some cases line up pretty closely.
HANNITY: General, you're a great American. Thanks, my friend.
COLMES: In that case, if you line up with him, I'm glad you're not running. I...
HANNITY: Thank you, General.
COLMES: Thank you very much for being on our show tonight, sir. Thank you so much.
FRANKS: Always a pleasure. Thank you.
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