Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts
large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.
Franks, who successfully led the U.S. military operation to liberate Iraq, expressed his worries in an
extensive interview he gave to the men’s lifestyle magazine Cigar Aficionado.
In the magazine’s December edition, the former commander of the military’s Central Command warned
that if terrorists succeeded in using a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. or one of
our allies, it would likely have catastrophic consequences for our cherished republican form of
Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that “the
worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear
weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.
If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and
that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we
Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an
“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing
event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our
population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a
repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of
our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.”
Franks didn’t speculate about how soon such an event might take place.
Already, critics of the U.S. Patriot Act, rushed through Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks,
have argued that the law aims to curtail civil liberties and sets a dangerous precedent.
But Franks’ scenario goes much further. He is the first high-ranking official to openly speculate that
the Constitution could be scrapped in favor of a military form of government.
The usually camera-shy Franks retired from U.S. Central Command, known in Pentagon lingo as
CentCom, in August 2003, after serving nearly four decades in the Army.
Franks earned three Purple Hearts for combat wounds and three Bronze Stars for valor. Known as a
“soldier’s general,” Franks made his mark as a top commander during the U.S.’s successful Operation
Desert Storm, which liberated Kuwait in 1991. He was in charge of CentCom when Osama bin Laden’s
al-Qaeda attacked the United States on Sept. 11.
Franks said that within hours of the attacks, he was given orders to prepare to root out the Taliban in
Afghanistan and to capture bin Laden.
Franks offered his assessment on a number of topics to Cigar Aficionado, including:
President Bush: “As I look at President Bush, I think he will ultimately be judged as a man of extremely
high character. A very thoughtful man, not having been appraised properly by those who would say
he’s not very smart. I find the contrary. I think he’s very, very bright. And I suspect that he’ll be judged
as a man who led this country through a crease in history effectively. Probably we’ll think of him in
years to come as an American hero.”
On the motivation for the Iraq war: Contrary to claims that top Pentagon brass opposed the invasion
of Iraq, Franks said he wholeheartedly agreed with the president’s decision to invade Iraq and oust
“I, for one, begin with intent. ... There is no question that Saddam Hussein had intent to do harm to
the Western alliance and to the United States of America. That intent is confirmed in a great many of
his speeches, his commentary, the words that have come out of the Iraqi regime over the last dozen
or so years. So we have intent.
“If we know for sure ... that a regime has intent to do harm to this country, and if we have something
beyond a reasonable doubt that this particular regime may have the wherewithal with which to execute
the intent, what are our actions and orders as leaders in this country?”
The Pentagon’s deck of cards: Asked how the Pentagon decided to put its most-wanted Iraqis on a
set of playing cards, Franks explained its genesis. He recalled that when his staff identified the most
notorious Iraqis the U.S. wanted to capture, “it just turned out that the number happened to be about
the same as a deck of cards. And so somebody said, ‘Aha, this will be the ace of spades.’”
Capturing Saddam: Franks said he was not surprised that Saddam has not been captured or killed.
But he says he will eventually be found, perhaps sooner than Osama bin laden.
“The capture or killing of Saddam Hussein will be a near term thing. And I won’t say that’ll be within 19
or 43 days. ... I believe it is inevitable.”
Franks ended his interview with a less-than-optimistic note. “It’s not in the history of civilization for
peace ever to reign. Never has in the history of man. ... I doubt that we’ll ever have a time when the
world will actually be at peace.”