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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Franks Holds Press Briefing

Aired March 22, 2003 - 09:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Tommy Franks at the podium in Qatar, the first time we have seen him since the conflict broke out three and a half days ago.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, COMMANDER, CENTRAL COMMAND: Good afternoon.

Let me begin by saying that my heart and the prayers of this coalition go out to the families of those who have already made the ultimate sacrifice. Because of the courage and the dedication of these heroes, the mission of Iraqi Freedom will be achieved.

As President Bush said, as last resort, we must be willing to use military force. We are willing, and we're using military force.

I'm pleased to be joined today by Air Marshal Brian Burridge of Great Britain, Brigadier Mauri McNern (ph) of Australia, Rear Admiral Per T. Demond (ph) from Denmark, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Blom from the Netherlands.

Four coalition partners represented here with us, and as many of you would know, we have at our home in Tampa, Florida, the home of Central Command, 52 nations represented. What many of you may not know is that many of these nations are also represented in the command posts of our component commands located in a number of countries in the region.

You know, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, my boss, yesterday outlined the military objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Let me review them with you.

First, end the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Second, to identify, isolate and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Third, to search for, to capture and to drive out terrorists from that country.

Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to terrorists networks.

Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction.

Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens. Seventh, to secure Iraq's oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people.

And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to a representative self-government.

Today I thought I would describe the campaign you're seeing and provide you an operational update.

Let me begin by saying, this will be a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force.

Let me talk for a minute about our capabilities. The coalition now engaged in and supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom includes army and marine forces from the land component, air forces from several nations, naval forces to include the Coast Guard, and special operations forces.

Our plan introduces these forces across the breadth and depth of Iraq, in some cases simultaneously and in some cases sequentially.

In some cases, our special operations forces support conventional ground forces. Examples of this include operations behind enemy lines, to attack enemy positions and formations, or perhaps to secure bridges and crossing sites over rivers, or perhaps to secure key installations like the gas/oil platforms, and of course in some cases to adjust air power as we saw in Afghanistan.

Now in some cases, our air forces support ground elements or support special operations forces by providing fires and intelligence information, perhaps offensive electronic warfare capabilities. At other times, coalition airmen deliver decisive precision shock, such as you witnessed beginning last night.

At certain points, special operations forces and ground units support air forces by pushing enemy formations into positions to be destroyed by air power. And in yet other cases, our naval elements support air, support ground operations or support special operations forces by providing aircraft, cruise missiles or by conducting maritime operations or mine-clearing operations.

And so the plan, we see, uses combinations of these capabilities that I've just described. It uses them at times and in places of our choosing in order to accomplish the objectives I mentioned just a moment ago.

That plan gives commanders at all levels and it gives me latitude to build the mosaic that I just described in a way that provides flexibility so that we can attack the enemy on our terms, and we are doing so.

And now a bit on what you've seen over the last now less 72 hours. The initiation of combat operations, we refer to that as D- Day. The introduction of special operations forces, we refer to that as S-Day. The introduction of ground forces, G-Day. And the introduction of shock air forces, A-Day.

Additionally, a number of emerging targets have been struck along the way and will continue to be struck as they emerge.

So the sequence you have seen, up to this point, has been S, G, A. That sequence was based on our intelligence reads, how we see the enemy, and on our sense of the capabilities of our own forces.

In a few minutes, Brigadier General Vince Brooks, one of our operations officers, will provide a number of visuals which reflect operations up to this point.

In the days ahead, you will see evidence of the truth of Secretary Rumsfeld's statement yesterday when he said Saddam Hussein was given a choice by the international community to give up his weapons of mass destruction or lose power. He chose unwisely, and now he will lose both.

Let me introduce General Vince Brooks to give you a little bit of an idea of what operations over the last three days have looked like.

Vince?

BRIGADIER GENERAL VINCE BROOKS, OPERATIONS OFFICER: Thank you, sir, very much.

And ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I want to take a few minutes to brief you now on some of the operations that have occurred by the coalition over the last several days.

The operation, of course, began on the 19th of March, and since that time coalition forces have already achieved a number of several key mission objectives.

BROOKS: Our first effort is aggressive and direct attacks to disrupt the regime's key command, control, communications, integrated air defense and ballistic missiles, using very precise targeting and methods that will achieve the desired effects.

This video shows an attack against an Ababil-100 in southern Iraq and resulted in its destruction.

Our second focus is on special operations. Coalition special operations forces entered Iraq at night after destroying Iraqi military outposts, as this short video shows. You will see two clips. The first is an outpost along the border, and the second is a building that supported observers on the border.

The special operations forces then began looking for Saddam Hussein's and the regime's weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles that threaten their neighbors.

Additionally, coalition special operation forces saved three key oil terminals that are used for export through the Gulf. And these terminals are key to the future of Iraq. By preventing certain destruction, the coalition has preserved the future of Iraq. This is the area where the three terminals were in southern Iraq and in the Arabian Gulf.

On these platforms, we found a variety of things. We found weapons, ammunition and explosives. These explosives are not meant for defenders.

Our coalition maritime forces have destroyed the Iraqi naval forces, as the following video shows. This is a patrol boat being attacked from the air, and in a moment you'll see the secondary explosion completing its destruction.

They are also very active in ensuring that the waterways remain open and un-mined so that Iraqi is not cut off from the aid that is prepared to flow in.

What you see in the next image is a tugboat that appears to be carrying oil drums.

In fact, is a mining vessel that transports mines. Interdiction like this one done by our coalition maritime forces and others over the last few days prevented for sure the release of 139 floating mines into the Khor Abdullah, which is an inlet that joins the Iraqi inland waterways with the Arabian Gulf.

Ground maneuver forces attacked to cease the key Ramelah (ph) oil fields and simultaneously began an unprecedented combined-arms penetration deep into Iraq. The attack continues as we speak, and has already moved the distance of the longest maneuver in the 1991 Gulf War in one quarter of the time. The oil fields were spared destruction that was intended by the regime because of the effectiveness of these attacks.

In the next image you'll see wells that were set afire in the 19th, in the afternoon before the coalition attack began. By the next day, the land component had already entered Iraq and prevented any further destruction. And this is video from the entering forces.

And the good news is only nine of the roughly 500 oil wells that are in the Ramelah (ph) oil field, only nine were sabotaged by the regime. The flame on the bottom shows where that location is. All of the rest of them are OK.

I should add that the power of information has been key throughout this operation. And it is truly having the effect of saving lives, of the Iraqi people and military units who are choosing not to fight and die for a doomed regime.

Leaders from several regular army divisions surrendered to coalition forces, and their units abandoned their equipment and returned to their homes, just as the coalition had instructed.

We know that there are other forces on the battlefield that we haven't even arrived at yet.

And as this next image shows, there are Iraqi units that are preparing to surrender, even now as we speak. These are lines of roughly 700 Iraqi soldiers that we have imaged in the desert away from their equipment awaiting our arrival.

The coalition is committed to disarming Iraq, but the coalition is equally committed to bringing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. Our humanitarian work in Iraq is only beginning.

The U.S. military, coalition partners and other civilian organizations from around the world have positioned millions of meals, medicines and other supplies for the Iraqi people. This image shows some of the stocks of humanitarian daily rations that we are already preparing to push forward as they are required.

Our coalition forces will continue to coordinate closely with a broad array of organizations and ensure that as much aid as is possible can be provided to the Iraqi people when it is required and where it is required.

Sir?

FRANKS: Thanks, Vince.

So as we speak, our forces are operating inside Iraq. We have operations ongoing in the north, in the west, in the south, in and around Baghdad. Our troops are performing as we would expect -- magnificently.

And indeed, the outcome is not in doubt. There may well be tough days ahead, but the forces on the field will achieve the objectives that have been set out by the governments of this coalition.

And with that, we'd be pleased to take your questions.

Please?

QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on the status of the surrender negotiations with the senior Iraqi military or civilian leadership. Are they continuing? Are you personally involved? And is the U.S. willing to accept a coalition of Iraqi commanders to assume control as part of a deal?

FRANKS: I wouldn't comment on what the U.S. government is prepared to accept. I'd leave that for my boss to talk about.

I will say that we have ongoing dialogues, as I think was mentioned in the Pentagon press brief yesterday, with a number of senior Iraqi officials. And so, those discussions, both with people in uniform and not in uniform, will continue in the hours and the days ahead.

QUESTION: The campaign so far has gone with breathtaking speed. Has it surprised you, or is it going more or less as you expected?

FRANKS: I think any time forces are joined in a war it's a blessing when very few people lose their lives. It's a blessing when it's possible for us to move in the direction of our objectives. I believe that the time for us to celebrate will be when the mission is accomplished. We believe that we are on our time line, as we say. And I am satisfied with what I see up to this point, sir.

Please?

QUESTION: We have seen bombing both during the day and the night. This afternoon, it appeared that there wasn't much resistance from anti-aircraft positions in Baghdad, in and around the city.

Could you describe to us what kind of opposition you're facing on the ground as the bombing campaign goes on?

FRANKS: In two parts, in the air and on the ground. Our forces on the ground, to include our special operations forces, have encountered enemy formations on a number of occasions and a number of places. And the fight has been joined in several places inside Iraq.

With respect to the air defenses in and around Baghdad, I think it was pretty evident last night that there was a lot of air defense going up in the air. We're pleased at this point that we have not had any of our coalition aircraft damaged by any of that air defense.

It is obvious that the regime continues to move air-defense assets around as best he can for the purpose of survivability. We'll continue to do our work with these magnificent airmen. And over time, we'll take down all of the air-defense capability that exists today.

Sir?

QUESTION: Can I ask you to talk to the blitz on Baghdad? How does it help you to be regarded as liberators by the Iraqi people when they're being terrified by that display of ordnance?

And also bear in mind that some of the targets may have suspect military value, because if they are obvious regime buildings they would have long ago been evacuated.

FRANKS: I think there are those who would say that many of the buildings could be evacuated. I think there are many others who would say many of the buildings would not be evacuated.

I don't use exactly the terminology that you used. I think rather what we're about is approaching the problem of this regime from a number of directions simultaneously. That's, as I described, the business of special operations forces, ground forces and air power.

The times and the locations where we put each of these ingredients will vary, actually, by day. That is the nature of this plan. It is built on flexibility, beyond any that I have seen in the course of my service. And so it's very difficult to comment about the specific achievement of any one of those arms.

We thought that the work that was done at the beginning of A-Day, last evening, was exceptionably well done. The targeting was precise. The munitions used, in fact, were all precision munitions. And there were no -- there were no targets selected that were not precisely appropriate to what the plan calls for.

Sir?

QUESTION: General Franks, what can you tell us about the success in attacking so-called regime targets? Or can you tell us what you know of the status, whereabouts or health of Saddam Hussein?

And what do you say to those people who say that the people are most likely to be shocked and awestruck by Shock and Awe are the Iraqi civilians you claim to be liberating?

FRANKS: I think on the third point I wouldn't offer anything beyond what I said a minute ago.

With respect to what is going on with the regime right now, I think that there is a certain confusion that is going on within the regime. I believe command and control is not exactly as advertised on Baghdad television.

I believe that we should all be very confident that the application of force that's going into that country is designed to be so precise that it avoids, in every way possible, exposure of noncombatants to that.

And with respect to the first part of your question, I think -- actually, I don't talk about strategic targets and so forth. What I talk about is emerging targets. Emerging targets can be leadership targets. They can be military formations. They can be some communication, mobile communications capability that the regime has.

And on several occasions up to this point, in fact, we have attacked emerging targets, several within the last 24 hours. And so, in order for me to pick one and isolate it, it just actually doesn't serve our purpose or our plan.

And so, it is part of that mosaic that I described. We see it every day and we'll continue to see it as these targets emerge.

Let me come over here, please. Sir?

QUESTION: Have you been able to locate any weapons of mass destruction, or are you hearing anything about weapons of mass destruction from some of the people you're now taking into custody, POWs and detainees?

FRANKS: Weapons of mass destruction represents one of the key objectives that we have here, to locate them, to control them.

We receive information every day from a number of sources, with respect to weapons of mass destruction. Some of it may turn out to be good information. Some of it is a bit speculative.

One would expect that weapons of mass destruction would perhaps be found in certain parts of the country. And that is work that lies in front of us rather than work that we have already accomplished, is probably the best way I can answer your question. Please?

QUESTION: Good day, General. Can you update us on the status of Basra? And to what extent are Turkish forces in the north complicating your plans?

FRANKS: Basra's the second-largest population center in Iraq. And although we have seen the regime position weapons in and around precious facilities -- civilian facilities inside Basra, we have not seen large numbers of formations.

And so our intent is not to move through and create military confrontations in that city. Rather we expect that we'll work with Basra and the citizens in Basra the same way, I believe, has been widely reported in Umm Qasr.

What we have seen up to this point is that the Iraqis are welcoming the forces when they come in. And so once again, this is about liberation and not about occupation. And so our desire will be to work with the civilian populations in Basra.

And I'm sorry, what was your other question?

QUESTION: Turkish forces that are reported to be encroaching into Iraq, what degree of complication?

FRANKS: I've seen much about that, and actually I believe that the Turkish formations that we see in northern Iraq are very light formations. We see them move in and out of Turkey.

There is continuing discussion, I know, at the political level to decide exactly how much of that, when, is acceptable and so forth. And I guess I would say that's sort of above my pay grade.

Obviously we have consultations, we have contact. I have one of my general officers in Turkey working with the Turks, and have had him there for some time. And so we're able to maintain coordination and, I believe, the necessary cooperation with the Turkish government up to this point.

QUESTION: Your targeting of regime targets in Baghdad seems to be that you're targeting some parts of the regime, some parts most closely identified with Saddam Hussein himself, some ministries and leaving others untouched.

Is this part of sowing confusion in the regime, perhaps setting one part of it against another?

FRANKS: It is actually a part of the mosaic I talked about a minute ago. It is an issue of taking what we know and what we form into targets sets, specific locations, and using appropriate weapons systems against those targets at points and at times of our choosing.

And it is a complex process. It is very, very carefully done. It is very carefully planned and, at least up to this point, I believe has been magnificently executed. Please?

QUESTION: You've talked a little bit about the agility of the modern military. Could you possibly walk us back to Wednesday, when you got the information about the target of opportunity, and explain in some detail, if you would, sir, how did you react? What did you have to do to scramble to get that to happen? And how did it affect the actual start of the war?

FRANKS: Why would you ask if we had to scramble?

(LAUGHTER)

Actually, as I said, a plan that's agile, a plan that is flexible provides what we call branches to be able to undertake a number of actions at the same time.

I talked a little bit about S-Day and G-Day and A-Day, and I also said that throughout the course of this planning and this operation there will always be a need to engage emerging targets. Now, sometimes emerging targets will be engaged by ground forces, and sometimes engaging targets will be engaged by air forces and so forth.

Now, actually what I will say about that emerging target, which is much reported on and much talked about, is, from my view, that was about as close a coordination as I have ever seen work a time- sensitive or an emerging target. And as you know, I have worked a great many of them in Afghanistan.

That target was worked on an amazing time line and, in fact, did not cause the adjustment of a single aspect of what we've been about since this thing started.

Please?

QUESTION: One of the most striking...

FRANKS: I see a lot of you BBC guys.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: We're like you, we've got lots of different arms, lots of different services.

One of the most striking things in your briefing was your comment, several regular Iraqi army divisions have surrendered or their leaders have surrendered...

FRANKS: Right.

QUESTION: ... the troops have abandoned their weapons, the soldiers have gone home.

You showed us a picture of troops in the desert. It wasn't a great picture, as far as I was concerned. I couldn't see much about it. This is a very important propaganda issue. If the Iraqi forces hear through a whole variety of means that units are just simply melting away, that would be information that would be very useful for you to have imparted by the world's media.

What further information, what further evidence can you give us that leads us to accept that probably tens of thousands or many thousand Iraqi troops are simply melting away and going home?

FRANKS: Whoa, whoa, whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't recall having said thousands or tens of thousands. I think when I walked out to come over here, we had seen enemy prisoners of war in the range of 1,000 to 2,000, which we actually have in custody right now.

We have with certain knowledge the fact that thousands more have laid down their weapons and have gone home. And we have with certain knowledge that that little picture that Vince Brooks showed up here a minute ago is in fact about 700 Iraqis lined up in a way that they were instructed by way of leaflets and radio broadcasts to line up if they chose not to be engaged.

Sir, please?

QUESTION: Do you have any personal message for the casualties?

And for the second question, do you think Iraqi president Saddam Hussein would become a black shadow like Osama bin Laden is right now?

FRANKS: I think that the president of the United States was very clear when he talked about regime change and when he talked about controlling this regime's weapons of mass destruction.

I've said on a number of occasions that when our nations -- when the international community commits, as we have, to go to war to unseat this regime, that this is not about a single personality. This is about the control over a country for decades in a way that has been threatening to peace-loving peoples of the world.

And so that's probably the best I can give you on the second -- on your second question. And I'm sorry, I didn't understand the first one.

QUESTION: Just wondered about a personal statement for the families of the casualties.

FRANKS: Oh, for the families of the casualties? Absolutely.

As I said in my opening remarks, my heart goes out to the loved ones and to the families of those who have fallen. I think all of us who have served in prior wars at different times in different places have a certain feeling about the loss of a comrade. These are wonderful -- these are wonderful young people. And my personal thoughts and prayers and the thoughts and prayers of a great many nations go out to their families.

Please, ma'am?

QUESTION: There's been so many rumors about Saddam Hussein's whereabouts. Do you have any idea where Saddam is at right now? And how confident are you in capturing him?

FRANKS: Actually, I have no idea where he is right now. I suppose we'll know more in the days ahead. And that's the best answer I can you give you.

Sir, please?

QUESTION: Given all of the talk leading up to this of chemical weapons, how surprised are you that no chemical weapons have been fired at your troops? And what does that tell you about whether or not they exist? And how concerned are you that they still might be coming?

FRANKS: I think it's a -- well, of course we're concerned, and we'll remain concerned.

I think that there are two ways to look at an enemy, and one way is to try to anticipate what he might think or what he might do. That's not the way that I think we choose to do it. What we try to do is determine his military capacity and then prepare our forces and prepare ourselves to meet the weapon-of-mass-destruction use if he should choose to do so.

You know, I think the president said the other day that there will be people, and there have been people, who have believed that through the use of terrorism, potentially through the use of weapons of mass destruction, that we can -- that we, this coalition, can be driven away from our goals. Simply not going to happen.

Someone asked me not too long ago, "What happens if this regime uses weapons of mass destruction?" And my response was, "We win." And that's because we have a commitment to this operation, and our people have a commitment.

And so, I would give you the same answer.

We would be hopeful that those with their triggers on these weapons understand what Secretary Don Rumsfeld said in his comments yesterday: Don't use it. Don't use it.

Sir?

QUESTION: General Franks, it was reported that more than 200 Iraqi civilians have been killed or injured ever since the war began. Do you have any comment on that?

So what kind of measurements has the coalition taken or is going to take in order to minimize the civilian casualty during the military action?

Thank you very much.

FRANKS: With respect to a question of, you know, how do you feel about that, I think that the nature of war, which is why my own president said it's a the last resort, it's a final option, is that noncombatants are injured and killed in a war.

That's why the members of this coalition go literally to extraordinary lengths in order to be able to be precise in our targeting. We've done that and we'll continue to do that, because there is no assurance that this operation, Operation Iraqi Freedom, ends in a matter of hours or that it ends in a matter of days.

I think what we do is we remain guided by principles. And the principles involve the accomplishment of our mission on the shortest time line possible, protecting innocent lives, both our own and the lives of innocent civilians. Sir, that's best I can give you.

Sir?

QUESTION: There is an impression here in the region that you are having more trouble than you are willing to admit, that you're meeting stiffer resistance than you're willing to meet. One case being brought to mind is Umm Qasr, if you can talk about that?

And yesterday, following the air strikes, the Iraqi information minister said that your forces are going to be decapitated and droughted (ph), if you can comment on that.

Thank you.

FRANKS: Sure. I think there might be an expected response to that question, which actually you won't get from me. I don't think it's appropriate for senior military people to wave their arms in response to the sort of hype that was described, and so I won't do that.

I'll simply say that we have been and will remain deadly serious about our business. And all in this room should remain convinced that what we say from this podium, myself or my staff, or what we say from the various press centers associated with this coalition will be absolute truth as we know it.

Please, sir?

QUESTION: Sir, does the Iraqi military still have the ability to strike Israel with ballistic missiles?

FRANKS: One doesn't know whether the regime has the ability to strike any neighboring country with missiles.

We do know that more than two dozen Scud launchers remain unaccounted for since the days of the Gulf War. We also know that we want to provide the best defensive capability that we can, and we know that we want to posture our force dispositions in a way that makes attacks on neighboring countries just as hard as we can make it.

Now, as you know, there have been, at least to my knowledge, six surface-to-surface missile attacks into Kuwait over the last couple of days. And if my memory serves, four of those were destroyed by Patriot units. In fact, one was destroyed by a Kuwaiti Patriot unit. One was permitted to fly harmlessly into the northern Arabian Gulf and another into an unpopulated desert area.

And so, is that -- does that provide fact certain that we can provide the 100th percentile of defense? Absolutely not. There is no certainty. I will say, sir, that I like our posture the way we see it now.

Ma'am?

QUESTION: You mentioned at the start of the briefing the efforts to rout the terrorist networks from Iraq. Can you give us some details of what you're doing specifically in that regard? Ansar al- Islam, up in the Kurdish areas, can you give us some details on that effort?

FRANKS: I can't really provide you a lot of detail. I can tell you that from time to time in Iraq we will come across what we believe to be terrorist-associated activity or people. And when we do so, we will strike them, and then we will exploit the site subsequent to the strike.

I can you tell you that, in fact, we did strike, last evening, a terrorist complex, the one that you just made reference to. And I won't describe exactly what action we'll be taking in the next few days with regard to that particular site.

Sir, please? Back here.

QUESTION: We are getting close from the fourth day of war, and until now we can't see any sign of weapons of mass destruction. We can't see any using of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq.

Was it a big lie or just a cover to justify your invasion of Iraq and to remove its regime, which still cannot use any kind of these weapons to defend itself against your attacks?

Thank you.

FRANKS: A bit less than 72 hours of this operation so far, and as I said earlier, potential for days and for weeks ahead.

There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.

And of course there is no doubt about that. It will come in the future.

Sir, please? QUESTION: According to (OFF-MIKE), do you know the location of weapons of mass destruction or (OFF-MIKE)?

FRANKS: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

QUESTION: Do you know the location of the WMD you talked about? Have you (OFF-MIKE)? Or is this effectively (OFF-MIKE)?

FRANKS: Well, no, I think what this is a coalition force that is designed to take down this regime and to control the weapons of mass destruction, which for certain sure exists within Iraq. And the approaches and the amount of time that it will take to identify those weapons and control them remains to be seen, very candidly.

Please?

QUESTION: I understand you can't comment specifically on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein. You might now know that, but do you believe that he's still alive? Do you believe he was wounded in a strike the other day? And do you believe if he's alive, is he still running the country?

FRANKS: Actually, I don't know. I don't know if he's alive or not. But interestingly, the way we're undertaking this military operation, it would not be changed irrespective of the location or the life of this one man. And that's why we talk about the regime.

It would not surprise any of us that, whether Saddam Hussein is alive or dead, that our forces have been engaged, as I mentioned earlier, in combat operations against the forces of this regime, both in and around Baghdad, which we all saw on television last night, and in a number of other cases in this country.

And so, it is not about that one personality. In fact, it is about this regime. And so that's what we're going to focus on.

Sir, please?

QUESTION: Do you think it was an error that the Stars and Stripes were raised over Iraqi territory yesterday?

And what kind of military government beckons for post-war Iraq?

FRANKS: Actually, I don't know. I think that is -- that depends on the eye of the beholder. I think that, in zeal, people will want to represent that they have achieved a certain milestone. And if you're from our country, then one of the first things that can pop into the young man's mind is to raise his national colors.

I suppose I found it to be much more instructive that immediately following that, in recognizing that his job had to do with liberation and not occupation, that he quickly brought down his colors.

Please?

QUESTION: Mr. Franks, can you please tell me why this news conference was delayed?

FRANKS: Sure.

QUESTION: Because you know this is quite unusual. Everybody expect that there was going to be a news conference at the first night of the air strike, so lots of rumors were confirmed by not Central Command, but the Pentagon.

Thank you.

FRANKS: A very good question, having to do with why the timing of this press conference and why not yesterday or the day before or whatever.

Actually, many of the media embedded with coalition force would tell you that we're a bit sensitive about the possibility of leaking information that risks the lives of our people who are engaged in this work. I could give you can example.

Were we to have a press conference here or, in fact, a press conference in Washington that described what might happen on S-Day or answered questions the nature of which you've asked me here today -- all very good questions -- then the risk of providing just that one piece of information that winds up risking the mission or winds up risking the lives of the people who have been put to this task, it seems to me, just isn't worth it.

And so the decision has been that we would move through the first few days of this before our command here made any comment.

We'll try our best to provide fact-based information on a daily basis to the press center here. I feel very good about that. But I will also tell you that I feel very good about the work that's been done up to this point.

Last question, please? Sir?

QUESTION: Operationally, what's the greatest surprise you've encountered to this date, a circumstance with the outcome that you least expected?

FRANKS: Actually, my greatest surprise was when I got up this morning and I looked at my computer and I realized that my wife had sent me a happy anniversary note this morning and I had forgotten to send her one.

(LAUGHTER)

Actually, there have been no surprises, in the way that you asked the question.

One is surprised I think when one has not had a year to think through the possibilities. Much has been said and written about this business of one plan good enough and another not and so forth.

And the fact of the matter is that for a period of about a year, a great deal of intense planning and a great deal of what-ifing by all of us has gone into this, so that we prepare ourselves and prepare our subordinates in a way that we minimize the number of surprises. There will be surprises, but we have not yet -- we have not yet seen them. Thanks a lot. Best to you.

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