Sunday, June 27, 2004

Congressional leaders and military officers past and present declared retired Gen. Tommy R. Franks a liberator of the highest order Wednesday when Business Executives for National Security (BENS) honored the plain-spoken soldier with its Eisenhower Award at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said the commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had carried on the vital work of the president for which the award is named.

“They share a legacy not only of warriors but of liberators,” the Kansas Republican said of the 36-year Army veteran.

Sen. John Warner stood firmly by Gen. Franks’ military achievements in a moving tribute as well

“We commit tonight, in every way, to finish what you started and meet the goals you set for this nation,” the Virginia Republican said.

Gen. Franks, who earned an honorary knighthood from the British government after he retired in May, compared the war against terrorism to the struggle against the Axis powers in World War II.

“This is about a helluva lot more than an election year. It’s about our children and grandchildren,” the general said of the stakes.

The United States’ limited responses to terrorism dating back to the 1983 bombing of an American barracks in Beirut gave the enemy the gumption to pull off the September 11 attacks, Gen. Franks said. Ideological skirmishes over who is responsible, he added, won’t rectify the situation.

“There’s enough blame to go around … let’s [do] the work that needs to be done.”

Lt. Gen. Michael M. Dunn, president of the National Defense University, said Gen. Franks’ twin military victories defied significant odds.

“There were hundreds of things that could go wrong,” he said of the Middle East conflicts. “My hat’s off to him.”

Singer Wayne Newton, who became acquainted with the honoree while entertaining the troops with the USO, said the country could use a lot more military leaders like Gen. Franks.

“When he says something, he means it. There’s never a hidden agenda,” said Mr. Newton, looking robust and perfectly coifed.

Other guests spoke not just of Gen. Franks’ efforts but of the mission of the nonpartisan BENS organization, which utilizes senior business executives’ experiences to strengthen national security.

Former Rep. Jack Kemp said too many people miss the powerful contributions the business community makes to keep America safe and secure.

“Here,” said Mr. Kemp, extending his arm to include the audience, “is the essence of peace through strength.”

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