WASHINGTON -- Retired Army General Tommy Franks declared yesterday that he was to blame for President Bush's much-criticized comments declaring an end to major combat in Iraq more than a year ago.
''That's my fault, that George W. Bush said what he said on the 1st of May of last year, just because I asked him to," said Franks, former commander of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Less than two months after the invasion of Iraq, Bush flew to a US aircraft carrier and declared an end to major combat with a banner proclaiming ''Mission Accomplished" in the background.
The event, Bush's words, and the banner have been criticized and mocked. A violent Iraqi insurgency developed, the number of American deaths continued to mount, and US forces did not find weapons of mass destruction, a main rationale for the war.
''I wanted to get the phase of military operation over as quickly as I could because a lot of countries on this planet had said as soon as that major stuff is over, we'll come in and help with all of the peacekeeping," Franks said.
''On the 1st of May when Bush did what he did, I was proud of him because he did what I, as the commander, had asked him to do," Franks said in an appearance at the National Press Club. ''So if there's a mistake there, it's mine, not a plot. So I thought I'd share that with you."
Franks noted that the Bush administration has had limited success persuading other nations to contribute troops to Iraq. Of about 160,000 foreign forces in Iraq, about 140,000 are American.