Friday, May 7, 2004

General who led war has hope for Maupin

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Retired four-star Gen. Tommy Franks talks with local reporters Thursday before his speech to the Bethesda Foundation dinner at the Hyatt Regency downtown.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN
The fate of Pfc. Matt Maupin, the Clermont County soldier taken hostage last month in Iraq, may depend on how extreme his captors are, retired Gen. Tommy Franks said Thursday in Cincinnati.

"If they are Al-Qaida types, that is one thing; if they are Iraqi locals, he may be treated better,'' said the four-star general who led U.S. forces in toppling Saddam Hussein's regime.

Franks, who retired in August, said he has no personal knowledge of the Maupin case, but said he believes it is more likely that Maupin is being held by Iraqis "on the less-violent end of the continuum.''

Franks was at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown Thursday as the featured speaker for a Bethesda Foundation fund-raising dinner. The dinner, which drew a crowd of about 500, raised $200,000 for the Bethesda North paramedic training program.

In a brief press conference before his speech, which was closed to the press, Franks said he is certain the U.S. government and military will fully investigate the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. military and civilian personnel at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

"It is hideous, unbelievable conduct,'' Franks said. "That sort of thing was acceptable in that prison under Saddam Hussein; it is not acceptable under American control.''

Franks dismissed critics who believe the American force of just under 200,000 that invaded Iraq last year was too small to keep the peace and help rebuild the country.

"To build a force of about 500,000 would have taken another six months, and by that time, there would not have been much left in Iraq,'' Franks said.

Franks said he believes the United States will be able to meet the June 30 deadline for turning over authority to an interim Iraqi government.

"I believe the Iraqis themselves will be ready,'' Frank said. "The Iraqi people do not want to move backwards.''

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