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Medal of Freedom goes to three

WASHINGTON -- President Bush is awarding the nation's highest civilian honor to three men central to his Iraq policy, the White House announced yesterday.

Bush has chosen retired General Tommy Franks, who oversaw combat in Afghanistan and the initial invasion of Iraq, former CIA director George Tenet, and former Iraq administrator Paul Bremer to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The president will hand out the awards at a White House ceremony Dec. 14, press secretary Scott McClellan said.

Franks is a retired four-star Army general who commanded US forces when Bush ordered the Iraq invasion in March 2003. He didn't decide until summer to endorse Bush's reelection, but then spoke on the president's behalf at the Republican National Convention and campaigned for Bush through the fall.

Tenet left the CIA in July after seven years as director. He was criticized for intelligence failures on his watch, including the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the prewar allegations, never proven, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Bremer was the top US official in postwar Iraq until he oversaw the transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government in June.

This fall, Bremer suggested the United States had paid a price in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of major combat operations because it did not have enough troops in place to stop the looting.

Those remarks gave Bush critics ammunition for their claims that the administration's postwar planning was inadequate.

Bremer tried to calm that controversy by saying he had constantly supported the president's strategy in Iraq.

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