COUNTDOWN TO WAR: MILITARY MACHINE IS SET FOR CONFLICT: A Bumpkin Known as Pooh Who'll Mastermind the War; TOMMY FRANKS, A UNI DROPOUT 4-STAR GENERAL
Byline: RICHARD WALLACE US Editor in Washington
THE military mastermind behind the invasion of Iraq is a country music-loving university dropout known affectionately to his grandchildren as Pooh.
Four-star general Tommy Franks, 57, should be sitting on his porch back home in Texas smoking his favourite cigar and sipping a margarita.
Instead, the golf-loving soldier is 30ft underground, directing battle operations in a nuclear bomb-proof bunker in Qatar.
When he was due to retire last summer, George Bush persuaded the taciturn 6ft 3in general to stay on for another year because he was one of the few senior US officers who actually got on with rough-edged Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.
One defence official said: "Rummie takes a lot of handling and Tommy knows how to handle him.
"Basically let him blow off steam, then get on with the job."
Colleagues say Franks plays up his country bumpkin roots - his recent verdict on eating sushi for the first time was "fish bait on a plate" - to disguise a shrewd and sometimes manipulative character.
Rumsfeld himself admits: "Tommy's intelligent and quick and he knows his stuff. He cares only about what is the most effective way to put military power on a military target." Born in Oklahoma and brought up in Midland, Texas, he went to the same high school as the president's wife Laura, although they didn't know each other.
His retired headmaster remarked to the general at a recent reunion: "You were not the brightest bulb in the socket." Franks replied: "Ain't this a great country?"
Franks dropped out of the University of Texas to join the army as a private and saw action in Vietnam, where he was wounded three times and awarded three Purple Hearts for bravery. It's a period of his life he refuses to discuss.
After Vietnam he returned to college, then graduated into the officer corps, serving in Germany, Korea and the Gulf War, among other assignments, on his way to his current job as head of Central Command. …