What do you want, a medal?

Published December 14, 2004 10:51PM (EST)

Oh, the pomp and circumstance. In a ceremony in Washington today, President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ret. Gen. Tommy Franks, Former CIA Director George Tenet and Paul Bremer, the former Coalition Authority leader in Iraq. Bush said that Bremer "worked day and night, in difficult, dangerous conditions" and that he "will be remembered for his superb work in laying the foundations of a new democracy in the Middle East."

Um, yeah. While Bremer no doubt toiled under grueling conditions, we're not so sure that "superb work" is what we'll remember about the guy whose strategy of de-Baathification included the disastrous disbanding of the entire Iraqi military, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of unemployed, disgruntled Iraqi men wandering off into the countryside with their weapons in tow.

As for Tenet, with a broken U.S. intelligence system and a White House that would only take one answer for an answer, he may have had a next-to-impossible job. But he was certainly no slam dunk either.

And you have to appreciate the way Bush chose to honor his leading general from the Iraq war. "At a recent high school reunion, Tommy's old principal told the general, 'You weren't the bright bulb in the socket,'" Bush said, alluding to General Franks' early indifference as a student. "To which the general replied, 'Ain't this a great country?'"

We can only speculate as to what praise Bush might offer when he gives Rummy his medal: "When the troops complained about multiple extended tours of duty or not having enough armor to protect them against insurgent attacks, the defense secretary replied, 'Ain't this the most unimaginative Army you've ever seen?'"

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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