An Eyewitness Account of Iraq’s Fall from Grace

     This is an exclusive review and interview with Rick Francona, the author of Desert-Storm: Ally to Adversary, an eyewitness account of Iraq’s fall from grace. 

     Ally to Adversary – An Eyewitness Account of Iraq’s Fall From Grace tells the story of U.S. policy toward Iraq from the final year of the Iran-Iraq War through the end of the Persian Gulf War as seen through the eyes of a military officer intimately      involved in the execution of that policy.  In the late 1980’s, the U.S. Department of Defense entered a cooperative relationship with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. Rick Francona was one of the officers tasked with going to Baghdad to work with the Iraqi armed forces.  During the course of his duties, he was exposed to senior Iraqi military officers and operations.  This unique insight into Iraqi military operations, including the use of missile and chemical weapons, was to shape his key role in the
     U.S.-led Desert Storm coalition fighting Iraq three years later. 
A fluent Arabic speaker with extensive experience in the Middle East, Francona was selected to serve as General “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf’s interpreter.  In Ally to Adversary, he relates his experiences in dealing with the Saudis and other      members of the coalition, culminating in the ceasefire talks with the Iraqis.  It was at a dusty airfield in U.S.-occupied southern Iraq where he came face-to-face with his past dealings with the same Iraqi officers he had worked with three years earlier. 
     While Desert Storm was for many a war against a faceless enemy, for Rick Francona it was a war against friends and former colleagues.

~~Interview with the Author ~~

DS     How did you intially get involved in becoming an interpreter?  Did you plan to do this while in school?

RF     When I enlisted in the Air Force in 1970, I was given a language aptitude test, and I scored well.  I was offered the opportunity to become a linguist, with vague hints of Russian, Hungarian, Czech, etc, and embassy duty in Europe.  However, at that time, almost all new linguists were trained in Vietnamese and sent to Southeast Asia, as was I.  When the war ended in 1973, there was no need for the large number of Vietnamese linguists, so many of us were offered retraining in other languages.  The choices were German, Arabic, or Hebrew.  I thought Arabic would offer the greatest opportunity for travel to interesting places.  This was before the October 1973 war and the oil embargo, so I did not realize what a great choice I had made.  After that, Arabic speakers were always in demand.

Continue on to Page 2 of the Interview with Rick Francona

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