ALLY TO ADVERSARY
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
~~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
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