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First Post-Iraq War Museum

The race to lock down the telling of 21st century American history has started in an unlikely place: the small town of Hobart in southwestern Oklahoma. It’s there that the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum is opening this weekend to much fanfare, and a concert appearance by Wayne Newton.

The four-star general (retired) was in charge of U.S. Central Command during the eventful early years of the George W. Bush administration. He led the successful American invasion of Iraq in 2003, but was blamed for allowing Osama Bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan, and for letting Iraq sink into anarchy after “Mission Accomplished” was announced — although, to be fair, he may just have been following the orders of others.

George W. Bush awarded Franks a Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is a prized display in the museum. Other memorable exhibits, according to museum director Trapper Heglin, are a motorcycle and sidecar given to the general by the King of Jordan, the jukebox from the general’s favorite high school soda fountain, and “top secret videos” of the general discussing war strategy with George W. Bush (The clothes worn by Bush and Franks are displayed alongside.)

The museum also exhibits an almost-obligatory piece of the World Trade Center, one of Saddam Hussein’s cigars, and “different rags and memorabilia from Afghanistan,” according to Heglin, who stressed that its purpose is not to burnish the general’s image, but to promote “leadership, patriotism, and service.”

“It was the thousands of men and women who served under him,” Heglin said, “that made him successful.”

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October 18, 2021

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