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General Tim Cross
Interview with Major General Tim Cross

25 May 2003

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS: Well I'm joined here in the studio by Major General Tim Cross, No. 2 in Iraq in the occupying forces. That last point he makes - there just aren't enough people on the ground to secure the situation - is that a fair point?

TIM CROSS: I think it's fair, yes, but going back what, Alex and I know each other quite from the past and previous deployments and I think he gave a very fair summary of the situation. There are those who I think are overplaying the problems there. There's no doubt that bringing back to life a nation is not easy and we've had lots of difficulties and we will have more in the days ahead. I think the problem of security in Baghdad is one that's caught everybody's eye and there is doubt there's a lot of work that needs to be done but I left two or three days ago, I'm going back later on this week, and things are definitely getting better. I think they're getting better slowly and some areas are getting better than in other areas but overall I think we are making good progress.

PETER SISSONS: What are the sort of rules of engagement when you keep order on the streets and you get these armed gangs. What are the troops' instructions?

TIM CROSS: Well in all cases and this is no different to any other deployment, it's minimum force. People have said that we should be shooting more looters. Well, we're not in the business of shooting children who are moving around ruined houses looking for food or whatever, we are in the business of shooting people who carry weapons and shoot at us. But actually that's been relatively few and far between. What we're in the business now of doing is arresting looters and that has been happening increasingly over the last couple of weeks and I think that is beginning to make a difference.

PETER SISSONS: Why did you seem so much better prepared in Kosovo?

TIM CROSS: Well I was in Kosovo and the deployment, a, was completely different deployment. Kosovo is a much smaller place, the force levels were higher in terms of the size of the country. We had not fought a campaign as we've just fought in Iraq and I think the depth of fear and the depth of the whole regime for over 30 years had really made such a huge impression on people in Iraq that I for one had underestimated that. I was surprised how people would just not move without some form of authority.

PETER SISSONS: All the talk now of course is getting people back from Iraq, but you need more people according to Alex Renton. When are the military police going to arrive? When are the metropolitan police going to arrive? When are those sort of civic blocks going to be put in place?

TIM CROSS: Well we're standing up the ministries and that's inevitably taking a little time. I think it's worth again putting into perspective - we've only been in this situation for the last three or four weeks and standing up.

PETER SISSONS: But you could have had a shipload of military police waiting for the war to end, to go in.

TIM CROSS: Well I think, I mean, don't underestimate how many military police are there, and Baghdad is the responsibility of the US forces as part of the coalition and they are reinforcing the numbers of military police and they will be certainly reaching about 4,000 military police in Baghdad fairly soon. But more importantly, I think we're trying to stand up the police force, the judiciary and the whole of the justice system. And to try to set the scene for the viewers, I mean, if you imaging going into London and every Ministry building is completely empty of furniture, completely empty of people, most of the windows blown out, just trying to find the people who work in those Ministries, the equivalent of the Home Office and so forth, getting to know them, find out who worked there, getting them back to work, beginning to pay their salaries which we're now beginning to do, and encouraging them to come back and work with us is bound to take a bit of time. But actually, I think the standing up of the Ministries is going quite well, some better than others.

PETER SISSONS: What about the quality of life? Again the Observer is reporting today 'a month of default and negligence in dealing with desperate need'.

TIM CROSS: Well I just wouldn't accept that. I mean, one hears comments from people who I sense sometimes are almost disappointed that things weren't worse when we first went in. The coalition fought a magnificent campaign, the humanitarian crisis was not there, the reconstruction crisis was not there. Of course people are in difficulties, I mean it would be nonsense to suggest otherwise and some parts of the country are worse than others.

PETER SISSONS: Have they got everything they need?

TIM CROSS: Well, no, I mean, have hospitals in this country got everything they need, probably not. I think in relative terms we are not as badly off as me might have feared. Now, there are shortages, of course there are, but actually the shortages are not as bad as we anticipated and many of the hospitals do not need vast quantities of drugs. What they need is new equipment, modern equipment. Saddam sat on this country for 30 years, starved them of infrastructure and investment and the hospitals are a depressing sight, there's no point in denying that.

PETER SISSONS: Are you on target with Jay Garner's mid-June deadline for getting the essential services back on line?

TIM CROSS: Well, I don't think Jay has ever put a date to mid June. I certainly haven't put dates to this. I mean there are tasks that need to be done, they are taking a certain amount of time, they're bound to take a certain amount of time. The services in most cases, not in all cases but in most cases, are now back up to what they were before the campaign started. To bring them up to the sort of levels that you and I would want to invest in, it's going to take years. In many cases I think two to five years. Huge investment is going to be required to really rebuild sewage systems and water systems and electricity power stations and so on. But, you know, we are making good progress, we want to make better progress in certain areas, sewage in particular I mentioned, are particularly bad, but we're getting on.

PETER SISSONS: Just before you go, I'd like to just change the subject for a second. Presumably you know Tim Collins, the Colonel at the centre of these lurid allegations, they get more lurid by the day and there's a lot more in the newspapers today. I mean, do you have any explanations?

TIM CROSS: I don't know Tim and I've not met him, I wasn't in that part of the country, I was in Kuwait watching the campaign unfold and then moved straight into Baghdad so I've not met with him and I don't know much about these allegations.

PETER SISSONS: There's some sort of campaign against him.

TIM CROSS: I doubt it, but I don't know. He is a very capable Commanding Officer and I'm sure it will all work out well in the end.

PETER SISSONS: Tim Cross, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

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