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Breakfast with Frost
BBC Breakfast With Frost Interview:

Air vice Marshall Brian Burridge

May 11th, 2003

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

DAVID FROST: Now some 44,000 British forces of course have been serving in the Gulf over the last three months as part of that coalition of the willing, assembled by George Bush and Tony Blair. The man in charge of the whole British side of the action was Air Marshall Brian Burridge who had direct control of the British operation and was deputy to the American Tommy Franks who was in overall command. The British troops were given particular responsibility for defeating Saddam's soldiers in the south of the country, the battle for Basra was won after some bloody fighting on the outskirts which claimed the lives of many Iraqis and a smaller number of British soldiers. Basra finally fell to the coalition forces and Brian Burridge entered the city last week to see at first hand exactly what had been achieved. Last night he arrived back in Britain mission accomplished and he's with us now. Good morning.

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Good morning Sir David.

DAVID FROST: Very good to have you with us. I don't know whether you heard, your summation would be different to John's at the end there, about that this was a successful operation both for Britain and America and for, and for the people of Iraq?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: No not that different, but I mean John pointed out this was a well-fought campaign, intelligently fought and I'd agree with that, of course, a little bit of a difference perhaps over how we see the future for Iraq in these circumstances but certainly for a military campaign mercifully short and, yes ...

DAVID FROST: And, and you said, you said on one occasion that in fact future historians, in particular the American march to Baghdad, future historians will study this, this war?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Yes I mean it was a spectacular piece of armoured manoeuvre, that division had been in contact with the enemy on and off for 21 days and by the time that they reached Baghdad which is absolutely outstanding and their move into Baghdad was a spectacular piece of manoeuvre.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of, as you say the future of Iraq there, I mean people here saw the pictures here of looting and disorder and so on and we all wondered whether, okay people said we didn't have enough troops to fight the war at the first wobbly weekend, obviously we did have enough troops to fight the war.

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Certainly did ...

DAVID FROST: But we didn't, is it perhaps true that we didn't have, we didn't have enough troops there for the peace?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Well it's hard to judge that and I, at that same time there was a G8 summit going on in Athens and I just happened to notice that they had 15,000 policemen looking after about half a square km of a city and that gives you the idea of the magnitude of problems if you have disorder in a city. But it's certainly something I want to study personally in the future, how do we convert from urban warfare into maintaining law and order because I think that was very regrettable, not only from the point of view of looting itself, but I think the image of the Iraqis themselves suffered at that moment.

DAVID FROST: But I mean in terms of places like, particularly Baghdad more than, more than Basra, I mean people seem to think something had gone wrong, maybe there wasn't enough planning in advance to prepare for how you dealt with this situation and that's why the museum for instance, was destroyed, virtually, but other people say no and this is probably true, that initial looting and some of them say was joyous freedom for Iraq and you attack all the symbols of the hold regime, but how do you see it, or did something go wrong?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: To start with I think we have understand that the people of Iraq, having been under this dreadful repressive regime for 25 years at least, have probably lost all sense of collectivism in that they live from day-to-day quite rightly and when that steel band of repression is removed then there's bound to be a reaction inevitably. And I think to attack the symbols of the regime was probably predictable. But to attack or to loot hospitals which actually were also symbols of the regime because medical care was only available for Ba'ath party members and that's something that we probably would have understood, we understand it now. But yes, I mean as I say, I'm want to do a lot more work in trying to understand how to deal with these dynamics.

DAVID FROST: And what about, you've described the British troops as bloody brilliant and so on, but you wouldn't give that description to the, to the media who you said really lost the plot?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: I wasn't specifically talking about during this campaign, I have a particular view about the media and the way they treat the public sector because I'm involved in leadership development in the public sector and it's pretty tough having everything criticised all the time and making it a sort of public spectator sport. But there's an element in this, very much so, and I think the media has to understand that when we go to war we're volunteers and we volunteer to die for our country and so all we ask is that whatever they say about us is back on fact, is based on knowledge and it's balanced. This is not like dealing with a run of the mill problem that you might find in the City of London every week, this is war.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of celebrating that war if there, if there's a decision for a victory parade or there's a decision for a service of commemoration, either of those, would you be equally happy to take part in both?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: I have a preference myself that we should just give thanks that we're back, sadly 35 are not back, one of those died from natural causes but 34 in relation to combat, and that just shows us there's a price to pay for those things. My personal preference is, is to remember them and to give thanks but it'll be a question of talking to squadrons and the regiments and the ships and seeing what they think is most fitting.

DAVID FROST: And do you feel in fact as in fact your old boss Admiral Boyce said with all the pressures that we were pretty damned stretched in the last couple months and that we won't be able to do anything like this again until we've regrouped in eighteen months time?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Well I couldn't put a time on it but you do have to regenerate after these things. Pretty quick for the air side to regenerate and the Royal Navy, it takes a bit longer for the Army because they have to get their equipment back and, but you know we'll be ready again and no doubt we'll be called again.

DAVID FROST: Hang on right there for a minute while we just get the news headlines from Moira.


DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed, tell me there's a headline in one of the papers today which says Iraq in danger of starvation, report from UN people and so on, is that true?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: I'm not aware of the source of that report, I mean I do know it's harvest time and I do know that in the past the regime bought the harvest but I couldn't validate whether that is the case.

DAVID FROST: But, but the looting, how long will it take for that to stop?

BRIAN BURRIDGE: Oh what we're seeing now is criminal activity, I mean all looting is criminal of course, but Saddam emptied the prisons and all these criminals are on the streets and that's what we're seeing.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much Air Marshall, a great joy to have you wish us, thank you very much indeed. That's it for this week, we'll be back at the same time, same spot on the dial as they used to say, top of the morning, good morning.

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