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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 May, 2004, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Sir David Frost interviewed Patrick Cockburn and Major General Patrick Cordingley
On Sunday, 9 May 2004, Sir David Frost interviewed Patrick Cockburn and Major General Patrick Cordingley

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

Patrick Cockburn and Major General Patrick Cordingley
Patrick Cockburn and Major General Patrick Cordingley

DAVID FROST: Well we're turning now to the subject which once again has dominated the week's news and that of course is what's been going on in Iraq.

The authenticity of the pictures published here in the Daily Mirror, purporting to show prisoners being abused by British troops, is still in dispute but there's certainly no doubting the authenticity of the images which have emerged from America and which have already led to criminal charges against some of the soldiers involved.

The political fall out from these photos has been huge, with apologies from the President and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and they've admitted there's more to come including even more shocking video tape.

That's a picture right now and in a moment we'll be talking to Robin Cook, but first of all to assess the impact of this I'm joined by two experts on Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn, who's been reporting from the country for many, many years and just got back from his latest visit a couple of days ago. And we're joined, I'm delighted to say, by Major General Patrick Cordingley who commanded the Desert Rats in the first Gulf War. Welcome, welcome to you both.

First of all, since you're just back Patrick, was the mood, the reaction to these revelations as dramatic as we've read, in Iraq?

PATRICK COCKBURN: The Iraqis were very shocked but I don't think they were very surprised because there have been rumours and stories in Baghdad for several months now, since the end of last year, that people were being tortured, that people were disappearing in Abu Gharib and in other prisons. So I think that when a lot of them were saying that they'd expected something like that was going on but of course the graphic pictures did have an enormous impact as well.

DAVID FROST: Patrick, were you stunned that coalition soldiers could behave in this way? How can it be explained.

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: I think there is really two issues - firstly, what's happening to prisoners before interrogation, and the second thing is what is actually happening to prisoners - and they're getting rather confused these two issues. In the first the excuses are going to come out from the Americans, now, aren't they?

They're softening people up so that the interrogators can find things out more quickly - we're going to get lots of buzz words like 'shock after capture' - those sort of things. And then the second thing - which actually I think is slightly harder to deal with - is that there's this how are prisoners actually being treated by the coalition.

DAVID FROST: And why is that more difficult to find out? I mean there's a lot of research presumably going on now.

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: I think it is the whole business, it's like bullying isn't it? It's the same thing, there's a dark side to human nature, you do get these occasional bad eggs don't you, in any organisation, and that's the business that's got to be controlled.

DAVID FROST: Yes, at the same time they're saying in America that it almost seems systemic in fact, what's been going on, and that therefore that the knowledge of it and perhaps orders for it may have come from higher than expected.

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: I think the question that needs to be asked by - in the parliament here - is not when did we know about it, which seems to me rather a silly question to ask, but actually how close have we been going to the Geneva Convention guidelines and have we been breaking them - those are the questions I think that we really do want to get the answers to.

DAVID FROST: What are the questions that you'd like to have answers to Patrick?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well I'd like to know who is in control of all this, who was giving the orders. One of the extraordinary things in Baghdad is that on any issue, including torture, it's very difficult to work out who is in control. Is it the US army? Is it the civilians? Paul Bremmer? What is Washington, the White House saying? What is the Pentagon saying? There seems to be a tremendous confusion over who is in control of this and who gave the original orders that allowed this to happen.

DAVID FROST: That true, isn't it? There does seem that's a question that hasn't been answered.

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: I think that's absolutely right. I think too that these allegations that are going to come out in the future, I suspect as far as the British are concerned, that maybe nothing new that we didn't already know about, and I think it's completely understandable that the Ministry of Defence hasn't been telling the world, that seems to me to be perfectly understandable, and also I understand that all these investigations are going on - why they're taking quite so long is a question I think is worth asking - but I think I feel confident that the Ministry of Defence is on top of this particular one, as far as you can ever get on top of human behaviour. DAVID FROST: Do you think we can ever regain the moral high ground after this? Have we lost all of it, or some of it? PATRICK COCKBURN: I think most of it. I think it will be very difficult to go back now. I think Iraqis are very disillusioned with what's happened. There were quite a lot of Iraqis immediately after the war who didn't like the occupation but they said well at least it's better than Saddam. Now increasingly it's very difficult to find people who support the occupation, who think things are going to get better. And also this has been happening quite a long time now, not only torture but Iraqis killed and no investigation into it, there doesn't seem anybody in the White House who are capable - or in any other part of the US Government - capable of saying this is what's going wrong, this is how we stop it and this must happen now.

DAVID FROST: Right, well at that point in the proceedings, we'll talk to Robin Cook and if you could stay around at the end of the proceedings, after Robin Cook and Iain Duncan Smith we'll try and find time for another word from both of you at that particular stage.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.


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