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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Burridge interview in full
The Commander of British troops in Iraq is on his way home. Air Marshal Brian Burridge reflected on the military campaign in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Here is a transcript of the full interview.

Q: Air Marshal, how would you assess the balance between the achievement of military objectives and the difficulties which still remain to be solved?

A: I wouldn't characterise Iraq's difficulties as huge problems - I mean they're difficult for sure but the military campaign was, by military standards, a stunning success. We managed to preserve the treasure house of Iraq in the shape of their oil and that was a really, really important thing to do.

It was mercifully short and therefore the infrastructure didn't suffer too badly and in so doing we've of course removed the most brutal, corrupt and reprehensible regime in history. And I have to say, in all the detailed knowledge I've gathered really since we stopped fighting - talking to people, understanding more - even I underestimated just how bad this regime was.

So the Iraqi people can look ahead in the longer term with, I think, some confidence. And I'm particularly pleased to see schools coming back to normal and investment being put into children, in that the future is really in the next generation in Iraq.

Q: And yet there are pressing problems of a very obvious nature, like clean water.

A: Well I wonder how pressing that problem is. You've got to remember that, for example in the area of Basra that I know well, 80% of the population now have running water which was a greater proportion than ever before. The problem is that the infrastructure is in such poor shape that we lose vast amounts of water and lakes form, and you can see fountains coming up through the pavement because the place has been neglected for 25 years. And Saddam used water as a weapon.

But Unicef are doing great work in trying to restore as much of that as they can - they're building a pipeline up from the south and really militarily we've done as much as we can do with our expertise on that sort of infrastructure - which is frankly make and mend - and now it needs the really deep investment and deep attention of real experts.

Q: And a long-term commitment from outside if it's going to be sorted out, doesn't it?

A: Sure, and commitment and expertise - I mean it's very useful to have PowerGen with us who with real expertise could analyse the situation over power in Iraq, and they said the power transmission lines were badly damaged in the Iran/Iraq war - they've not been repaired and the whole thing is going to be limited until we get decent infrastructure in there, and that's what we've got to do.

Q: Looking at the whole thing in the round, from the objectives as they were stated in London and Washington to the conclusion of the fighting. How important do you think it is to find weapons of mass destruction, to demonstrate to people that the warnings that we were given by Mr Blair and Mr Bush, particularly about the nature of the threat from Iraq, were real?

A: I think it's very important. I know the stuff is there.

Q: You know it's there?

A: It will take forensic uncovering. There's no doubt that there is evidence of an expensive research programme which will be revealed through searches of documents, people are telling us more things and it will be discovered.

Q: You know this for a fact? You're absolutely sure? Sorry to interrupt there but it's a terribly important point as you'll realise, because all sorts of people - many who were sceptical about the war and so on - but people more generally, are saying look, they haven't found anything, was this place a threat? Now you're saying you know, you absolutely know that there is stuff and it will be found - how do you know?

A: Yeah, I can understand why people would be sceptical because they don't get the chance to deal in the sort of analytical information that I get. But if you start from 1985 and the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds, particularly Halabja 15 years ago, that shows an intent and a capability and that capability has continued to exist and been developed and we're sure of that.

And we are also sure that in order to defeat the great efforts of the UN and the UN arms inspectors, that Saddam went to great lengths in order to hide it. There's only a very few people who understood in the closing days of the regime exactly where the weapons of mass destruction - both documentation and production facilities - were. But it's described here as a forensic piece of archaeology.

Q: The threat - you saw what the Iraqi army did in terms of defending Baghdad...a lot of people looking in from the outside said that the whole thing just crumbled - it was amazing in the way that it melted away as the Americans approached Baghdad. That makes people wonder what the threat really was?

A: The defence of Baghdad did not just crumble because it wasn't very good. It crumbled because the speed, tempo - our ability to manoeuvre completely unhinged the regime's ability to command and control. I mean it's almost an apocryphal story now. The first commanding officer we captured on the route into Baghdad said, 'I was told you were 160 kilometres away' and so they had lost the ability to position their forces to use them properly.

But make no mistake, I've seen some of their equipment - the Republican Guard equipment was in good condition - plenty of ammunition and sadly we're coming across so much ammunition in urban areas etc. So they had invested in them and had the Republican Guard themselves had the will to fight as individuals, then it would have been a very different sort of fight.


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