Prime Minister, Coalition Forces have made good their
advance into Iraq. They have had opposition and it seems
that there have been a few tragic accidents. How do
you feel about the progress of the campaign so far?
These things are never easy, there will be some tough
times ahead, but it is going to plan, despite the tragedies
that have occurred, and once again we have to thank
and take pride in the professionalism, the skill and
the courage of our Armed Forces who are helping to make
this country and our world more secure, and also liberating
the Iraqi people from one of the most brutal dictatorships
of modern times.
Now President Bush has denounced the Iraqis' apparently
parading prisoners of war. What is your reaction to
Sometimes when people ask me is it really necessary
to get rid of Saddam, I say look at the things that
he does. Parading people in that way is contrary to
the Geneva Convention, contrary to all the proper rules
of combat. He has mined the oil wealth of the country,
British troops have managed to prevent those mines from
exploding, but otherwise the oil wealth of Iraq would
have been destroyed. He tortures and murders people
at will in Iraq, and I hope people have some idea of
how dangerous therefore it is to leave someone like
that with chemical and biological and potentially nuclear
weapons capability. So I think once again what it does
is it emphasises to us just the enormous importance
of making sure that we do this job.
Not so much the troops, but certainly the families are
exposed to the divisions amongst the population here
in the UK. Do you think it is possible, as many prominent
people have said over the past few days, to be against
the war yet still support the troops?
Obviously there has been a difference of public opinion,
but I hope and believe that anyone, no matter what their
view, supports the British troops, feels tremendous
pride in them, sympathy for them in a difficult situation,
and I think apart from some on the extremes, the country
does come together at a time like this, and whatever
people's views were about the Government's policy, I
think people's views about the troops are very positive
and very supportive.
A lot of the families will either watch every twist
and turn of the campaign, otherwise they will leave
it to one side and try not to have to take it all in.
As Prime Minister, the man who politically sent the
troops into battle, how closely do you follow events?
I get briefings almost hourly on what is happening.
But one of the most remarkable things about modern warfare,
and modern communications and media technology, is that
people actually see battle unfolding as it happens on
their television screens, and so in a sense everyone
follows it immensely closely, but in addition to the
regular briefings I have a meeting every day with the
Chief of Defence Staff and other key Ministers and officials,
so that we go through and we review what is happening,
and obviously in respect of any of the tragic incidents
that have occurred we get a very up-to-date briefing
Does it worry you that everybody sees these events unfold
almost literally as they happen before any proper analysis
can be done as to what actually has happened?
It is difficult, because people really do see it almost
live on their television screens and it gives a tremendous
sense of reality to the grimness of warfare, but also
it is important always to understand that sometimes
things are happening that aren't shown on the television
screens. We don't see on our television screens, and
people don't take to the streets about the thousands
of children that die needlessly in Iraq every year through
malnutrition, the tens of thousands of political prisoners
that are tortured or executed, literally hundreds of
thousands of people that have died under Saddam's rule.
Now these things I think it is also important for people
to remember, so even if something is not always shown
on our television screen, it doesn't mean to say that
it doesn't exist and is nonetheless real.
Do you have any regrets at the way the Government was
almost coy about the military option to solve this problem?
We weren't allowed to see British troops training for
war ? live firing that sort of thing ? and then consequently
we had this very sticky period when the supplies, logistics
weren't quite in place, although they probably were
when the start came. Does it worry you that the troops
were put into a position where they didn't have the
equipment, and the boots and so on in place when they
should have done?
It is a huge logistical exercise to move tens of thousands
of people out into the sand, and at the beginning of
it you are bound to get problems, but in fact the British
Army is not one of the finest simply, it is one of the
best equipped in the world, and we have regular exercises,
like the Saif Sareea Exercise in Oman in which British
troops are constantly training and in a state of readiness,
so I think these problems are bound to occur, they do
with the Americans too, but we get them sorted out,
and one of the extraordinary things about the British
Armed Forces is just their ability to go into any situation
and make the best of it.
Now you have told us before about your thoughts on how
military action by British Forces in places like Afghanistan,
Sierra Leone, have been a force for good in the end.
Now Iraq is much more complex than that, but do you
hope the same thing will happen?
Yes. The extraordinary thing about today's world is
how interdependent it is, so that the tragedy of 11
September was born in a remote part of the world in
Afghanistan, thousands of miles away from New York.
If we had allowed Kosovo to go wrong and we had ended
up with another Balkans war, we might have ended up
with the whole of Europe being destabilised. Here in
Iraq, if a dictator like Saddam is able to develop these
weapons, is able to continue brutalising his country
and threatening his neighbourhood in the way that he
has, then the conflict, even if we postponed it now,
the conflict when it came would be infinitely worse,
and I think what happens nowadays is that we have to
act in these circumstances in order to prevent the world
destabilising, and it is also important to realise that
when we are acting, whether it is in Kosovo or Afghanistan,
or Sierra Leone, or here in Iraq, the first beneficiaries
of the action are the people that we are liberating,
usually from brutal and dictatorial rule, and I hope
people get some sense of that, that Iraq is potentially
a wealthy country, totally brutalised and impoverished
So how full a role would you like to see British troops
having once the fighting is over - peace-making or peace-keeping?
This is obviously something we will have to discuss
with our allies and with other people who may come in
and assist in that process, and we have got to watch.
We have got a certain limit to the capability that British
troops can take on. We do a fantastic job in terms of
peace-keeping. I would say British troops are probably
as admired, if not the most admired, as any in the world,
so you know, we have got that facility, we do it extremely
well, but we have got to be careful that we don't overstretch
ourselves and the exact arrangements are obviously something
we are still discussing.
I think most troops who are out there involved in the
military action would say to you, we want to do the
job, we want to get it done successfully, and then we
want to come home. Is your Defence Secretary and the
Service Chief telling you that they have enough personnel
to replace the troops that have been fighting to do
Yes. I understand for the troops who are out there doing
a really difficult fighting job and all the support
troops as well, we want to try and bring them home as
safe and secure as possible. Now, as we have seen from
the tragedies of the last few days, unhappily in war
people get hurt, people get killed. And it is a terrible,
terrible thing when it happens and the most important
thing we can do for those of our Armed Forces who have
gone and put their lives on the line, in some cases
lost their lives for their country, for the wider world,
is to make sure that they are brought home as soon as
possible. That's something again obviously we have to
sit down and work out when that can happen, but I am
well aware of our obligations to them and also to their
families because for Armed Forces' families at the moment
this is the most worrying and difficult time, and I
understand how they must feel, and I think above all
else what I want them to know is that the job that the
service men and women are doing is of such vital importance
for the world in which we live, and the courage that
they are showing now is going to protect future generations
from, not just evil dictators like Saddam, but also
from what I think is the single biggest threat our world
faces today which is the potential for these repressive,
dictatorial states and international terrorist groups
to come together and deliver catastrophe to our world.
That is what we are trying to prevent happening.
Well, the job's begun. We have a long way to go before
it's complete. What would your message be tonight to
the troops themselves and also to their families, both
in the UK and all over the world?
To the Armed Forces and to their families we should
give our thanks for their skill and their professionalism,
we should pay tribute to their courage and they should
know that the whole country takes enormous pride in
them. They are doing a superb job, they are doing a
necessary job for Britain and the wider world, and they
are delivering safety and security for us here and for
countless other nations in the world.
Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed.
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