Examination of Witnesses (Questions 720-739)|
2 JULY 2003
Q720 Mr Roy: But you would take it
quite seriously if it was you that had to wear the black boots
as opposed to the desert boots.
Mr Thompson: You know as well
as I do that soldiers like to go and get their own gear. They
all like to have exactly their own gear, they all like to go to
the shops to get the bits and pieces to add to the kit. But if
they do not have body armour, I think that is a serious point.
Mr Neely: We all have different
experiences and maybe it was because it was the marines who see
themselves asand arethe elite. I felt there was
not a morale problem. They were very, very aware of the debate
back home. I mean, when we were in the Kuwaiti desert, they were
watching a wide-screen TV, they were watching Sky and BBC and
others every night, they were listening to BBC radio, they were
getting mail from home. They were absolutely well aware of the
debate and asked us about it. The officers used to say to us all
the time, "We understand the debate, we all have our private
views, but we are professionals and we will do a job." I
think that was also the case with some of the guys. Perversely,
I think the debate back home made them all the more determined
to make it quick and to perform absolutely at the best of their
ability, so they could get home quicker, so the debate would end
and they could shine. From my point of view, I did not think it
was a morale problem. As for equipment, I attended briefings twice
a day. The QM was always being asked for certain thingswhich
he said was coming down the linemost of it fairly unimportant.
The one problem they had was with dodgy bullets from Belgium.
Q721 Chairman: I am sorry, could
you repeat that? I thought I had got over Belgium with the Falklands.
I am sorry, you have reminded me.
Mr Neely: There was an issue with
a consignment of ... I must look at my notes, I think it was 60,000
bullets that had been supplied, bullets for heavy machine guns,
as I remember, out on the firing range. They were firing these
things and the guns kept jamming. There had been a request put
in at least a week before the war began that these be replaced.
I think some came to replace them. They were firing them still,
to test the guns, the day before war began, but I am pretty sure
that the entire consignment of bullets was not replaced. That
was the only equipment shortage that was serious.
Mr Hewitt: I of course was not
with the British troops so I really cannot say very much about
it. I know there was often a story in the paper about the fact
that the Americans got tired of bumping into the British, because
they always reckoned they would come to the camp and take everything
they could find. Just anecdotally. That simply is an exaggeration,
certainly those of my unit who met British never felt that somehow
their boots were in danger, they were going to get removed. One
important difference, and it is a cultural difference between
Britain and America: when American troops go to warthis
is since the Vietnam erathere simply is no debate back
home that reaches the soldiers that somehow this is a controversial
war. My unit believed that everybody back home was with them.
Whether they were or not, that is what they believed and therefore
they were quite surprised when they crowded round the radio at
least twice a day and listened into the BBC World Service and
actually heard the amount of debate that was going on. So, as
soldiers, they were in a slightly different position: they did
not have any of this kind of chatter going on in the background
that somehow this may not be either a just or a well-advised war.
As regards equipment with the Americans, I mean, you have to go
back over the fact that certainly over the last 10 or 15 years
America has been spending huge, huge sums on their equipment and
I never heard of any complaints. There was no shortage of body
armour. They had the latest equipment, and, as you knowwhether
it is the case with British tanks or not I do not knowour
tank commander in his tank had, if you like, a lap-top screen
and on that screen at any given moment he would know where every
single other American and British unit was on the battlefield.
To my mind, as a journalist, I always felt slightly privileged
when I was invited up into the Abrams tank to see this and it
crossed my mindand I do not have the answer and you probably
do have it"Well, technology plays such a huge role
on the battlefield these days," and I was very impressed
by that, just the amount of information they were getting. Of
course, it did not prevent terrible accidents, as we have been
hearing about, blue-on-blue, equipment does not, in the end, make
up for that, but my instinct is that the Americans are a much,
much better equipped force.
Ms Gillan: I think morale and
concerns about what is happening back home and what the general
public think about the war really only was an issue until they
crossed the line, because they could not watch Sky anymore and
they could not really keep in contact, there was only really the
World Service and that was patchy, and their concerns were things
other than what the general British public thought about the war.
I think that kind of faded away. I do not really agree about the
boots issue. I saw the horrible side of the boots issue: the people
with the bad feet infections and being hospitalised and everything
else because they did have infections, rotten feet, because they
did have these really thick boots. I saw desert fatigues that
must have belonged to somebody 20 years ago when they had a big,
fat bum, because they were practically worn through; there were
young soldiers with their housewives trying to sew them up. Ultimately,
on the equipment that I noticedand I do not know whether
you want to leave this until later onthere are other issues.
Gavin talked about a lap-to in the front of a tank; I mean, that
is going to take the British Army about another 20 years, considering
the radios they have are 20 years old and they do not work. Shortages
of other things: vehicle parts, running gear, track; vehicles
breaking down, unable to get the right parts to fix them and everything
else. I think there are much more serious issues than personal
equipmentyou know, than shortages of other things. I mean,
it was known for paper clips to be used to fix the inside of an
armoured reconnaissance vehicle. Our policy seemed to be make-and-do.
Q722 Mr Roy: If I could just ask,
Ms Gillan, about the Fedeyeen. Were the troops ready for that
or did the troops underestimate the threat from the Fedeyeen?
Ms Gillan: I do not think it was
underestimated what the Fedeyeen could do. Basically, particularly
in the south, where I was, it was just expected that everybody
would roll over and there would not even be any resistance there.
In those first couple of days, it was just, "There are pockets
of resistance here, there are pockets of resistance there, there
are guys in white pick-up trucks with RPGs on the back,"
and basically we were being told, "They are not military"you
know, they were using words like "terrorists" and everything
else, definitions were becoming a bit odd. But the resistance
was certainly a lot stronger than anybody I was with had anticipated.
Q723 Chairman: One brief question
about the Belgian bullets. Did they fail in conflict or in exercises
beforehand? Was it just one batch?
Mr Neely: What I was aware of
was in exercise beforehand.
Q724 Chairman: Thank you. We were
told of a consignment of hand-grenades from Switzerland that were
not given the appropriate licence by the Swiss authorities, so
I do not know what hand-grenades anybody used. Did you come across
anybody hurling hand-grenades?
Mr Neely: No.
Chairman: If they were, they were not
Q725 Syd Rapson: Mr Neely explained
that the Royal Marines gave you a full briefing on the whole big
Mr Neely: Yes.
Q726 Syd Rapson: I appreciate that.
That is very good. Could I ask the other two, Ms Gillan and Mr
Hewitt, whether you had a full picture of the whole scene or whether,
because you were embedded, you were restricted to just what the
units were doing. It was probably different for both of you. I
will end up with Mr Thompson, and ask, as you are a so-called
maverick, how you got the overall military picture of what was
going on rather than what you saw on a daily basis.
Ms Gillan: I did not get the briefing
that Bill got, sadly. For the first couple of days I had no trust
at all. I had two 18-year old soldiers follow me everywhere I
went for the first two days. The Household Cavalry Regiment, because
they are a frontline reconnaissance regiment, know the whole plan.
The tent is full of the plan, maps, everything else. I turn up,
they do not trust me, so they had people following me around for
two days when there was nowhere really for me to go anyway, apart
from the toilet and the mess tent and the showers to do a wash
in. After a couple of days, I basically complained to the media
or people that surely I could be trusted enough to walk around
the camp on my own, since I could not go anywhere and there was
nothing to do. They began to trust me more and more, as they saw
some of the stories that I was writing were more about how a soldier
prepares for war and how he feels emotionally and everything else,
and they began to realise that the kind of journalism I was there
to do was different from that which they had anticipated. But
I still did not get to that stage where they sat me down and said,
"This is . . . and this is what we are going to do."
But I think that may also be because where I was the plan was
so fluid and changing. I mean, I did get briefings, but not in
the way Bill did.
Mr Hewitt: I think this is where
you will find that all of our experiences, even those of us who
were embedded, are quite different. Thirty-six hours before the
war started, I and others were taken to a tent in the desert and
given the battle plan by General Blunt. It was an extraordinary
experience. We stood alongside a huge map of Iraq and he said,
"Right, this is what we are going to do: this brigade is
going to swing out into the desert, we are not going to try to
take any towns along the rivers, we are going to head to Baghdad
as soon as possible," so he gave us an overview, we could
not record it and we could not report it. I can tell you, as a
journalist I was absolutely amazed. I thought, "To take this
risk . . ." I mean, I was not going to report it, I felt
a real responsibility, but it to me was incredible to be given
the battle plan 36 hours before it happened, and to an extent
that is what happened for the rest of the campaign. We were told
by the Americans right from the word go there was going to be
no "off the record" in this war. Anything any commander
ever said at any time, apart from this briefing with General Blunt,
was on the record. The only thing we could not report was future
operations and, to a certain extent, where we werealthough
on occasions we could do that too. We knew a great deal about
what the objectives werenot all the time. I think, as you
have been saying, there are elements of trust that have to build
up. Captain Nun, who was the commander of the company that I really
spent most of the time with, there was no question: initially
he was a little bit wary. I am not sure every commander wants
a television team with them. But over a period of time I think
he felt that he could tell us things, so I knew a great deal,
certainly about what our unit was doing and what the objective
was, but to a certain extent about the wider plan. I found it
very useful that I had been given this briefing right from the
Mr Thompson: I was not given a
big-picture briefing in advance but with all the units I went
along with, once I had built up trust, I was taken into confidence
largely, and a lot of different officers told me a lot of different
bits of information which I pieced together, so I feel I had a
pretty good picture certainly of each area I was in or the broader
picture rather than individual units. Because of the freedom of
unilateral movement, if you like, I was able to attach myself
briefly to lots of different units, so I was able to go along
with several different frontline units, as well as brigade support,
logistics and so on, all of whom help you build up a broader picture,
so I got a pretty good idea of what was going on without having
the absolutely precise battle plan overall that Gavin would have
Q727 Syd Rapson: During the middle
stages of the campaign there was a "pause" and it was
reported. Do you think the reports on that pause were accurate?
It left us quite confused at home as to what caused the pause.
Do you think there was accuracy in the reports of a pause?
Ms Gillan: We all participated
last week in an event at which a journalist admitted that the
pause was his fault: somebody had said it to him, he had mentioned
it to the New York Times, and so the New York Times
actually blew it up out of proportion into a big story that there
had been a pause in the war when in fact it had just really been
mentioned as part of a briefing on something else, and suddenly
it became a pause in the war. I do not know if anybody else can
give a greater account of what it was that James Meek said last
Q728 Syd Rapson: Was the name of
the author disclosed who gave that information?
Ms Gillan: It was James Meek from
The Guardian and a reporter from The New York Times.
James did say it was in conversation. He mentioned it in his piece,
but it was much further down, but The New York Times used
it as a story and said there has been a pause in the war.
Mr Hewitt: I was repeatedly asked,
because I was doing not only television but also a lot of radio
and live radio. There must have been a two/three day period when
almost every presenter would say to me, "What about this
pause?" and I kept saying, "What pause?" There
never was a pause and I would have reported it if there was. There
certainly was 48 hours when a combination of the sandstorms, getting
some of those convoys up the road, led to difficulties and I think
at one stage one of the commanders said, "Look, we are running
about 48 hours behind where we intended to be," but the idea
that at some stage either British or American governments had
decided on a pause was never true, and it was just, I am afraid,
one of those stories that gathered currency but actually had no
foundation in fact.
Mr Neely: I have nothing much
Q729 Syd Rapson: You did not see
much of a pause where you were.
Mr Neely: There was certainly
no pause as I saw it in what the Royal Marines were supposed to
do. It was explained to me at many briefings that an army requires
vast supplies and that, for example, the Americans and, indeed,
the coalition forces who had pushed north required, I think it
was said to me, half a million gallons of fuel a day, and it was
the very success and speed of the push forward that made . . .
If there was a pause, it was about supplies, but I experienced
Mr Thompson: In that period, I
think you are right, it was mainly the weather that did create
some problems. We were to the west of Basra with 7th Armoured
Brigade. In a way it was the short distancethe fact that
they came up against resistance and therefore decided to stop
on the outskirts of Basrameant that in a way they put the
breaks on. It was a change of gear, I would say, as they started
to realise what sort of opposition they were up against and the
fact that it was probably of a different nature than they had
originally expected. So, yes, I think we all pretty much agree
that it was not a real pause, but there were some weather difficulties,
the speed of the advance by the Americans, and possibly the change
of gear by the British on the ground as they came up against a
different sort of tactic.
Q730 Syd Rapson: Did you see any
evidence at all that the military campaign changed because of
your presence? You were reporting very powerfully, whether or
not they adjusted their campaign style at all to fit in because
the media were present.
Mr Thompson: I will tell you one
anecdote which actually comes from a colleague of mine that I
asked for some details. It is the only one I am aware of where
the war was changed to fit in. Stuart Ramsey was with 101st Airborne
of the American forces and he talks about the fact that they were
very helpful, he had no editorial censorship at all. He says,
"On more than one occasion battle plans were changed specifically
to allow us to feed our stories. You may recall"this
is a message to me"an interview with Colonel Hughes"his
commanding officer"that you did live when you were
in Baghdad. He actually suspended a firefight to do the live with
you and then resumed it afterwards. And that is the truth."
That is the only evidence I have of battle plans being changed
because of the media.
Q731 Syd Rapson: Anyone else?
Mr Neely: None at all. They did
not wait for us in any way, shape or form.
Mr Hewitt: I think there were
occasions when I would have quite liked our unit to have gone
off and done something so I could have investigated things, but
the idea of suggesting 10 Abrams tanks, eight Bradley armoured
vehicles and various other military vehicles divert in order to
help the 10 o'clock News on BBC1 that was not going to
Q732 Chairman: More difficult and
potentially corrosive about the whole enterprise being slowed
down and the wheels coming off was the argument coming out of
Washington, replicated in the newspapers, that the whole strategy
was up the creek, that the forces sent in were too light, not
sufficiently numerous, reinforcements would have to come in pretty
damn quickly, and what they needed was heavier equipment, heavier
tanks, and the internal debate in Washington figured very, very
prominently for a number of days. Obviously, aware of this, did
you pick up any argument over whether the US and, to a lesser
extent, the British had got the whole configuration of the forces
wrong and the resistance meant that the forces available were
not gong to meet the task? That took place around that time of
the pause, one fed into the other, and it meant that people became
quite nervous that the whole venture was destined to fail.
Ms Gillan: One of the things that
happens when you are there is that you do not find out about any
of these debates, particularly if you are in isolation, with just
the World Service. These are not the main issues. If you are listening
just to news headlines, you do not find out too much about it.
What I found were incredible rumblings was about the fact that
we were a reserve force, that we were notyou know, "we"
meaning themgetting as much of the action as the Americans
and were continually being held back, and that the game plan was
being outlined by the Americans and they were not getting as much
of the action as they possibly should have done. There was definitely
that feeling. But, in terms of the politics of it, that was not
Mr Hewitt: I have a view on that,
slightly different from what you imagined. The Americans were
taken by surprise in places like As Samãwah. General Blunt
said to me personally, "We had expected that we would be
greeted by cheering crowds there. In the end, we encountered about
2,000 Fedeyeen who were forcing other remnants of the Iraqi army
to fight." Their view was actually the preponderance of tank
units was a slight problem and in fact sorting out those pockets
had to be done by not heavy armour but by the 101st Airborne that
certainly in As Samãwah came in behind the unit I was with
and elements of the 82nd Airborne. So they had to adapt their
plan. There was no questioncertainly to me at Baghdad Airport
General Blunt was very candid about thisthe level of resistance
they met was greater and they had not expected this kind of quasi-guerrilla
campaign along the route of the convoys. That was the major adjustment
they had to make during the campaign, how to get round these towns
without getting bogged down and yet at the same time pacify them
enough to get the convoys through so they could reach the objective
Q733 Chairman: They felt the choice
of going fairly light and not in overwhelming numbers was the
Mr Hewitt: I think in the end
there was a slight problem, particularly in Baghdad, that when
you go into urban areas with tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles
that is very heavy fire power and there is no doubt from what
I witnessed that some civilian casualties were caused because
of that and because they did not have sufficient numbers who were
on foot. The way Americans fight wars, they like to fight from
their vehicles. My experience of the British, although not in
this particular conflict, is they are much more willing to get
out, take their Kevlar helmets off and to communicate with the
local people, to talk to the local people. There is both a different
culture and to an extent a different style of fighting.
Mr Neely: The marines fight light
and they did not encounter anything that made them wish that they
had any other reinforcements or that they would fight in any other
way. The only thing that happened in the end that was not a plan
is that Basra did not fall, did not implode, and they were then
faced with the very thing that they did not want, which was an
attack on a major city, guerrilla warfare, fighting on Saddam's
streets, and the briefing just before the attack on Basra reflected
that. I think there was a seriousness from the commanding officer
of the Royal Marines that this is the moment when we may lose
a lot of people. As it was, we drove in in 45 minutes.
Mr Thompson: The media influence.
Well, some are going to say that it is the media influence that
created such a high awareness of possible weapons of mass destruction.
I do not think it was the media who brought it to that level.
There is no doubt that every coalition trooper who went into Iraq
believed that there was a greater likelihood than not that they
would be attacked by weapons of mass destruction. It certainly
went up to the very highest levels I was aware of, who believed
that it was a matter of when and not if they would be attacked
by weapons of mass destruction. It was certainly the great anxiety
for everybody, us included, as well as the military, going into
the country. We had been led to believe, and clearly our military
had been led to believe, that they would be faced by weapons of
mass destruction. The colonel in one of the units I was with at
one stage said, "It will not be long now. We all know that
when the frontline of the coalition forces cross the Euphrates,
which could be some time today"which is probably where
Gavin was"that is when we have been told he will deploy
weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein will know that there
is no longer a great obstacle to the coalition forces reaching
Baghdad and himself, so that is when he will deploy." Clearly
the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction was played out
in the media but I believe that it was not us who influenced the
senior officers of the coalition forces to believe that it was
a very real threat.
Q734 Mr Cran: The proposition sometimes
put forward is that the allies, perhaps more so than the Americans,
were rather sanguine about the looting and disorder. Is that something
that you have a view about? Why do you think our forces were unable
to prevent looting and disorder or is it just something they could
not have done very much about anyway?
Mr Thompson: I have two incidences.
In Basra before I leftit was just as the British forces
were starting to go over the bridge and go into townwe
were in a Pajero, a black Pajero, and we saw going down the other
side of the road all these people pushing a Pajero. We leapt out
to try to help the local Iraqis and then realised they were actually
looting them. That was fairly indicative of what we saw across
the country really. I think at that stage, to be honest, the British
forces did not have control of Basra and I think they did get
a grip fairly quickly. Within two days I was in Baghdad, where
clearly there seemed to be no ability or willingness to stop the
lootingmainly because part of the first wave in was the
US Marine Corps, who I was aware of, who when we talked to them
about the levels of looting and the levels of sniping in the street,
said, to quote an officer, "We are fighting men. We are here
to fight. We don't do policing." It is simply their belief
that that is a post-war function that is not theirs. That is somebody
else's job. They are there to take the city, full stop. That was
pretty much what appeared to happen in those early days in Baghdad.
They were there to take the city or secure areas of it, and it
took a while, and the looting as far as they could see was something
that would get dealt with at some time in the future.
Mr Neely: For me it was summed
up in the early minutes going into Basra, when, as we were driving
in there were people going the other way loaded up basically with
everything they could put on their backs. But for the marines
they had certain key objectives in the city and they were not
going to be interrupted from doing that by stopping people carrying
away lampshades or whatever it happened to be. We went in at nightfall.
The following morning we were near the main Basra teaching hospital
and the doctors were begging the marines to stop people coming
into the car park and stealing cars, ambulances. It resulted in
fact in a man driving a car out of the hospital main gate, and
the marines firing on that vehicle and in the end seriously wounding
the man who subsequently died. There was very little effort to
stop the widespread looting of the main port area in Basra, which
involving the burning of the Sheraton Hotel, ships were set on
fire, residential places, storage areas. There was a road block
which the Marines had set up, and indeed the 7th Armoured, at
various points but there was no real attempt to stop the looting.
That was my experience.
Mr Hewitt: I think, to an extent,
in the early days after the so-called end of the war, if we time
that to when the statue came down, there was an extent to which
the American commanders were sanguine about looting. I remember,
it must have been at the end of that week, when I was at Baghdad
Airport talking to General Blunt and talking about the looting,
he did not see it as a major problem and I think pointed out that
these were people who had been without things for a long time,
who had a great deal of residual resentment towards the authorities,
in the sense that the authorities had looted them in the past,
and this was an opportunity to get back a little bit and to claim
what was theirs. I would not want to exaggerate it but there was
no question that was part of the rationale in the early days,
and certainly in the unit that I was with on the western side
of Baghdad we saw all kinds of cars piled high with materials
but we did not stop them. In a sense, it was regarded almost that
these people were enjoying the liberation which was taking place
in the city. I also have to say, and I think this will become
a big issue in futureand I can only speak for the unit
that I travelled withthat in the training in Kuwait, certainly
in the time that I was there, the word "looting" never
came up; there was no kind of preparation for what might happen
when we got to Baghdad because the expectation was two-fold, first
of all, that the Iraqi army would largely stay in place and that,
in a sense, once the Americans arrived in Baghdad a lot of the
problems of security would be passed to the Iraqi army. In fact,
I remember one day when my unit had destroyed so much equipmentand
it was quite extraordinary, tanks were going up and these were
Iraqi tanksand late in the day word came down, I guess
from the brigade headquarters, "Stop destroying so much Iraqi
equipment because we are going to need an Iraqi army". That
was the presumption, that there would be some remnant of Iraqi
authority there and that it would not completely fall apart. That
came as a surprise. I cannot talk for the planning which was being
done in Washington, but in terms of my unit there was absolutely
no planning at all for how you would deal with looters or how
you would deal with a civilian population that was taking the
law into its own hands.
Ms Gillan: I think, also, with
the rapid way in which the war turned, there was a point at which
everyone was talking about pockets of resistance and unexpected
insurgence to suddenly being welcomed in the streets, and I think
the whole thing took people by surprise. In fact, I do not think
we realised what was going on for a while. We would be going through
a town with women walking up the street with big bits of corrugated
iron on their heads, and how would you know that that would be
unusual? There were walking away with lots of different things
but it was not television sets or anything else, they were looting
the most basic possible things that you would not even think people
would steal. I think it took them two or three days to realise
that this was what was going on, and by that time all the stuff
had been stolen.
Q735 Mr Cran: Your answer is a very
interesting one because I get a very clear picture (at least I
hope it is clear) that from the American point of view it is "This
is just peace-keeping and, as it were, preventing looting and
so on; something somebody else does. We are fighting soldiers".
Your answer is interesting because what it implies is that our
armed forces really had not thought very much about this aspect
of their job. Is that correct? Is that the sense of those of you
who were attached to British forces?
Ms Gillan: I would say that they
certainly would not have anticipated that that was going to be
part of their job; they were there to fight a war and they did
not really think the whole thing would start falling apart almost
immediately. Obviously soldiers say "We are trained to do
what we are trained to do, and other people are trained to do
peace-keeping duties" and they would rather not stay around
and do peace-keeping duties, but they can do them and they know
that they can do them. Obviously, once they realised what was
going on they tried to turn that around, but I do not think they
had anticipated that that was going to be part of their job.
Q736 Mr Cran: Equally, some would
say that the British Army has got a great deal of experience of
this type of approach to things, whereas the Americans did not.
I am getting something very different from you.
Mr Neely: I had two different
experiences in Um Qasr, which is a smaller place, obviously, than
Basra. There was looting almost from the beginning, which the
Marines tried to crack down on straight away; they felt it was
part of a sabotage of the invasion, they did not think it was
simply local guys stealing stuff. I think the response to that
got more and more robust, to the point where snipers who could
shoot over a distance of 2km were being put at certain points
with orders to shoot to kill looters. When it came to Basra, which
is a much bigger place, a city the size of Birmingham, I think
they felt they were stretched enough. What really surprised me,
I have to say, was not that they did not crack down on people
stealing white goods but that, for example, at the secret police
headquarters there was not a single Marine for days and days and
days. I went there, I think, within a day or two of arriving in
Basra and people were pulling out files. We said we wanted to
prosecute the Iraqi leadership for war crimes, but there seemed
to be no attempt to gather the evidence; there was not a single
British soldier covering the headquarters. There were some very
interesting things being pulled out. One man pulled out a book
which was an account of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the taking
of Kuwaiti prisoners. For the Kuwaitis this was a huge issue:
where are the prisoners? It became part of the post-1991 conflict
negotiations. No one was going to the intelligence headquarters
to retrieve those documents, and they were just being pulled apart
by people, who were taking vast files home with them to show their
friends. That is what surprised me, not that British troops were
not stopping the looting of electrical equipment.
Q737 Mr Cran: You were in Basra,
were you not?
Mr Neely: Yes, correct.
Q738 Mr Cran: Do you feel that there
was a systematic plan as soon as our forces got into Basra to,
as it were, guard the key installations such as the hospitals,
such as the telephone exchangewhateverschools? Was
there any of that?
Mr Neely: Yes, the city was divided
up so that there was a clear line where the Royal Marines' area
of control ended and the 7th Armoured Brigade's began. In fact,
I have unembedded in order to travel around the city, and from
my point of view there was a big difference between the levels
of control in different areas. That may have reflected the targets
that the looters had in mind but I felt that the Marines were
in control. I felt other military units were not and had less
discipline in those areas.
Q739 Mr Cran: Chairman, just one
final question, which is a question about the Special Forces.
Did any of you get to learn anything about what Special Forces
were doing? Do you have a view on whether the secrecy that surrounds
Special Forces is sustainable or not? Clearly none of you.
Mr Neely: I knew what they were
doing because I had the plan five days before the invasion began,
so I knew that one of the first actions on the Al Faw peninsula
was that Special Forces would go in some hours before the main
contingent from 42 command of the Royal Marines, but personally
I believe I never came across Special Forces.
Mr Cran: They must have been very successful.