Pizzey: That must have been a relief.
Butler: It was, yes.
Pizzey: So you made the videos. They made you say, "Do anything to secure my release." Were you aware of any demands they were making for your release?
Butler: No. They made me make a second video, which was definitely a proof-of-life video, but I am guessing it was about two weeks after they made the first one, which was - they did it literally in the next room. I heard lots of voices, new people in the house, a lot of talking. They picked me up off the ground and took me through, and they took my handcuffs off, and they took my hood off. They had set up the same video camera and asked me to say a few things, and said I could send a message to my family, which I did. But I believe that that tape was never used as a proof of life. It did get into the hands of British, but in a roundabout fashion.
Pizzey: So you don't know why they took you, what they wanted in exchange for you, what did they want?
Butler: No, I don't know. I don't know the motivation for it. I don't know how it came to be that they targeted us in the hotel. I think that they were looking for a quick solution. I don't think they really were prepared for the Mahdi army to come out and say, "This is wrong," for Moqtada al Sadr himself to put the word out straight away that, "This is wrong, these are journalists, we want him released". I think they might have backed themselves into a corner.
Pizzey: So you sat in the corner until something happened?
Pizzey: And that something was serendipitous.
Butler: Yes, and it was very dramatic.
Pizzey: Tell me how that happened. You were sitting manacled up, hearing a fire fight round you?
Butler: Actually, the reports that I was manacled up when I was rescued weren't true. I was hooded, but they had taken my handcuffs off me to let me eat my two boiled eggs, and I had also used the toilet. He had put me back in the room and went off to do something else and looked the door, and he hadn't bothered putting my handcuffs on.
Literally, it can't have been two minutes later, all of a sudden, I heard a knock at the perimeter gate to the house, which was a metal gate, and I heard voices which were very quickly raised in tempo, and then gunfire just everywhere. I heard doors being kicked in, lots and lots of gunfire, like three or four, maybe five or six AK-47s on full, running on full chat, and all of a sudden my door burst open.
I don't remember them unlocking it. It is as if they kicked it in, and straight away I was aware of someone came through the room with an AK47. I could make out the form of somebody with an AK-47 who was shouting at me, and I was aware then of another person, a taller man, coming into the room and they were shouting at me.
So I tried to say, "I am hostage, British, British," and I pulled my balaclava off, and to my right there was a taller Iraqi soldier with a bandanna on, and he got it straight away. He said something and pushed the other soldier's AK-47 away from aiming at my head, and he pulled me up. He put his body around me to shield me as we ran out of the house and down the corridor. He was firing with his left arm all the time with his AK-47, and there were other people in the house firing AK-47s, with the bullets ricocheting off the walls, and out of the house, into the courtyard and up the street, and the street was lined with Iraqi soldiers, all firing suppression fire. There were other soldiers trying to grab me, and this one wouldn't let them get me until he got me to his general, and he handed me over to his general.
Pizzey: You must have thought, "I have survived all this and this is the end."
Butler: I didn't, really. I didn't get a chance to think it until I was in the Humvee, just how close and how dangerous that could have been. The adrenaline was just running as I ran up that street.
Pizzey: What did you think when they burst through the door? Did you know it was the Iraqi army?
Butler: No, I didn't know it was the Iraqi army. I thought it could have been another militia group.
Pizzey: You didn't think: "Out of the frying pan into the fire?"
Butler: I didn't have time.
Pizzey: You are lucky the guy got it.
Butler: He got it, and he realized the risk wasn't over until I was with this general. He wasn't going to let any of the other Iraqi solders, who I think outranked him, he wouldn't let them take me. Everybody wanted me when they saw I was a westerner.
Pizzey: Did you get to talk to him or was he there and gone?
Butler: I did get to thank him, and brought me water and a chocolate bar and another packet of cigarettes, and there were other Iraqi soldiers coming up and hugging me and slapping me on the back. One came up with a silver bowel full of fruit, which I think he must have liberated from a house nearby. They were all very excited. They were the 14th division in Basra, and they were very excited and very pleased.
Pizzey: Were they actually looking for you or was this a total chance?
Butler: They told me that no, they weren't looking for me.
Pizzey: So does that mean nobody was looking for you during that time? You were just there until somebody stumbled upon you?
Butler: I think they were -- they had it in their mind that they were looking for me. But my understanding is that they had a tip-off about an arms cachet somewhere in that street.
Pizzey: And you happened to be --
Butler: I happened to be in the first house that they visited.
Pizzey: Do you believe much in luck, God, whatever?
Butler: I do believe in luck, yes. I believe, you know, the harder you work at it, the luckier you get.
Pizzey: You spent a fair chunk of it this last couple of months.
Butler: I think I used up my fair share of luck for the next couple of months.
Pizzey: What are you going to do now?
Butler: I am going to go back to my home in France. I am going to try and stick to this regime in the gym. My wife has already been down there and made the arrangements. So I will be under instructions there. Put some weight on. Eat some good food, spend time with my family, and I guess in about a week's time I will be bored and getting itchy feet and looking for a story.
Pizzey: What do you think is going to happen? From what you have seen and what you have experienced and what you were trying to do, what do you think Basra means and what is going to happen there?
Butler: Well, I think Basra is a very, very important element in the future for Iraq. If Iraq is going to have a future, then they have to have Basra sorted out because so much of the country relies on Basra. I think the figure is 85 percent of Iraq's GDP actually goes through Basra. There's the oil fields, there is the port. It is the only access to the sea that they have. It's also very important politically. I also happen to believe that there is no solution to the political situation without Moqtada al Sadr and his followers. He is just too important within the Shia community to be marginalized and left on the sideline. Sooner or later they have to have a political settlement with Moqtada al Sadr.
Pizzey: Do you think, had you not been rescued, your fate would have rested on what Moqtada al Sadr would or would not do?
Butler: I think my fate would have ultimately depended on them having a way to release me without jeopardizing themselves. I definitely was given the impression by them that they never, ever had in mind to kill me as an objective. I mean, a couple of times I thought I was about to die, but they made it plain to me that it wasn't on their agenda. It was obvious I was losing weight. They were concerned about that. When I was sick, they were very concerned. So I never had the impression that it was in their plans, but the more I think about it now, and know more, and get more of exactly what was going on, I think that they backed themselves into a corner.
Pizzey: Do you think they understood that nobody was going to come and buy them out, or was money a question?
Butler: I never, ever got the impression that money was an issue. I said to them, "The British have a policy, they never pay money to have people released, least of all journalists". They said to me, you know, that money wasn't anything to do with it. They told me it was un-Islamic to request money, and I took the opportunity of pointing out that it didn't appear to be very Islamic to me to be holding me hostage when I came there to tell the story of the Shi'a people and to give them the chance to put their views to a western audience, and particularly an American audience through a show as high-profile as 60 Minutes.
Pizzey: What was their reaction to that?
Butler: I think it was difficult for them. One of them in particular, I definitely got the impression that that struck a chord and he had trouble rationalising that. I also received from him over the coming days and weeks little gestures. He brought me a cheap little radio, which unfortunately, partly due to the fact that it was cheap and nasty and partly due to the fact that BBC World Service is suffering budget cuts like the rest of us in the news media, I wasn't able to get much on it. But he brought me an Arab English dictionary, which, when I looked up the Arab word for "diarrhoea" and found it didn't have it, but it did have the word for "constipation", I found it was probably a waste of time. But he did little things like that. He bought me chocolate bars as well, and some extra fruit and more cigarettes. So he became a lot, lot friendlier. I think maybe some of that came off the fact that he was having trouble rationalising holding me as a hostage with his religion.
Pizzey: Just one last thing. I was in Baghdad when you were being held, so I know the concerns that went around and how we worried about you. Not that that did any good, but we did. Did you in any way have any sense that you were not forgotten, or did you feel abandoned at any point?
Butler: I knew I wouldn't be forgotten. I know that the media is a very close family, particularly in war zones. People think we do it for the adrenaline, which has nothing to do with it at all. As you know, it is 99 percent boredom anyway. If you want an adrenaline kick, there are far more realistic ways to go and get it than do what we do. We do it because of the relationship we have with the people we work with. It is a close community, and when the chips are down, everyone pulls together. So I knew I wouldn't be forgotten by the media. I knew CBS in particular, who have a reputation for looking after their people, wouldn't forget me, and I knew my family wouldn't. But the few times I was able to get the World Service, I was relieved not to be hearing my name because, firstly, I knew that level of publicity would just cause more distress to my family and friends, second thing, it would elevate my value in the eyes of my kipnappers, and thirdly, it would remind me of my predicament. The other thing, it's very unprofessional in our profession to actually become the story.
Pizzey: If it is any consolation, Richard, we know you didn't do it on purpose.
Butler: Thank you very much.