The war in Iraq

 

I am glad Boris has come out today with regret for voting for the war in Iraq. Those who believed in it then do have to explain what they thought so  at the time, and what can be learned from the mistake. If only more Labour figures would do so, as they were in government, they sustained Tony Blair as PM, and they provided the necessary support for the war. How do senior Labour figures today respond to Mr Blair’s new  long essay of self justification? Conservative support made no difference to the outcome and had no impact on the decision.

I remember well arguing with Iain Duncan Smith not to support the war. I wanted the Conservatives to be whipped to oppose it, as I thought it was likely to miscarry at the time. I did not think the PM would spin  about weapons of mass destruction given the seriousness of the issues at stake, so I could see why so many thought we should do something.  I was concerned about how we would settle Iraq once victorious and how we would secure the weaponry without accident.

My mistake was to vote with the party whip once I had lost the battle within the party to change its view. I have learned that you can be too loyal.

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56 Comments

  1. Richard1
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I didn’t have any vote in Parliament but I too supported the war, absolutely wrongly as it turned out. I assumed that when the Prime Minister stands up in the HoC and says there is a direct threat to the UK which needs force to be neutralised, he is very sure of his ground. I still cant believe Blair was actually lying, I assume he was either grossly misled or deluded himself. Either way it was and is an extraordinary disaster and failure of British foreign policy. Its essential we get the full truth, and absurd that the chilcott report has still not been published. The justification provided by Mr Blair and his absolute refusal to see that his policy was at the root of the present disaster is indeed disturbing.

    The most incredible thing of all is that, as far as I am aware, no-one, not a politician, a civil servant, an intelligence officer etc has even lost their job over this ghastly catastrophe. Indeed some of the people closely connected with the Iraq war decision still hold high office or put themselves forward to do so.

    • Hope
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Dr Kelly told the truth and we still are not any wiser what happened to him.

  2. Jerry
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    “I did not think the PM would spin about weapons of mass destruction given the seriousness of the issues at stake, so I could see why so many thought we should do something.”

    I admit to being taken in with that spin myself, so I have ever sympathy for politicains who had to make a public decision (my shame is my own, not something recorded in Hansard for posterity…), there is only one person (and perhaps his inner circle of advisor’s, and no I do not mean the civil service) in the UK who should have to answer for their actions – should answers ever be demand in a court of law.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      Just to add, I also agree with Boris in relation to a certain someone’s apparent mental health! Politicians old and new can’t look at 2003 Iraq in isolation, what happened then has influenced and shaped the region since (in the same way as WW1 & WW2 shaped and influenced Europe), who even knows if the Arab revolutions going through Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria would have, and be taking place, even non Arab countries have been affected. The only positive that seems to have come all this mess is that Iran and the USA appear to be at least talking again, if not cooperating with each other.

    • Anonymous
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Jerry,

      Well I and millions of others weren’t taken in by WMDs and we predicted the consequences. When WMDs weren’t found the reason for invasion was altered to ‘regime change’ – clearly a lie as there were no post invasion plans, the results of which we see today.

      Tony Blair is able to waltz in and out of the BBC with nothing but soft soaping.

      Compare how this deluded (man ed) is treated to the way Nigel Farage and his supporters are treated by the BBC and by many in the political class.

      This country is completely bonkers and has turned justice and truth on its head on this and many things.

      • Timaction
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        The BBC is an arm of Labour and the Labour Lite Coalition. The time to abolish or privatise it is overwhelming. It should sink or swim by its own merits. Many of us boycott its news and current affairs programmes but can’t avoid the BBC tax! Yet.

        • Jerry
          Posted June 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

          Apologies to John for having to moderate this.

          @Timaction: “The BBC is an arm of Labour and the Labour Lite Coalition. The time to abolish or privatise it is overwhelming. “

          I seem to remember a certain subscription TV service (at least their news channel) also being very supportive of Labour and Blair at the time of the WMD debate and before, I also seem to remember the BBC getting into very hot water due to a report about WMDs on a certain morning news and current affairs BBC Radio programme, hardly being pro-Labour – and it cost two BBC people their jobs…

          Oh and no one is forcing you to watch TV, actually with the exception of BBC Parliament there isn’t much worth watching these days anyway (especially at the moment with the blasted footy…), give DVDs, the internet or the radio a try non of which need a TVL.

          If you believe the BBC should be closed, privatised or what ever then fine, feel free to express that view, but please don’t dress it up in hyperbolic half truths.

  3. Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Dr. Redwood,

    I am intrigued by your closing comment on this post that it is possible to be too loyal.

    On your post yesterday entitled ‘The Governor’s Speech’, you wrote at some length on the economy. In response, I wrote a comment, posted at noon on 15 June, in which I pointed to a remarkable silence on the part of economists such as yourself to address queries about the currency issued by The Treasury in 1914, which has come to be called The Bradbury Pound.
    My comment contained a direct question to you on the matter.

    A subsequent check of the comment stream on your post revealed that, of the 62 comments listed, 32 were posted later than mine but appeared before mine which has been relegated to near the bottom of the list and to which, you have not replied.

    Does this indicate that you, too, are unwilling to discuss The Bradbury Pound, because your loyalty to the private banks and Fractional Reserve Banking outweighs the value of a proper open consideration of an alternative to current practise?

    John Wrake.

    Reply Long posts and posts requiring replies often have to await more time for me to moderate.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      John Rake,
      Nice try but clearly you aren’t going to receive a reply about the Bradbury pound.
      Incidentally, I too find my comments long delayed if posted at all.

      • Brian Tomkinson
        Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Sorry that I misspelt your name.

    • Mark
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Conceptually the Bradbury pound and QE are the same animal – at least for so long as there is no attempt to run down QE balances. QE just uses a multi-stage transaction to achieve the same end. Remember that the Bank of England is nationalised, and therefore it is just an arm of the state.

  4. Livelogic
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Indeed yet another example where, had the voters had a say with some real democracy, they would have made far better decisions than Blair did. It has been a complete disaster and a war entered into on a clear and blatant lie, helped with a clearly dodgy dossier that very many involved must have known was a lie. And a war/peace that was then lost and has made terrorism far more likely.

    How is Sir John Chilcot getting on, how many more years does he need to state the blindingly obvious?

    Why on earth did Duncan Smith come to such an absurd decision, was he too taken in by all the lies?

    A shame the public did not get a say in the Climate Change act too, then we would not have had that absurdity and economic disadvantage.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Livelogic,
      Apparently, Chilcot is having to wait for fresh imports of whitewash.

  5. Bill
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I was working in London when the decisions to proceed with British involvement were rumbling through the House of Commons. An anti-war march started to pass my window at 2pm and it was still going strong at 4pm. In other words a huge number of people were completely opposed to British troops being sent in: we could have done what Harold Wilson did when he resisted pleas from the Americans to send soldiers to Viet Nam. Unfortunately, Parliament and many ordinary people were fooled by the ‘dodgy dossier’ and I think the Evening Standard carried a story saying that our bases on Cyprus could be hit by rockets from Baghdad.

    If Blair had said at the time that we were going in for humanitarian purposes, we would then have taken immense pains with the nation-building plans once the war was over. But he didn’t. The truth is that, as you say, the oil in Iraq was crucial to the decision to intervene and the story is still to be told about how and why companies were awarded contracts once the fighting first stopped.

    • outsider
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Dear Bill (echoes of Private Eye), I too remember this because it was the only occasion on which I seriously considered joining a mass political demonstration. I eventually decided against because I intuitively knew that some very unpleasant elements would be involved. But, despite one carefully prepared opinion poll, it is clear to me that majority public opinion outside Westminster was always against this me-too aggression in spite of all the propaganda.

      • Bill
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Thank you for associating me with Private Eye, one of our most reliable (I am being serious) newspapers!

  6. Mark B
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    John Redwood said;
    “I have learned that you can be too loyal.”

    With respect, I think there are a few here that might disagree with you on that, myself included.

    I think we ALL share a proportion of blame over what happened back then. After all, it was the electorate that voted for both the Labour Party and Tony Blair. And it was the Conservative Party that supported the Government of the day.

    Bu the greatest mistake we made back then, was to think that the Political Class had learned something. But looking back to both Libya and Syria, I can say with some confidence that they have not.

    So, if the Political Class cannot, and will not change, it is up to each and everyone of us to seek alternative solutions that will restore democracy and the rule of law for ALL.

    ‘They’ will only change, when ‘we’ change. Because it isn’t going to happen any other way.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Mark,
      Well said.

    • Anonymous
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Mark B

      Not me.

      I always had an intense dislike for Tony Blair and never voted for him. I campaigned against the invasion of Iraq along with many others.

      I even predicted that Iraq would be left in bloody chaos and that Blair would make a millionaire of himself on the US after dinner speech circuit. All long before it happened.

      • Anonymous
        Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        If you want change, Mark, then threaten to vote UKIP and make sure that you mean it.

        • Mark B
          Posted June 17, 2014 at 4:05 am | Permalink

          Yes, but unless you voted Lib Dem, I believe the only party that voted against, then you supported one or other party that did want the war.

          I too was against the war and knew that the 45 minutes attack on our bases in Cyprus was a total fabrication. Saddam did not have the missiles with either the range or the accuracy. He could just about hit Tel Aviv – a ‘City’.

          There is no political party out there that I am aware of that offers me that which I want. I do not see the EU or going this or that war as the problem, more the symptom of the main problem, and that is, a total absence of ‘real democracy’.

          It is the system that needs changing, not the politicians or the parties. But I canny enough to recognize that UKIP, or indeed any other non-mainstream political party, serves as a useful stick – but no more than that !

  7. Roger Farmer
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Now it is all Deja Vu and the convenience of hindsight, but at the time there were other factors at play.

    I am sure that Bush saw it as unfinished business from his fathers first effort. Undoubtedly Saddam Hussein and his cohorts had it coming to them, it was just a matter of how, when ,and by whom. In fairness to Tony Blair he possibly acted out of loyalty to our American partners. However all the rubbish about WMD and 45 minutes was never seriously questioned. with the result that Blair got the backing he needed on none existent intelligence.

    The real weakness was in part in our own foreign office who had a history of Arab expertise gained from our close involvement with the Middle East for the previous 100 years at least. What happened to this expertise. Did it take a back seat during the Cold War and just die on the vine. For sure once the cork, Saddam, was taken out of the bottle there appeared to have been no thought given to the consequences. Our government at the time seemed to lack strong advice on what the new balance of power might be.

    Then of course there were our friends the Americans. They seemed to have forgotten everything since General McArthur in Japan and the Marshal Plan in Europe. In addition to this I think they had little or no knowledge of the effect of removing Saddam. There was nothing to suggest that they were interested. Perhaps they thought it was just a matter of throwing gum and chocolate at the population. Having taken the lid off the pressure cooker they were too thin on the ground to contain the consequences. They even forgot how they gained so much technical expertise at the end of WW2 by co-opting the Nazis at the time. By disbanding the local police and defeated army they lost their last chance of controlling the country. On top of this they have no interest in “Hearts and Minds” as a philosophy. (sentence left out ed)
    I think it is obvious now that the Arab world has no concept of democracy. They tried it in Egypt but the winning party thought they could get away with ruling for themselves rather than the whole population. End result another military government. Maybe it is the best solution. Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and Syria are all cases where the destruction of the ruling regime for whatever morale cause has only led to instability.

    The answer for the UK is to keep our borders absolutely secure and in that way keep their troubles from our door. There is only one democratic country in the Middle East and that is Israel, who merit our support. If you think about it, Switzerland seems to exist quite happily without the need to run around the World being a policeman.

    Stop beating your breast and take heart over the decision to stay out of Syria. Curb the ambitions of the likes of Cameron and Haigh, they do not think it through.

  8. Ray Veysey
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I have learned that you can be too loyal.

    apparently not.

  9. Roy Grainger
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I doubt there is a supporter of any party who could care less what the comprehensively discredited Mr Blair’s views are on Iraq or any other topic and for that reason there should be minimal media coverage of him. He is just another unelected irrelevant lobbyist. I know those in the Westminster political bubble get overexcited by his pronouncements but the dash to give him massive media coverage whenever he asks for it will tend to swell his already over-inflated ego. An extended period of silence from him – either self-imposed or otherwise – would be most welcome.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      @Roy Grainger: “I know those in the Westminster political bubble get overexcited by his pronouncements but the dash to give him massive media coverage whenever he asks for it will tend to swell his already over-inflated ego.

      It’s not the Westminster bubble or the UK MSM that you need to worry about, Blair is still worshipped by the overexcited right in the USA and thus his “over-inflated ego” (as you call it) is often under estimated on the east bank of ‘The Pond’.

      Those of you who are interested in railway history might know of a book on railway accidents called “Red for Danger”, I can’t help thinking it would also make a good title for a book on the 1997-2007 Blair government, just needing the addition of the word Rose

      • Roy Grainger
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        I am not interested in what some people in USA think of Mr Blair, they have their own agenda and motives. Just for the record I opposed UK involvement in Iraq but was generally supportive of USA involvement.

  10. Mark
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    In the aftermath of World War II, there were several occupations of the Axis powers that took place in a bid to change their philosophies. In East Germany, Communism was enforced with the aid of the Stasi – an organisation that was nearly as ruthless as Saddam’s organs of internal repression in Iraq, well described in the book “Republic of Fear”.

    In West Germany, the Anglo-American presence was substantial, and in Japan MacArthur’s occupation was at times even quite brutal in a bid to change mindsets. However, there was not the religious and ethnic divide (courtesy of the 1916 Sykes/Picot agreement) that underlies Iraq in either Japan or Germany – a factor that makes occupation far more difficult.

    There is no doubting that Saddam was a genocidal dictator with aspirations to become pan-Arab leader (and his son Uday was even more unpleasant), willing to invade his neighbours and make threats further afield. Unfortunately, his neighbours were not ideal partners in seeking to deal with him. Both Iran and Turkey have substantial Kurdish minorities and no wish to end up losing out to a wider Kurdistan. Iran’s militant attitudes remain a problem in their own right, and the thought of expanding Iranian oil control over the Basrah area will not have filled strategists with glee. Thus a plan to partition Iraq along religious/ethnic lines – which is what is now de facto occurring – was off the table. Also off the table was an adequate occupying force with rules of engagement akin to MacArthur’s. Original Pentagon estimates that at least 500,000 would be required were scaled back to the minimum necessary to hold the country, rather than re-educate it to a different way of life. The occupiers were not given the tools, so they could not finish the job.

    In that light, a policy of containment awaiting a better moment would have been more sensible. An important element would have been securing a rapprochement with Iran – still a long way from happening. Even more unfortunately, recent actions across the Maghreb and failure in Afghanistan has stirred up a hornets’ nest of religious strife that ultimately threatens our own shores. We need to think sensibly about how to tackle this.

  11. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I supported the war too because I did think, as reported, that there was a danger to ourselves in the UK.
    I watched Tony Blair, Claire Short and Alastair Burt discussing Iraq on Sunday. I respect all of these people, Claire for her deeply pacifist humanitarian stance, Tony Blair, because of the awesome responsibility he took with the evidence he was a party too and Mr Burt because I know his strong ethical considerations were always self evident when he lived in Bury.
    Tony Blair made a good point comparing the inaction in Syria with Iraq in relation to all Arab countries . The point he made so strongly was that by not intervening in Syria far many more lives have been destroyed.
    If I had been living in Syria , would I have wanted some help and therefore hope or would I have wanted to hide away from the murderous regime and counter fighting? I simply do not know.
    John Simpson who also specialises in the middle east made similar remarks , but was still Anti Iraq intervention.

    • zorro
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Blair is becoming increasingly incoherent in his arguments….. We have been interfering in Syria and that is what has caused the problems. Who has been supporting the rebels? Who supports the supporters of the rebels. When was the last time you heard the UK or US say anything against KSA or Qatar, those scions of democratic accountability?

      zorro

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        The difference is between direct aggressive intervention and manipulative / arms intervention. The UN also being the strong element there.

  12. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    JR : “they sustained Tony Blair as PM”
    To his shame and that of your colleagues Cameron led a standing ovation from your side of the Commons when Blair finally stood down. He also proclaimed himself the ‘heir to Blair’, about they only thing he has delivered on; yet you support him totally whilst paying lip service that you “have learned that you can be too loyal.”

    • zorro
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Tells you all you need to know about Cameron. I think that John is being rather disingenuous in implying that it was all Labour. I do not have a shadow of a doubt that we would have had the same result under a ‘Tory’ government at that time…..

      zorro

  13. Max Dunbar
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit that I supported the war against Iraq. Whatever the political justifications, it is easy to forget just how brutal a tyrant Saddam Hussein was. As a student at Manchester in the late 1970s I remember two things.
    Firstly, one of my acquaintances at halls of residence who was a post-graduate student at UMIST, had been a tank commander in the Iraqi Army. I only discovered this as we were walking to a local cinema to watch the film A Bridge Too Far. He told me that his unit had been ordered to destroy a Kurdish village. This involved a surprise attack during which the tanks rolled over all the buildings and crushed or shot anything that moved and that included children and animals. The entire village was destroyed and its inhabitants and their livestock exterminated. How many such other atrocities he was ordered to commit I do not know. Hearing that one was enough for me. I knew that his account was genuine.
    Secondly, working in a holiday job painting rented flats at around the same time I recall noticing that all Iraqi tenants has posters of Hussein in every room without exception, and I also remember the occasional time when one of these Iraqis would have a ‘visit’ from a ‘friend.’ The atmosphere was strained.

  14. Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    The main by-product of the invasion of Iraq is that Islamic nations and organisations which, up to then, had no particular animosity towards this country, all started taking an anti-western stance and the extremists took advantage of the situation to gain increased support. We now have not only ISIS in Iraq, but similar organisations in Nigeria, Kenya and elsewhere.
    What concerns me is how many Islamists with a similar mindset are resident in this country as “British” citizens. Some 300,000 people got British nationality last year, and even if only a few percent are extremists, when added to those already here, they could make quite a potent force. One only has to remember the damage that relatively small numbers of the IRA managed to do, to get some idea of what Islamic extremists are capable, especially as they glorify in getting killed themselves as long as they kill unbelievers in the process. At least the IRA’s attacks were tempered by a desire that those concerned should escape alive!
    We should be far more worried about what is happening here than about events in Iraq.

  15. rick hamilton
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I do not see that weapons of mass destruction were the sole motivation for removing Saddam Hussein, although they were used as a scaremongering issue to sway opinion.

    Saddam should have been removed having been defeated after his invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Instead he was allowed to remain in power and defied I think 17 UN resolutions in 11 years and was becoming rehabilitated as a strongman among Arabs. The US and UK were policing a no-fly zone all that time and something had to be done. Having trashed Kuwait’s oilfields he was possibly the worst unindicted criminal on the planet already. After murdering his own people with nerve gas it was not a fantasy to believe he had stockpiles and could develop the means of delivery over Israel or even Cyprus.

    While I have no time whatsoever for Blair it appears to me quite understandable that he supported Bush’s aim to get rid of this appalling regime. Blair’s mistake was to believe that the US had a proper plan for running the country effectively afterwards. Clearly they did not and that failure is what lies behind the current mess, not the removal of Saddam’s regime itself.

    • zorro
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Iraq was no practical threat whatsoever to the West or Israel. They knew that he had no chemical/nuclear weapons and had been subject to years of sanctions…… Let’s get real…… Do you know how many nuclear/chemical weapons Israel has?

      zorro

  16. Bert Young
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Today seems to be the day the truth comes from under the carpet . Blair has been crucified by recent comments and , equally revealingly , Michael Gove’s ex Chief of staff has exposed his views of the Prime Minister . Cameron is referred to as ” bumbling ” , surrounded by sycophants and out of touch with the ordinary person . I’m glad that people speak up and are prepared to be counted ; I want Blair to be exposed for his role in Iraq and , I want Cameron to get the message of the public’s disaffection .

  17. Gina Dean
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Why is it that we in the west think we have all the answers to the middle east problem. We don’t. They are tibal and there values are not the same as ours. We should stay away and allow the middle east countries sort there selves out.

  18. forthurst
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    “I remember well arguing with Iain Duncan Smith not to support the war.”

    I remember well watching contemporary tv programmes debating Iraq whose deliberations were presided over by the Big Brother appearance on a large screen of Richard Perle, the acknowledged author of the Iraq war; it was extremely obvious to me in the way he made his ‘case’ for WMD that he himself did not actually believe what he was endeavouring to groom his audience into believing.

    JR may not have been aware at the time over the friendship of the Shadow Chancellor with Richard Perle, whose loyalty to the USA as opposed to somewhere in the ME had been the subject of considerable prior controversy there, and the former’s influence over Ian Duncan Smith in arguing extensively for putting British lives in danger whose main beneficiary would be a foreign power.

    A British value we have lost is that of being merciless in dealing with our enemies, especially those in our midst. For traitors, there can be no redemption. Unless we regain this British value, we will be lost as a nation.

  19. outsider
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood, It was not just you who were too loyal. Your party’s leaders were too loyal to the US alliance when their political interest and, I suspect, their own instincts told them, like you, something different. When your leaders came out in favour of the war in the Commons, I remember turning to a colleague who was a Conservative activist and saying ” You have just lost the next election”. I remain convinced that, if you had taken a principled stand against the war, you would have won the election in 2005 (or probably 2006) and things would now be somewhat different. The Conservatives’ support was not just mistaken. It had significant consequences for UK history.

  20. Vanessa
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    It astonishes me that British governments are so eager to send our troops into battle where there is absolutely no threat to our country at all. Am I right in thinking Cameron is thinking of sending in the SAS to Iraq with Obama?

    I did not support the war originally and believe that we should leave this region well alone. It is their war, their tribes, their bad governments and their country. We are done with running our Empire and should stop pretending we still have one.

    Reply I do not think we will send in troops.

    • BobE
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Vanessa, remember that its about oil not people. Thats why we ignore the African wars.

      (I may be too late with this)

    • zorro
      Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – Do you count the SAS as ‘troops’? If so, I would not be so sure.

      zorro

  21. Martin Ryder
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    The most important thing about our war in Iraq is what we can learn from it and what we should do, or more importantly, not do in the future.

    I remember watching, in disbelief, the British Army invading a country that we were not at war with and that was not attacking us or a close ally. Likewise I could not believe that the RAF was bombing a country that was not, and had no intention of, bombing us. We should never do that again. I believe in an aggressive defence, in that it is usually best to get the first punch in, but there was no evidence, even in the dodgy dossier, that Iraq was about to invade or bomb us.

    Once committed to the campaign it was the government’s duty to ensure that we were on the winning side and that our reputation as a militarily competent nation was enhanced; in the hope that this would deter other enemies. In the short term we were on the winning side but in the long term it is clear that, whilst we deposed a tyrannical dictator, we did not make life better for the Iraqi people. In future, if we have to fight in a war such as the one in Iraq, we must focus on the long term aim of making life better for the people and plan and resource (including using local people and organisations) for that aim.

    The government, like this one having very little interest or expertise in military matters, pulled our forces out of Iraq far too quickly once the initial fighting was over. I doubt that they were very much interested in the need to maintain the peace in Basra and the south of Iraq and so left the Army with far too few resources to be able to defeat the host of insurgents that they were faced with.

    Where a division was needed they left a battalion and so the British Army that had fought so well had to leave Basra with its tail between its legs. The Iraqis used a division to clear the insurgents out of Basra and needed massive support from the US to do so; and then it was a close run thing. In future the government must ensure that the forces that it sends to war are large enough, and well enough equipped, to achieve the aims that the government sets for it. They must also give the forces the time that they need to achieve the aim.

    The main thing that a British prime minister should learn is to be out when the US president telephones.

  22. The PrangWizard
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    You say that have learned that you ‘can be too loyal’. Is that the best you can do? I think we have seen that on other occasions. You have heard many of us accuse you of ‘party before country’ often. Are you going to reverse your censoring of views and words you find uncomfortable? Remember, it is Magna Carta day tomorrow.
    What will you say when a terror group shoots off a few bullets in one of our streets and attempts to set up a defence zone in of their areas some of which are almost ‘no-go’ already; they have been stated by residents as such. How many plops will we hear of heads popping up out of sand? My guess is heads will be pushed deeper and we, the people will get the blame because we have not been ‘understanding’ enough.

    I still can’t find my comment under ‘Religious wars?’

  23. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    You take out a dictator and be very prepared for a big fight back if the replacement is not quite the same.

    In all, 1,625 US and UN inspectors were working in Iraq for two years – from November 2002 to September 2004 – at a cost of over $1bn. They searched nearly 1,700 sites.

    Nothing significant found…but there was certainly gas/chemicals for the Kurds and delivery systems (Scud/Tubes). The Marsh Arabs got the standard wipeout. My REME friends experienced a lot of this, and one was in tears when talking about it.

    I did not support that war, because the subject population does not want failure that only the West can provide. And as Clare Short said…no after plan had been thought out at all. And it would be the same with Assad of Syria.

    Anybody got workable plans for when this planet gets much colder? No…I thought not.

  24. Bazman
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I remember writing. ” I don’t know much about Middle Eastern politics, but lets get it on! ” Interesting how the liberal left and the hard right are often one and the same defending the indefensible with liberal tosh.

    • Edward2
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Where are the “hard right” currently advocating more invasions and further use of our armed forces?
      Thought it was the Labour party and their poster boy Blair who have the appetite for going to war.

      • Bazman
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        Cameron wanted his war, but did not get it did he forgot that one have we? The American right would have any war any day if they could. Blair was as deluded on Iraq as he was on banking in believing in right wing nonsense.

        • Edward2
          Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

          If you are claiming Cameron is “hard right” then it is only you who is deluded.

          • Bazman
            Posted June 18, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            He wanted a war whether he is hard right some would argue on thsi point he was. Don’t forget the main point.

          • Edward2
            Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            Baz
            Your main point was:-
            “the liberal left and the hard right are often one and the same defending the indefensible with liberal tosh”
            You used Cameron as your example
            I said he isn’t hard right and that the main appetite for war has come from the Labour party who are not liberal left.

      • Bazman
        Posted June 19, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        Thought it was the Labour party and their poster boy Blair who have the appetite for going to war as you said.
        Yes and Cameron, but you chose to either not know that or skim over it. Which one?

  25. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Loyalty and trust; now those are lost British values. It is heartbreaking that it is not advisable to use those childhood instincts. Everything is so corrupt and no one is completely on your (the plural’ your’) side.

  26. Stephen Berry
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Excellent news that John opposed the Iraq war in 2003, but a great shame that we did not get to know about this at the time. Politicians who are willing to stand out against the herd will be remembered fondly by many and often gain great kudos in the longer run.

    It always seemed risible to me that Iraq, with or without weapons of mass destruction, could be even the remotest threat to the UK, let alone the US. A threat to its neighbours in the Middle East? Certainly. But a claim that this Third World country could be a threat to the two major nuclear states of the West? Now that was too much! No, the Iraq invasion was an aggressive war undertaken as part of an ill-judged attempt to remake the Arab world in the West’s image. Everyone, with the exception of Mr Blair and a few neocons, can now see that this attempt has spectacularly backfired. Sadly, I believe that you would have to go back to the Boer war to find Britain engaged in a more unjust war.

    But all this is now water under the bridge. The whole of the Arab world is being convulsed by the so-called Arab Spring (though this should more properly be known as the Arab Winter). The result will be new countries formed on the basis of religious and ethnic divisions after decades of strife. What should the UK do?

    First, there are many influential people who assume that what they believe is good for the UK is good for other countries too. That you should not discriminate on religious or ethnic grounds is part of their core beliefs. It should be made clear to these people that the non-discrimination doctrine does not hold in many parts of the world and British troops should not be sent to assorted hell holes in a futile attempt to defend it.

    Second, geo-political analysts will tell us that a revolution in this or that Arab country is of overwhelming importance to the West for strategic or economic reasons. These voices will become increasingly strident if the House of Saud or the rulers of the gulf states begin to totter. It should always be remembered that any new rulers of Arab countries will want money and they will be willing to sell oil to get it.

    So what should the UK do in the Middle East? As little as humanly possible is my answer.

  27. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    One of the problems at the time was that Sadaam never denied that he held weapons of mass destruction. Because he was afraid to lose face, he lost everything. There’s a lesson there.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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