This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.

31 March 2009

Iraq

The decision to invade Iraq must go down as the most calamitous foreign policy error in recent memory. It has made the world a more unstable place, crippled our international reputation and has cost the lives of 179 British soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. As well the human cost, the bill for the taxpayer comes in at around £8 billion.

You might assume that the Government of the day would want to quickly learn what went wrong to ensure that the same mistakes were never repeated. However, after six years of war (longer than the duration of World War II) on, the Government still refuses to hold a proper independent inquiry into the reasons why we invaded Iraq.

I remember, sitting in the House of Commons prior to the invasion, while Tony Blair, then Prime Minister, made the case for war. It always sounded as if he knew something that we did not; his answer to many questions seemed to be, “trust me.” We now know what he knew then, and it is clear that we were spun into what was an illegal and immoral war. Gordon Brown is now trying to spin his way out of an early inquiry.

The arguments against holding an inquiry now are as weak as those that originally made the case for the invasion. The Government maintain that to hold an inquiry while our troops are still in Iraq would cause problems for our soldiers on the ground - this simply does not stack up. Our men and women who have fought so bravely were not responsible for the decision to invade, it was a political decision and it ought to be politicians who will be under the greatest scrutiny from any inquiry.

The Conservatives hope that an inquiry will absolve them from much of the guilt and pin the blame on Tony Blair. However, all MP’s who voted for the war that day must shoulder their share of the responsibility.

We do not need an inquiry simply to apportion blame, what is far more important is to make sure that we learn the lessons from the disastrous lead up to the conflict. If the frantic late-night emails between Foreign Office staff are anything to go by it seems that more time was devoted to ‘sexing up’ the case for war than for coming up with a plan for what we would do once we had arrived in Baghdad. We now know that planning for post-invasion Iraq was largely non-existent and that there was no real money for any reconstruction.

Our soldiers agree to follow orders on the understanding that we only send them into harms way if it is absolutely necessary. There was no compelling case to invade Iraq and the world is now paying the price. The Government say that to hold an inquiry now would be wrong and would undermine our soldiers and the sacrifices they make. The far greater tragedy would be to leave Iraq with nothing learnt from their sacrifice.

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This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.