We must learn lessons of Iraq War

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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This week saw the publication of the Chilcot Report on the Iraq War and a long and detailed Commons statement by the Prime Minister, to try to summarise the 13 volumes and 2.6 million words in it. Next week will also see two days of Parliamentary debate on Sir John Chilcot’s six year magnum opus.

To be candid, the likelihood is that I would most likely have voted for the military action had I been in Parliament in March 2003, as a majority did. I would have believed the word of the then Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the intelligence community - and I would have been wrong.

The rationale for our military intervention was not regime change but the presence (supported by little evidence then or now) of chemical and biological weapons.

The fact is, Saddam Hussain was an evil tyrant whose rule was built on violence, systematic terror and despotism and Tony Blair is surely right to argue that the world is a better place without him.

At what cost?

Thousands dead, including 179 brave British service personnel, a country wrecked 13 years on, the wicked virus of jihadist murderous ideology breeding and flourishing across a whole region, if not throughout 
the world. Civil society fractured.

And yet Islamic fundamentalism didn’t start with the invasion of Iraq but nevertheless there is no doubt that its impact was catalysed by the war. 1998 saw attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa and in 2000 the USS Cole was bombed in the Gulf and let’s not forget 9/11.

Politics in our country is far from perfect and the wait for answers has been too long but what other country in the world would lay bare in a public report the details of the worst foreign policy disaster in 70 years? Flawed intelligence, a rush to military action before the diplomatic options had been exhausted, the breakdown of proper Cabinet government, flawed intelligence, poor planning for the post war period, the legality of the war, inadequate military equipment, the list is pretty damning and will be debated for many months.

Tony Blair’s government went to war not because it was wicked, or because he was immoral, deliberately lied or deceived the people but because his government was incompetent and he showed poor judgement.

I can understand the rage and anger of the relatives of dead, who want answers and for someone or something to be held accountable.

Iraq was a national tragedy on many levels but is too complex to be the fault of one man or one administration.

We must take time to read the Chilcot Report, learn its lessons and make sure something similar never happens again.