Sunday, 24 March 2013

10th anniversary of the vote to go to war in Iraq

Rob White welfare not warfare v2On Tuesday, March 20 I joined the vigil organised by Reading Peace Group to mark the 10th anniversary of the vote to go to war in Iraq.

10 years on from the Parliamentary vote to go to war in Iraq and the evidence is clear that the war had nothing to do with finding non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction, and everything to do with the fact that the then Prime Minister Tony Blair had already promised President Bush in March 2002 that he would support a war for regime change.

The legal and political distinction between finding WMD and regime change was essential for Blair to secure a majority of the parliamentary Labour party's support for war, without which he could not have gone ahead. However, the now infamous Downing St memo told Blair in 2002 that in the US "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy".

If WMD were really the focus of the war, Blair would have granted the Weapons Inspectors’ call for more time. Moreover, Blair blatantly misrepresented the evidence available. For example, in his speech to the House on the resolution to go to war, he suggested that soon after Saddam Hussein’s son in law, Hussein Kamal, defected to the West in the mid 1990s, he disclosed that Iraq had an extensive WMD programme.

In fact, the transcript of the interview with UNSCOM/IAEA records Hussein Kamal’s statements that Iraq’s WMD programme had been destroyed and nothing remained. The details of the interview were public knowledge in February 2003, well before the vote for war.

The parliamentary failure to hold Blair to account at the time of the vote makes it all the more essential that we have a debate in parliament now. We must formally record how such a flimsy case for war was able to get through our parliamentary process.

Unwavering Tory support for the vote was obviously critical. How convenient, then, that soon after William Hague writes to his Cabinet colleagues to tell them not to mention the war, David Cameron's government has failed to find time for a Parliamentary debate, requested by Green MP Caroline Lucas and a cross-party group of MPs, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of that vote.

Whatever position this Government now takes on Iraq and the Chilcot Inquiry, it is crucial that the public does not see Parliament just sitting back and ignoring the 10th anniversary of these lies and distortions. We owe it to the servicemen and women and all those who have lost their lives in Iraq to carefully examine what happened, in order to learn the lessons of the most damaging foreign policy decision of recent times. .

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