Iraq War: 20 years on, we should remember how Labour drove the UK into an illegal war – Angus Robertson

Twenty years ago the disastrous Iraq war began with the full-throated support of Prime Minister Tony Blair and the UK Labour Government.
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In votes at Westminster and Holyrood, the Scottish Labour party and Tories backed the illegal and immoral war, justified at the time with lies and a dodgy dossier about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It was the biggest UK foreign policy disaster since the Suez crisis, with the price paid largely by the innocent people of Iraq.

Two decades ago, US President George W Bush decided he’d had enough of Saddam Hussein, the brutal Baathist dictator, who had gassed his own Kurdish population, repressed the Marsh Arabs, and ruled his country with an iron fist. Rather than being upfront about his aims of regime change, which is illegal under international law, Bush and Blair decided they would simply invade and depose him. They had no plan for what would follow. It was unforgivable.

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The US/UK invasion led to Iraq’s occupation, a huge insurgency, sectarianism, civil war and the rise of al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq. It cost the lives of more than 100,000 civilians and military personnel in a conflict estimated to have cost trillions of dollars. Yes, Saddam Hussein was deposed and his despotic rule ended, but that was not the stated purpose of the intervention which was the removal of weapons of mass destruction.

As for the lessons learnt in the UK, it’s not clear there has been much progress. What Blair did in 2003 was undermine international law, the United Nations and the authority of the Security Council. We know that from the official inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot. Having undermined the UK as a respected and trusted partner that upheld international law and the international community, you would have thought that the UK Government wouldn’t do that again.

However, this present UK Government seems perfectly happy to proceed with its inhumane legislation on immigration policy in breach of European Convention on Human Rights, just as it was prepared to threaten to breach the Northern Ireland Protocol, an international treaty with the European Union.

In addition to breaking international law and disregarding international agreements it freely entered into, there is also serious doubt that the way UK Government operates has changed from the ‘sofa government’ approach preferred by Blair. The Labour Prime Minister infamously wrote Bush a blank cheque letter with his pledge to be “with you, whatever”. Not only did he commit the UK to a war before the Cabinet discussed and agreed things properly, he did so on the basis of a false prospectus and without full scrutiny of legal advice.

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Two decades ago, the UK Labour government drove the country into an illegal war in Iraq. As a young member of the House of Commons, I was proud to be one of the 149 MPs who voted against the Iraq War on March 18, 2003. Next day, the British military invasion of Iraq began.

Sadly the lessons of the conflict have not been learnt in the UK and elsewhere. We should never forget the ultimate price paid by 19 Scottish service personnel, and all who died in the conflict, including the people of Iraq who have paid the biggest price of all.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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