It is becoming more and more apparent that the Government took us to war in Iraq based on false intelligence and with insufficient planning as to our objectives and no proper exit strategy.
Some have claimed it is the worst foreign policy disaster since Suez, or even Munich. I think they are wrong. It is a greater disaster than these and even the mishandling of the American War of Independence pales beside it.
In both cases the consequences were quickly rectified, in the first instance by withdrawing our troops from Suez and in the second by abandoning the policy of appeasement and declaring war on Hitler.
We still face the consequences of the invasion of Iraq back in 2003, the threat of terrorism, and poor international relations with much of the world, not least the Middle East.
The Conservative Party supported military action by the international coalition in Iraq on the basis of the information that Tony Blair presented to the House of Commons and on the grounds that Saddam Hussein posed a credible and real risk to international peace and security.
However, it has become increasingly clear that the great difficulties of uniting and securing such a country were seriously underestimated.
The 2004 Butler Report into the use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War found that intelligence was pushed to its ‘outer limits’ to make the case for war.
Sir John Chilcot, who is chairing the current inquiry, was a member of the panel that produced the Butler Report. That report concluded that the limitations of the intelligence in the September 2002 ‘dodgy’ dossier were not ‘made sufficiently clear’, and that important caveats had been removed.
It also found that the 45 minutes claim for the time to readiness for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was ‘unsubstantiated’ and may have been included for its ‘eye-catching character.’ Butler did not go as far as to say that the British people had been misled, but he did say that ‘Language in the dossier and used by the Prime Minister may have left readers with the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence than was the case. It was a serious weakness that the Joint Intelligence Committee’s warnings on the limitations of the intelligence were not made sufficiently clear in the dossier’.
I believe the Iraq war represents probably the greatest failure of British Foreign policy ever.