You can watch my speech and the full debate by clicking (here).
We now know that the decision to go to war in Iraq was wrong—not just flawed but utterly wrong. This place was misled; not everyone was fooled, but sufficient to sway the vote. Meanwhile, across the UK, 1.5 million people marched in protest against the war. Their cumulative voice was drowned out by a single voice and its abuse of power. Tony Blair said that those who marched against the war would have “blood on their hands.” I do not know one single person who marched against this war who regrets their action, while apparently Mr Blair now regrets his. One hundred and seventy-nine British servicemen and women, along with 24 British civilians, were killed; and let us never forget the tens of thousands—hundreds of thousands—of civilians in Iraq who were killed, the 1.25 million orphans this war created, and the destruction of buildings and decimation of communities. The outcome was to radicalise a generation of angry, grieving Iraqis whose lives we turned upside down.
All based on what? There was no evidence of WMD. There was no evidence of Iraq having links to al-Qaeda. Evidence of contact between Iraq and Osama bin Laden was “fragmentary and uncorroborated”. However, Tony Blair still felt fine telling his pal, George W. Bush,
“I will be with you, whatever.”
How did we wage this war? We did as we always do—we sent in our troops with “wholly inadequate military equipment”. This was not new. We had known for years that we had poor vehicles and a lack of body armour. Equipment was identified in 2001 to
“not work well in hot and dusty conditions…The MoD had insufficient desert combat suits and desert boots for all personnel…Standard issue boots were unsuitable for the task; 4 Armoured Brigade’s post-exercise report cited melting boots and foot rot as ‘a major issue’.”
What do we do for those who lost loved ones? We make them wait 13 years for answers. How well do we look after the welfare of those who returned? Appallingly.
On Monday, we will vote to spend hundreds of billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction while campaign veterans are sleeping rough in towns and cities across the UK. Many more are physically or psychologically damaged, left by us without the support network they require. When will we put in place a package for our service personnel that looks after their long-term welfare? When will we ensure that everyone leaving the armed forces does so with a qualification or skill that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives?
In truth, so many mistakes were made that 2.6 million words are probably not enough. I will finish with a quote from a father who lost a son—a quote that is intelligent, informed, and dignified. Roger Bacon, whose 34-year-old son Matthew was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2005, said:
“Never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end.
We were proud when our husbands, sons and daughters signed up to serve our country. But we cannot be proud of the way our government has treated them.
We must use this report to make sure that all parts of the Iraq War fiasco are never repeated again. Neither in a theatre of war, nor in the theatre of Whitehall.
We call on the British Government immediately to follow up Sir John’s findings to ensure that the political process by which our country decides to go to war is never again twisted and confused with no liability for such actions.”