Like so many UK citizens, I opposed the war and, like hundreds of thousands, joined the London anti-war protest march on 15 February 2003.
I’ve just re-read my letter dated 25 January 2003 sent to Prime Minister Blair (he must have received thousands along similar lines), his Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition (Iain Duncan Smith), the Leader of the Liberal Democrats (Charles Kennedy) and my MP at the time, Boris Johnson. It’s a sickening reminder of politics of power (I was tempted to write “egotistical political legacies”!) and the devastating implications of war. This is what I wrote:Dear Mr Blair
I am writing to express my very deep concern at your Government's apparent commitment to go to war with Iraq. A sceptical view would suggest that a decision had already been taken to invade Iraq - irrespective of public opinion in this country or support from the UN Security Council - and that the Government was merely "going through the motions" of securing evidence and justification to do so while the UK/USA forces take up their positions.
As a committed Christian (and as someone who has voted for the Labour Party over the past twenty years or so, and who wholehearted celebrated the arrival of the Labour Government in 1997!), I feel a real sense of unease at recent developments and your Governments' handling of the situation. I would seriously question the morality and legality of war against Iraq at the present time and would urge that force should be considered only as a last resort - and, crucially, ONLY with UN support.
Whilst there seems little doubt about the evil nature of Saddam's regime, I feel it is essential that any action against it should only be taken if it can be proved that Iraq is in breach of the UN resolution and, at this stage, we still await evidence from the UN weapon inspectors. When the decision was taken to send the inspectors back into Iraq, there was a sense of "now we'll be able to show the world that Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction"; only weeks later, the UK/USA Administrations are saying that weapons inspections "could not continue for unlimited time". Condemning Iraq for failing to prove a negative would hardly appear to count as justification for war.
Whilst I can obviously see the justification of ridding the world of any weapons of mass destruction, I am far from convinced that the consequences of any invasion have been properly thought through. To my mind, a war will almost certainly result in unpredictable and unintended consequences - high numbers of civilian casualties; the death of many servicemen and women; more instability and violent chain reactions in the already volatile Middle East; more anti-American and British sentiment around the world; and, almost certainly, even more terrorism.
Regardless of your exhortations, public opinion in this country has remained stubbornly sceptical about the need for war with Iraq - people are not convinced that the threat from Saddam is great enough to justify war; people are suspicious of US President George Bush. There is wide-spread opposition to war from church leaders - throughout the world.
You have predicted that the public would eventually back a war against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq if other means of disarming him failed. You said this week that we had not reached the circumstances where you told the British people we were in conflict with Iraq but that "when and if that time came, people would find the reasons acceptable and satisfactory because there is no other route available to us". The time needed to persuade us (or not) could be very limited; there is speculation that, irrespective of any support from the UN, war could start by the end of February. Unless convincing evidence is produced within this time, it would appear that this country could be at war with Iraq without the support of the British people - an alarming prospect in a democratic society, with potentially devastating consequences for the future of this country and the world.
cc all members of The Cabinet
cc Mr Iain Duncan Smith MP, Leader of the Opposition
cc Mr Charles Kennedy MP, Liberal Democrat Leader
cc Mr Boris Johnson MP (Henley Constituency)
Blair opened a debate in parliament on 18 March 2003 (click here to read his full speech). On 20 March, starting with an air strike on the presidential palace in Baghdad, a combined force of troops from The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain and Poland invaded Iraq…The invasion consisted of 21 days of “major combat operations”.
At no time did the United Nations Security Council support a resolution backing the war.
At a cost of $1billion, 1,625 UN and US inspectors had spent two years searching for weapons of mass destruction.
None were ever found.
It’s absolutely scandalous that the Chilcott Report has taken so long to be published. All the key players have long since disappeared from the main political stage… but their shameful legacy remains.
Photo: from The Huffington Post