THE invasion of Iraq 10 years ago was one of the worst foreign-policy decisions ever taken by a British government.
Not only was the war illegal, being based on trumped-up evidence and contrary to international law, but it was wildly counter-productive. Far from making Iraq a better place, it destroyed the country's infrastructure, plunging it into an unnecessary civil war and causing hundreds of thousands of casualties, including the deaths of 179 British service personnel.
It did not even advance British interests. Far from it – we have been left with the unhealthy residue of widespread animosity within the world of Islam and a suspicion that any kind of Western intervention is deleterious to Arab interests. Why else is the West refusing to intervene in Syria – which is almost as much a basket case as the Iraq of Saddam Hussein ever was.
Loading article content
This cannot be the result which former prime minister Tony Blair wanted when he plunged this country into war against the wishes of millions of British people. (Remember the protest marches and the widespread anger at tying ourselves to US coat-tails?) Now, in an astonishing piece of revisionism, the erstwhile war-monger is attempting to rewrite history by claiming that the removal of Saddam was a good thing which needed to be done to save lives.
On one level it is sad to see a former political leader attempting to justify himself and put himself in a better light. That simply will not wash, as the real facts are both different and downright disgraceful. Blair pursued a reckless policy of waging an illegal war and conniving with the US to disrupt a country which was not nearly as bad as it was portrayed. As a result, a civil war broke out and 10 years later the situation has hardly improved. On top of that, British forces faced the ignominy of withdrawing precipitately from Basra in 2008, their mission hardly accomplished.
All this is fact and it is shameful of Blair to suggest otherwise. And there have been other consequences. Forces used in Iraq were withdrawn to pursue an equally flawed policy in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and their allies can scarcely wait for the West to withdraw next year so that they can improve their plans to overthrow the current US-backed administration. Syria totters on the brink of meltdown as unknown numbers of extremists flock into the country to add to the mayhem.
Against that background, President Barack Obama has refused to embroil the US in further adventures in the Middle East while Prime Minister David Cameron will only do it selectively and when he can afford it.
In the greater scheme of things, 10 years may be a short time in politics but it's an awfully long time when grievous errors have been made and lives unnecessarily lost.