Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Colonel: UK 'had no idea' on Iraq

Colonel Tim Collins said the Govenment had 'no idea' what to do after the invasion of Iraq

Britain's Government and military leaders had "absolutely no idea" what to do in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, a prominent veteran of the 2003 war has said.

Colonel Tim Collins, who became famous worldwide for his inspirational eve-of-battle address to his men in the Royal Irish Regiment, said the Chilcot Inquiry into the war should recommend action to end a culture of "obsequiousness" among senior military officers which led to them telling politicians what they wanted to hear.

He was speaking as the inquiry team visited the Army base in Tidworth, Wiltshire, to hear evidence from troops who served on the frontline in Iraq about the conditions they found there.

Asked if he had a clear understanding of the reasons for war as he prepared his troops for the invasion, Col Collins told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Absolutely not. I don't think anybody had any idea why it was we were going to do this."

Former prime minister Tony Blair and US president George Bush had given Saddam Hussein "an offer he couldn't understand" and even the Iraqi dictator probably did not know what he was required to do to avoid war, said Col Collins.

"I rather thought that there would be some sort of plan and the Government had thought this through and I was clearly wrong," he said.

"When I gave my now notorious talk to the Royal Irish, I was trying to rationalise for those young men what was going on from my standpoint. As it turned out, it had a wider appeal because nobody had any idea why this was happening.

"It became very apparent to me shortly after crossing the border that the Government and many of my superiors had no idea what they were doing."

Col Collins said it was left to units like his at a local level to make plans for restoring order to Iraq, which he tried to do by forging links with local people who advised him on how to keep schools, shops and markets open.

"There was no preparation. They had absolutely no idea what to do. We turned up, took away a country's infrastructure and its law and order with absolutely nothing to put in its place."

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