Belfast Telegraph

Vainglorious Blair and folly of Iraq war

Editor's Viewpoint

Sending men and women to war in the knowledge that many of them may die is a decision that should never be taken lightly or rashly. There are many today who feel that the death of more than 200 soldiers in Iraq could have - and should have - been prevented.

The Chilcot Report into the Iraq war, which took seven years to compile, makes the point quite clearly that former Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to invade that country with the US was based on a false premise. The intelligence suggesting that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction and could deploy them in a very short period of time was simply wrong.

While the report is more candid in its findings than many expected, it does not do what many of Blair's fiercest critics would have liked - his head on a plate leading to possible legal action against him

Looking back, it is easy to see the mistakes that were made and that Parliament perhaps would never have sanctioned the decision to go to war if MPs had been more enquiring. The military's highest echelons also seemed keen to go into battle, too keen in the opinion of some who actually served in Iraq.

While Blair has apologised for the mistakes which were made, he has refused to apologise for his decision to go to war. It has been suggested that he felt invincible, having brokered the Good Friday Agreement here and after successes in Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

Yet he has to live with Sir John Chilcot's damning assessment that he went to war before all the alternative options were explored, never mind implemented.

The views of Northern Ireland veterans of the war reported in this newspaper today should also make uncomfortable reading for Blair. They speak of an armed force ill-prepared for war and ill-equipped. Yet we can have nothing but admiration for those who went to war believing they were doing the right thing and were defending their country from imminent danger. They deserve an apology for being so misled.

It is evident that public reaction to the Iraq war will be a bitter legacy for the former Prime Minister. Like many who serve in the highest office it is their failures, rather than their successes, which are remembered. Ironically, his greatest success in brokering peace here - for which we are grateful - may have so inflated his self-opinion that he made a devastating misjudgment on Iraq.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph