Iraq war was illegal, says Blair’s ex-deputy
Britain’s 2003 Iraq war was “illegal”, the country’s former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who was Premier Tony Blair’s deputy when UK joined the US-led invasion of Iraq, said on Sunday days after a long- awaited inquiry report slammed UK’s role in the conflict.
Labour heavyweight Prescott, who supported the decision in 2003, said he would have to live with the “catastrophic decision” for the rest of his life.
“A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of the decision we made to go to war. Of the British troops who gave their lives or suffered injuries for their country. Of the 175,000 civilians who died from the pandora’s box we opened by removing Saddam Hussein,” Prescott wrote in the ‘Sunday Mirror’.
Earlier this week, Blair apologised for mistakes he made but has said he stands by his decision to take the country to war after the seven-year-long official Iraq War Inquiry report was released by Sir John Chilcot on Wednesday.
Prescott said Blair’s statement that “I am with you, whatever” in a message to US President George W Bush, months before the invasion in March 2003, was “devastating”.
Blair, UK prime minister from 1997 to 2007, eventually sent 45,000 British troops into battle without exhausting the peace options, the Chilcot report said.
“In 2004, the UN secretary general Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq war, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right,” Prescott wrote.
He also praised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for apologising on behalf of the whole party and expressed his own “fullest apology”, especially to the families of British personnel who died.
As many as 179 British soldiers and more than 150,000 Iraqi civilians died in the Iraq war in the following years.
The former deputy PM said the Chilcot report had gone into great detail about what went wrong, but he wanted to identify “certain lessons we must learn”.