Cook: 'Pull out of bloody, unjust war'

'There will be a legacy of hatred for the West if the Iraqis continue to suffer from the war we started'

Robin Cook last night launched a searing attack on the US and British governments for their prosecution of what he called a "bloody and unjust war".

It is the first time since the start of the conflict that a leading British political figure has called for hostilities to be ended with Saddam Hussein still in power.

Mr Cook's call for an immediate withdrawal from the war zone is a warning to Tony Blair of the immense political problems ahead if – as is now feared – the conflict drags on and the coalition forces are obliged to lay siege to Baghdad.

The former foreign secretary broke the silence he has maintained since his resignation speech in the Commons nearly a fortnight ago, which was greeted with an unprecedented standing ovation from fellow Labour MPs.

Mr Cook's intervention will raise new doubts about whether Mr Blair can survive in office if the war is not over quickly. His opponents on the far left of the party issued a new call yesterday for his removal.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Cook said: "I have already had my fill of this bloody and unjust war. I want our troops home and I want them home before more of them are killed."

He attacked Mr Bush for "sitting pretty in the comfort of Camp David" while Allied forces risked death in an "unnecessary and badly planned" war. "It is easy to show you are resolute when you are not one of the guys in a sandstorm peering around for snipers," he wrote. "Nobody should start a war on the assumption that the enemy's army will co-operate. But that is exactly what President Bush has done.

"And now his Marines have reached the outskirts of Baghdad, he does not seem to know what to do next."

He was scathing about the new tactic outlined by the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which Mr Cook summarised as sitting down outside Baghdad "until Saddam surrenders".

He warned: "There is no more brutal form of warfare than a siege. People go hungry. The water and power to provide the sinews of a city snap. Children die.

"There will be a long-term legacy of hatred for the West if the Iraqi people continue to suffer from the effects of the war we started."

Mr Cook revealed the thinking of many of those who sent the coalition into war, confident of a quick victory. "Shortly before I resigned, a Cabinet colleague told me not to worry about the political fallout – the war would be finished long before polling day for the May local elections. I just hope those who expected a quick victory are proved right."

He commended the decision to bring back the bodies of slain troops for burial in Britain, but added: "I can't help asking myself if there was not a better way to show consideration for their families.

"A better way could have been not to start a war that was never necessary and is turning out to be badly planned." Mr Cook's call for an immediate end to the war was echoed by Doug Henderson, who worked with him in the Foreign Office as Minister for Europe.

He told BBC Radio 4 that the only alternative was an escalation of the conflict, dragging in Syria and possibly Iran. "I think a ceasefire and withdrawal is by far the better way forward," he added.

Downing Street played down Mr Cook's comments and insisted that the war would be fought to the finish.

A spokesman said: "Robin Cook has a well-known position on Iraq and it is not one that the Government shares.

"As the Prime Minister said in the press conference in Camp David, we will see the military campaign through until we achieve our objectives: that is, Saddam gone and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction disarmed."

Meanwhile, some of the Prime Minister's most hardened opponents were meeting in London yesterday to plan how they could "reclaim' control of the party.

Mark Seddon, editor of the left wing newspaper, Tribune, urged the 300 delegates to a Labour Against the War conference to set up a new organisation to "reclaim'" control of the Labour Party.

Later, delegates voted by more than two to one to campaign for a change in the party leadership..

Although Labour Against the War has relatively little support inside Parliament – mainly from hardened left wing MPs – what will worry Mr Blair is the links it has established with several large trade unions, including the GMB general union and the CWU postal workers union.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Development Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Service and Installation Engineer

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?