Editor's Letter: The horror in Iraq proves we were wrong to invade

This newspaper's anti-war stance made an Independent man of me

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Morning all. It was the Iraq war that made me an Independent man. Before then I took The Times, which my father used to get at home. My hero was Christopher Martin-Jenkins, whose cricket reports I found irresistible – at least until this newspaper led the fight against that disastrous conflict.

Those of us that marched against the invasion generally accepted there was a strong case for it; it’s just that the case against it was much stronger. The case for toppling Saddam was threefold: first, he posed an imminent threat; second, his failure to comply with UN resolutions had to be met with force if that body were to have any authority; and third, the removal of Saddam ought to improve things in Iraq and the region as a whole, perhaps by planting the seed of democracy, and certainly by weakening the capacity of Islamist terrorists to acquire power. How does this argument stand up over a decade on? Not well.

Even a dozen more public inquiries wouldn’t lead to the British Establishment admitting the war was launched on a pack of lies, but that’s certainly how it seems to a lot of people, including me. In his unmissable manual on leadership, A Journey, Tony Blair gives a robust defence of the intelligence he was presented with. But the fact is the weapons never turned up, the inspectors wanted more time, and George W Bush and the cowards around him were gunning for Saddam very soon after 11 September 2001.

It was on the third pillar of the case for war that this newspaper, with hindsight, was most right. On 10 April 2003, after the fall of Saddam, we wrote in a leading article: “The military victory has been won, but it may not yet be complete… The struggle for territorial advantage, let alone control, is far from decided. The central and most immediate danger, however, is the power vacuum that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein leaves behind it.”

That power vacuum is being filled today by Isis, whose aim is to establish a Sunni caliphate. No matter how vile Saddam was, there can be no justification for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people as a result of the invasion; nor the displacement of millions more; nor the failure of British and American strategists to plan for the aftermath of the invasion; nor their myopia in failing to see the evidence of modern history:  when despots are toppled by foreign forces, chaos ensues.

 

This newspaper’s campaign a decade ago was led by world-class journalists whose names you are familiar with: Fisk, Cockburn, Sengupta, Usborne and Cornwell, to name a few. Those names are still leading our coverage  – several of them in today’s edition, which I think is a strong one. Have a great weekend.

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