Leading article: The damaging legacy of an ill-advised invasion


The political consensus over how Britain should respond to the terrorist atrocity on London continues to hold. Yesterday the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, and his Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts met to discuss a programme of anti-terror legislation on which all three main parties can agree. It was a productive meeting. They emerged to announce that there are "no main outstanding issues of difference" between them. This means we are likely to see new laws governing terrorism offences introduced to Parliament, with cross-party support, in October.

It is commendable that our political representatives are working together to ensure public safety from the threat of terrorism. Less commendably, the Government is working hard at the moment to forge political unity on a quite separate question: Iraq. And this too has profound implications for public safety. A report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs think-tank, better known as Chatham House, has concluded that the US-led invasion of Iraq put Britain at much greater risk of terrorist attack.

Government ministers are, naturally, hypersensitive to this charge. And they have prepared a superficially convincing argument as to why it is erroneous to make any link between the London bombing and Iraq. They claim that Britain and the entire Western world was under threat from terrorism long before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. And this is, of course, true. Attacks on Westerners by - or inspired by - al-Qa'ida occurred in Kenya, Tanzania, New York and Bali, before the tanks started to advance on Baghdad. Britain would certainly have been a target for fanatical Islamic terrorists even if we had refused to co-operate with the invasion of Iraq. Our support for the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, which deposed the Taliban regime, would have been enough to guarantee that.

But this is something quite separate from arguing that the invasion of Iraq has made us safer. The effect of the US-led operation has been to stoke terrorism around the world. By going to war on a false prospectus - namely that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction - we have been seen as engaging in deception by the Islamic world. By disregarding the objections of other members of the United Nations Security Council, we have looked like unilateral aggressors. The abuses of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Breadbasket have presented us as cruel torturers. What greater propaganda gift could we have granted to Osama bin Laden, who has consistently presented the West as an oppressor of all Muslims?

In the aftermath of the invasion, Iraq has degenerated into bloody chaos, thanks to inadequate planning by the US military. Iraqi civilians are dying daily from suicide bombings. President Bush's invasion has transformed the country into a huge terrorist training ground, drawing in jihadists from all over the Middle East.

This newspaper's opposition to the Iraq war was never based on narrow self-interest. The increased risk of a terror attack on UK soil was one of a number of objections. Just as important was the argument that Iraq was a diversion from the true target - al-Qa'ida. By concentrating our military resources on Iraq, we neglected to secure Afghanistan. The result is that the Taliban is now resurgent there and Bin Laden remains at large.

Britain is the latest nation to grieve in the wake of a terrorist outrage. The Government is justified in pointing out that we are not the first to do so nor will we be the last. But to claim that the misbegotten invasion of Iraq has not made Britain - and indeed the world - much less safe from terrorism is an insult to the intelligence.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella  

Sure, teenage girls need role models – but not of the Zoella kind

Chloe Hamilton
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain  

Abortion is safe, and it should be as available as easily as contraception

Ann Furedi
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album