UK Parliament's Iraq Debate

One of the most interesting debates occurred in Parliament in June, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war and was called by Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton and Hove. 

According to Ms. Lucas, the purpose of the debate; 

“gives a chance for us to reflect not only on the Iraq War itself, but on Parliament’s role in that war. And it is a debate I believe that our constituents would expect us to hold, as we pass the tenth anniversary of the US-led invasion.” 

“A major unprovoked attack without UN authorisation took place with dire consequences. These terrible and deeply troubling outcomes add real substance to the argument that this is the biggest foreign policy failure of recent times.” 

“Ultimately, Parliament was responsible for the decision to go to war. It was MPs, in this House, who questioned, debated and voted on the decision, both on 26 February and on 18 March 2003.” 

“Well, if it were a public body – a school, perhaps, or hospital or a local authority – we would expect an admission that things had gone wrong, and a pledge to learn the lessons so that it could not happen again.” 

"Intelligence was misused. Concerns expressed by experts were suppressed. And the political and legal position was misrepresented.” 

“And from this rises the belief amongst many journalists and the public and many members of this House that they were misled into supporting the Iraq War.” 

"Do we feel more secure? Do we feel the security threat is diminished because of those 10 years of bloodshed and chaos? Because, in fact, the opposite is true." 

“According to the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Iraq invasion increased the terror threat in Britain, radicalising a generation of young British Muslims and substantially increasing the risk of a terrorist atrocity on UK soil.” 

Addressing Iraq's massive death toll, Ms Lucas stated: 

“Possible estimates on the number of Iraqis killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary widely.” 

“A Lancet survey between March 2003 to June 2006 pointed to over 650,000 excess deaths, while an Opinion Research Business survey put deaths as a result of the conflict at over 1m up to 2007.”

“The Iraq Body Count, or IBC, an independent UK/US group website, reports 112,976 documented civilian casualties, and points out that further analysis of the Wikileaks Iraq War Logs may add 12,000 civilian deaths to this number.” 

“The IBC have always said their number is an undercount because proper records have not been kept by the Coalition forces – a fact that tells its own story.” 

“Whatever the true number, there is no dispute that there has been a grave civilian price.” 

Also present in the debate was Conservative Party MP Rory Stewart, who described going into Iraq as the worst British foreign policy decision since “the Boer War”. 

A former deputy governor of two Iraqi provinces during the conflict, Stewart stated its: 

"very, very dangerous" to pin all the blame on Tony Blair and George W Bush, and instead criticised "a culture which did not challenge and shape the debate sufficiently". 

“This matters because there are many similarities between what we did in Iraq and what we are doing in Afghanistan, and many similarities between those things and what we occasionally think of doing in Mali or Syria.” 

“At the base of the problem is our refusal to acknowledge failure, to acknowledge just what a catastrophe it was, Parliament’s refusal to acknowledge how bewildering it was, how little we know and how complicated countries such as Iraq are.” 

“Sitting in Iraq for 18 months from the middle of 2003 to 2005, I found myself facing, in a small provincial town called al-Amara, 52 new political parties, many of them swarming across the border from Iran and many of them armed.” 

“Nobody in the Foreign Office or the military, and certainly nobody in the House of Commons, would have been able to distinguish between Hizb-e-Dawa, Harakat-Dawa, Majlis Ahla – or any of the other Shi’a Islamist groups that emerged.” 

“The situation is not helped by the way we talk about it in Britain today. We do not really think very much about Iraq.” 

“We do not think very much about what exactly Iraq is doing with Iran or Syria at the moment, why exactly Iraq got involved in dubious banking transactions to bust sanctions on behalf of the Iranian Government or why exactly our great ally, al-Maliki, appears to have been allowing trans-shipment of weapons from Iran into Syria.” 

“Why do we not think about these things? It is because we are not very serious. At some level, this country is no longer being as serious as it should be about foreign policy.”

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