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Shropshire Star comment: Shadow of Iraq is still with us

By Toby Neal | Opinions | Published:

Fifteen years ago this week saw the start of the Gulf War which ended in a military victory but has left a legacy of mistrust.

Smoke billows from explosions during the heavy bombardment of Baghdad

Saddam Hussein, said President Bush and Tony Blair, was a danger as he had weapons of mass destruction.

That was the reason given for the invasion of Iraq. Nobody said at the time the purpose was that of regime change – illegal under international law.

There were no weapons of mass destruction, but there was regime change. The public had been sold a pup.

This did not matter much for President Bush, because Americans traumatised by 9/11 did not care about such niceties, but here in Britain Tony Blair was denounced for misleading the public.

The only people who lost their jobs were members of the media who tried to find the truth.

Tony Blair had carried the House of Commons with him with all his very considerable persuasive force. Since then, he has argued that getting rid of Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator, was a good thing which gave the Iraqis their freedom.

The Iraq war cost the lives of many British troops, both immediately and in the messy aftermath.

However, for the Iraqis, it led to hundreds of thousands being displaced and tens of thousands being killed. It continues to be a battleground.

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As a unified country it has been destroyed, and with so many competing interests and turf wars stability is a long way off, despite the campaign to crush the Islamic State terror machine.

MPs and the public resolved: ‘we won’t get fooled again’.

MPs have been cautious about Syria. But we should not forget that David Cameron sponsored regime change in Libya, the consequences of which have perhaps been underestimated, because it seems to have been the tipping point for Russia, which determined that it had had enough of Western duplicity and manipulation of United Nations resolutions.

Which brings us to the streets of Salisbury. Jeremy Corbyn has been much criticised for his response, calling for indisputable proof that Russia is responsible. He has invoked the intelligence mistakes of the past as a reason for care in attributing blame.

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This is the shadow cast by Iraq.

A former Russian spy fighting for his life in hospital and a nerve agent with the dabs of Russia all over it have provided all the proof that the Government has needed.

When in difficulty, one of Tony Blair’s favourite gambits was to say we need to “move on”.

We have tried to move on after the Iraq war, but the mess keeps catching up with us.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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