THE BIG DEBATE: Ten years on, was the decision to go to war in Iraq correct?
The decision to enter into the Iraq war was made 10 years ago and almost 50,000 British troops involved in the initial invasion. Justification for entering into the war was based around Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction but these were never found although Saddam Hussein's dictatorship was ended. This week's debate asks is it the correct decision to go to war in Iraq...
Helen John, campaigner against the military use of unmanned drones from RAF Waddington
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Has the invasion of Iraq 10 years ago brought peace? No.
We are led to believe it is peace, but what peace?
We would be in a much safer position now had Saddam Hussein still been in power.
Ten years down the line, the invasion still cannot be justified’
From the point of view of international terrorism, we certainly would not have been in a worse position now had we not invaded Iraq.
Tony Blair’s intervention has led to many more people being killed in Iraq than if Saddam had stayed. Saddam ever did.
The invasion was all about oil and who controls it. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
I always like to take a much longer view on things and ask: “what have we learned?”
It has taken decades for the young men of Bomber Command, from the Second World War, to get recognition.
They flew in planes and faced the risk of being shot down.
Young men now have the capability to operate unmanned drones over Afghanistan from RAF Waddington.
These are young men operating drones that can kill people by remote control.
Drone technology is a direct descendant of the V1 and V2 rockets of the Second World War.
Wernher von Braun and his brother Magnus were German rocket scientists who worked under the Nazis.
America welcomed them with open arms after the war.
And consider the long view of what happened to the Native Americans.
Their land was taken from them and they were given blankets impregnated with small pox.
It all makes you wonder if we’ve learned anything at all from history.
Iraq still has a good degree of honour and pride but here in the UK the NHS cannot be properly funded but we manage to keep pushing money into the military.
If you invade a country and slight people, why would Iraqis want to like us?
In Northern Ireland during the troubles, many were terrified of British soldiers who would turn up at people’s houses at 3am and turn them all, including kids, into the street.
Who verified to the West there was a terror threat in Iraq?
People like Tony Blair only sought to serve their own interests and he came out smiling like a Cheshire cat, but that’s a disservice to Cheshire cats because they have not done anything wrong.
When Saddam killed thousands of his own people by using chemical weapons on the Kurds, who supplied the gas?
It was the West, including Britain, because there was money to be made from it.
Ten years down the line, the invasion still cannot be justified.
Paul Rhodes, business development writer and labour party member
Twenty-five years ago, on the evening of March 16, 1988, Iraqi forces dropped chemical bombs on Halabja, a Kurdish town in the north of the country. The attack was ordered by Saddam Hussein against his own people.
It was the closing days of the Iran-Iraq war and Iran had just captured the town. The Kurds, owing allegiance to neither side, had welcomed the Iranians, putting up no fight, and for this they paid with their lives.
‘What we must acknowledge is the huge sacrifices of our armed forces’
Five thousand people died during the attack while many more would come to suffer, or die from, complications over the next year. It remains the largest chemical weapons attack on civilians in history, and in 2010 the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal finally recognised it as an act of genocide.
Twenty-five years later, we are a decade on from our own invasion of Iraq, one that helped end the violent dictatorship of Saddam and his Ba’ath party regime.
And yet, despite hearing the horror stories of the victims of massacres like Halabja, there are still those who oppose the invasion. Thirty million people worldwide marched in protest against it and recent polls show that 53 per cent of the UK population think it was wrong.
I don’t think invasion was wrong. In fact, I would argue that it was necessary to free a nation from brutal oppression. Saddam needed to be removed.
You could argue, successfully, that the reasons given for the UK’s involvement in the invasion didn’t include regime change. Indeed, Tony Blair said himself in September 2002 that “the purpose of any action should be the disarmament of Iraq.”
We now know, of course, that no WMDs were found, although lower levels of chemicals were found that could have been used in another attack like the one in Halabja. That partially discredits the Government’s public reasoning for invasion, but if we had known that back then would we have been comfortable leaving in place a man who authorised his forces to commit torturous acts on his own people simply because they had different beliefs? I know I wouldn’t.
The invasion only lasted three weeks. In that time the Iraqi government had been removed and what remained of the army dissolved. Saddam was captured six months later and in 2006 was tried and found guilty of one of his many crimes against humanity.
That was the invasion. The war came after, and whether the years spent fighting insurgents were worth it is a whole other debate. What we must acknowledge is the huge sacrifices of our armed forces. Their actions in other lands ensure that we remain safe and secure in our own and we shall be forever grateful.
Twenty-five years later the survivors of Halabja are still suffering. Some have gradually lost their sight while mothers have suffered miscarriages or had children born with severe defects because of exposure to contaminated soil and water. People have developed cancers that are directly attributable to the chemicals that still suffocate the soil.
For these people, and for the tens of thousands of other innocent civilians who would have inevitably suffered had Saddam not been stopped, I cannot denounce the invasion of Iraq.