Iraq: Meyer critical of reasons for UK joining war

The claim states that Tony Blair was 'more evangelical than the Christian right'. Picture: PA
The claim states that Tony Blair was 'more evangelical than the Christian right'. Picture: PA
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THE British ambassador at the time the Iraq War started has claimed that Tony Blair was “more evangelical than the Christian right” in the run up to the conflict. Marking the tenth anniversary of the outbreak of the war, Sir Christopher Meyer has penned a critical article of the reasons which pushed the UK into joining the US in going to war.

The former ambassador is one of several voices attacking the conflict and the decision making behind it.

Mark Etherington, a Foreign Office official who was sent to govern an Iraqi province, says he “never met an Iraqi who viewed the country’s occupation with equanimity.”

Meanwhile military commanders have discussed the “political nervousness” leading up to the war.

Sir Christopher was highly critical of Mr Blair’s world view which he believes was divided into stark vision of good versus evil.

He claimed that warnings from officials in the Foreign Office and his embassy were ignored throughout.

He wrote: “With his Manichean, black -and-white view of the world, Mr Blair was in his way more neo-con than the neo-cons, more evangelical than the American Christian Right.

“From this flowed Britain’s contribution to the mistakes made before and after the Iraq invasion, despite repeated warnings from the Foreign Office and the Washington embassy.”

He also attacked the mishandling of the efforts to try to win backing from the UN Security Council for the conflict, which would have given it a legal status.

He blamed the failure largely on the way that military preparations brought an early end to the weapons inspections.

He said: “The failure to synchronise plans for military action with the renewed programme of UN inspections in 2002/2003 meant that the latter were curtailed before complete. This, more than anything, forfeited Security Council support for US/UK military action.

“The failure to plan meticulously for Saddam’s aftermath led to almost a decade of violent chaos and the ultimate humiliation of British forces.”

He also said that Mr Blair was unable to exert any influence over the USA.

“Mr Blair’s unquestioning support for Mr Bush eliminated what should have been salutary British influence over American decision-making.”

However, his strongest criticism was on the failure to properly understand Saddam Hussain’s mentality and the politics of the Middle East.

He said: “The biggest mistake of all was to conflate Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, as if they were cut from the same violent cloth. But Saddam had no truck with al-Qaeda.

“The last thing he would have done was to give them precious WMD, supposing he had had them in the first place. The hawks fruitlessly expended vast amounts of energy trying to prove a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda.”

Mr Etherington ,who served as a provincial governor in “all but name” after the invasion, also described his feelings upon arriving and being briefed.

He wrote: “It was a catalogue of mayhem, bloodletting and insurrection.

“Inwardly despairing, yet wearing what I hoped was an expression of contagious confidence and calm, I wrote weightily in my notebook at intervals.

“Two items survive, dated October 9: ‘Oh my God’ and ‘This is a complete nightmare’.”

Disapproval of the Iraq War helped the SNP win power in 2007 and become the Scottish Government with Alex Salmond one of the leading voices against it.

Mr Salmond said: “The illegal invasion of Iraq has been unequivocally proven as a fraud and a massive deception by Tony Blair and the then UK Labour government.

“Blair was committed to sending troops into a bloody war regardless of evidence – or indeed lack of evidence – of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and today’s revelations are utterly damning in that respect.

“The result of Tony Blair’s blind commitment to going to war on Iraq is a poisoning of the atmosphere in global politics which remains today.

“Blair’s catastrophic toxic legacy is still with us – and threatens to remain with us for years to come.”