It was the 18th of March in 2003. Exactly 10 years ago, and it was probably the most important vote that I had ever participated in my time as an MP. It was the vote that committed the UK to war in Iraq and was passed by 412 to 129. Some Labour members rebelled but the Government got its way when the vast majority of Conservative members supported it. I voted against the war, believing the case to be totally unconvincing, fanciful and bordering on nonsensical
This was Tony Blair’s war. He was the driving force behind the UK case. He did everything he could to commit our troops including the now famous “dodgy dossier”. We were told that the evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction was compelling. We were told that those weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes. We were told that there was collusion with Al Qaeda and that Saddam Hussein was working towards an atomic bomb.
There were of course no weapons of mass destruction – far less any that could be deployed within 45 minutes, there was no collusion with Al Qaeda and there was no evidence of any uranium project. In short, the basis of going to war was based on a massive lie and fallacy.
Worse than that there was no legal case. There was no UN mandate for military action and the Government’s own legal advice was not what could be described as convincing.
And the Scottish people didn’t want it. 100,000 marched through the streets of Glasgow in opposition and 1 million took to the streets of London. World wide it is reckoned that the protests to the war in Iraq were the largest ever witnessed. But yet invasion and war went ahead.
And for what? Well, ten years after the invasion of Iraq, there are over 100,000 dead, a region destabilised, a country divided along sectarian lines and international diplomacy discredited like never before. And that’s before counting the millions of displaced people, and the hundreds of millions of pounds that this war cost us.
Iraq, by any standard has been an absolute disaster and this illegal war has been one of the most regrettable and damaging foreign policy adventures ever undertaken in our name.
I never want another night like the 18th of March 2003. I never want my nation involved in such reckless action ever again. That’s why one of the most compelling reasons for Scottish independence is that we will never again have a UK Government take us into an illegal war that we want nothing whatsoever to do with.