Faulty Recall about Iraq
Nick Clegg’s two-faced cynicism was the outstanding part of Iraq war anniversary journalism, but there is plenty more with which to deal.
John Prescott in the Sunday Mirror elaborated on his recent television interview, in which he said that the Iraq war was wrong in hindsight. Although what he said on television was ungrammatical and broke all rules of syntax, his meaning was clearer than the written version in the Sunday Mirror.
In the Sunday Mirror, he said he had four reasons for supporting the Iraq invasion at the time:
The first was that any agreement to go to war had to be backed by UN resolutions.
Secondly, I wanted to make sure that it was not about regime change. Saddam needed to observe the previous 17 UN resolutions on his development of WMD.
Thirdly, Bush had to give an agreement to implement a road map for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories.
And finally, our own Parliament had to back military action.
Then he said that only the fourth was satisfied, which is curious, because President Bush did publish the road map, against the wishes of the Israeli government. He could hardly have “implemented” it, because that required the agreement of the Israelis and the Palestinians. Obviously, Prescott thinks he should have done more to push the Israelis into negotiations, but that was not the question at the time.
As for the first, resolution 1441 gave Saddam a “final opportunity” to comply with it and with all previous UN resolutions: what Prescott means is that there was no new “all necessary means” resolution.
Then his second point seems to give credence to the “regime change” conspiracy meme, while contradicting it by saying that Saddam “needed to observe” UN resolutions on weapons of mass destruction. Regime change was always and only a means to an end, namely the enforcement of UN disarmament obligations. Saddam had been given 12 years to comply and was still failing to co-operate.
The strangest thing is that Prescott knew all these things at the time and supported the invasion. If he said it went badly afterwards; too many people died in disorder not widely foreseen; and it turned out Saddam was bluffing about WMD; therefore it was in hindsight a bad idea – that would be understandable. That’s what I thought he was saying on This Week.
But to say he supported it on conditions that had not been satisfied at the time is odd.
Still, he is not the only person whose memory of what he thought in the past is unreliable.
Some detail from the Ipsos MORI poll that featured in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday but for which we did not have space in the print edition:
70% say they think Britain was wrong to get involved, with 51% saying they opposed it all along and 19% that they supported it at the time but now oppose it.
20% say they supported the invasion all along; although in 2007 only 11% said they supported it all along.
Actually, ICM/Guardian 11-13 April 2003: Do you approve or disapprove of the military attack on Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein? Approve 63% Disapprove 23%.
The poll also confirms that support for liberal interventionism remains surprisingly high. When asked what is closest to their views, 31% say our armed forces should intervene abroad when other people’s freedoms are threatened, 44% say we should intervene abroad only when British interests are threatened and 21% say we should intervene only to defend British territory.Tagged in: chilcot, iraq, iraq inquiry, iraq war, john prescott
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