Faulty Recall about Iraq

John Rentoul

prescott 232x300 Faulty Recall about IraqNick 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.

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  • Freke

    hahahahaha……yes when it comes to interpretations of international law one should not rely on the advice of expert lawyers but instead consult the Tony Blair Fan Club.


    “In the months before the 2003 war Mr Blair repeatedly claimed that he did not need a second resolution if another country decided to issue an ‘unreasonable veto’. In his evidence Lord Goldsmith reveals that he had explicitly told Mr Blair that such claims were nonsense when they met to discuss the legality of war on October 22, 2002. Lord Goldsmith says his advice ‘must have been understood by the Prime Minister’. Yet on January 15, 2003, Mr Blair told the Commons ‘there are circumstances in which a UN resolution is not necessary’.”

    Yes, Blair tried to get a second resolution but he did not really need it because it was only lawyers that thought that he had to follow international law…..


  • JohnJustice

    That was Goldsmith’s initial view. His final opinion was that he was “prepared to accept that a reasonable case could be made that military action was authorised by existing resolutions, including resolution 1441″.

  • trottitout

    What rubbish. Aaronvitch has really lost it, sad, he used to be quite a good commentator until this appalling mistake and cover up over Iraq took hold. Aaronovitch like Stan Rosenthal and all the other few motleys who still cling to the lies about Iraq can’t honestly believe that the same conditions obtain in Syria. Iraq does not have the chemical weapons that Syria has. This was apparent to everyone but the deluded. This would make therefore, for a very different outcome, and of course, we have no way of knowing what that would have been. That includes Aaronvitch who has been wrong about all of this, let’s be honest.

    If there had been an ‘Arab Spring’ in Iraq who’s to say how long Saddam would have lasted? All these impregnable bastions of unassailable dictators have been falling like skeets from the sky. Get real. Aaronovitch is talking nonsense. Again.

  • trottitout

    ” Who knows? You certainly don;t [sic]!” Well, why don’t you polish your one eye and get telling us all. Oh, you make a ridiculous attempt. You think that the Arab Spring was precipitated in some way by Iraq? Ahahaha. That would be because Bliar has been trying to peddle this story desperately to anyone who will listen. One-eyed loons like you, ob viously

    Do some reading about what precipitated the ” Arab Spring”. There is no set pattern and every country’s dissident activties and the causes underpinning them have to be judged on their merits and demerits. It’s not the pat notion that is peddled to patsies for patsies to peddle. Delusional. lol.

  • trottitout

    Unlike you and your ilk we don’t consider the illegality of war to be something that can be brushed aside as something preferable to a loud tut tut to someone who was no danger to anyone except your lies. You are hoist by your own petard, Mr Rosenthal. Disgraceful. Warmongering. Deceit.

  • trottitout

    Do try to follow the thread, One Eye. You’ve lost it here.

  • JohnJustice

    Illegality is in the eye of the beholder on this one, as I have carefully explained elsewhere.

  • JohnJustice

    Just as the Arab Spring has resulted in Assad still being in power with the death toll rising to above the death toll in Iraq.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Iraq’s WMD ended up in Syria.

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