FORMER BRITISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER JOHN PRESCOTT WRITES – On Wednesday [6 July] we finally saw the Chilcot Report [the official U.K. inquiry into the origins of the British involvement in the Iraq war led by the U.S. government of George W. Bush Jr].

It was a damning indictment of how the Blair Government handled the war – and I take my fair share of blame. As the Deputy Prime Minister in that Government I must express my fullest apology, especially to the families of the 179 men and women who gave their lives in the Iraq War….

…. In my evidence to Chilcot, I said the Attorney General in the weeks before the decision was an “unhappy bunny” as he continued to find a justification to invade Iraq. But the overwhelming matter of grave concern was our “special relationship” with the US and President George W Bush. In earlier discussions with Blair I expressed concern, to which he replied that every Prime Minister has to decide early on whether or not they are to become a special friend to the US. Tony’s choice was clearly to be that special friend.

My concern about Iraq was that any intervention had to have the support of the UN Security Council, like the US and UK secured after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. On top of that, any actions needed the endorsement of our Parliament and that to go to war with the prime purpose of regime change was illegal…. [But] they wanted it over and done with quickly to avoid the heat of a summer military intervention.

I am pleased that Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has apologised on behalf of the Labour Party to the relatives of those who died and suffered injury. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of the decision we made to go to war. Of the British troops who gave their lives or suffered injuries for their country. Of the 175,000 civilians who died from the Pandora’s Box we opened by removing Saddam Hussein. I will live with the decision of going to war and its catastrophic consequences for the rest of my life.

In 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq War, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right.   (Excerpted from Mr Preston’s opinion column in the London DAILY MIRROR, the lively and influential British newspaper.)