Let us hope that the secret talks held by British military officers with Sunni insurgent leaders and the Iraqi government, which, according to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, have given “good signals”, will lead to a reduction in military and civilian casualties [see today’s Daily Telegraph, p 16].
Last Friday Gordon Brown admitted “mistakes” had been made in Iraq. The cynic would automatically assume that he was distancing himself from Blair’s least popular policy. I would rather give him the benefit of the doubt. But whatever his motives, it is not a matter of mistakes in the plural; the whole venture was a mistake, a catastrophic error of judgment, albeit one made, as I believe, in good faith by the Prime Minister for honourable reasons.
I have consistently voted against the Iraq war. Last week I asked the Prime Minister whether the time had not now come for us to withdraw our troops. Yesterday I put the same question to the Defence Secretary.
I think the Conservative Party should be much more proactive on this issue in hitting the Government where it – deservedly – hurts. After all, for the Government, it is at the worst an embarrassment; for many of our soldiers it has meant death, permanent disablement or psychological trauma, and bereavement or anguish for their families and friends. No responsibility in government can be graver than that of deciding to send young men and women into battle.
So I welcome today’s opposition debate on requiring parliamentary approval for such decisions.
To see my questions about Iraq, and the Government’s answers to them, click here
Edward Leigh is Co-Chairman of The Cornerstone Group