Cost of Iraq War remains unacceptable
AHEAD of the Iraq War in 2003, I argued against the conflict not only for ethical reasons but also on the grounds of the financial cost. Despite Tony Blair's repeated claim before the Chilcot inquiry panel last Friday to have “done the right thing”, it is more clear than ever that those who opposed the war are vindicated by subsequent events.
AHEAD of the Iraq War in 2003, I argued against the conflict not only for ethical reasons but also on the grounds of the financial cost.
Despite Tony Blair's repeated claim before the Chilcot inquiry panel last Friday to have “done the right thing”, it is more clear than ever that those who opposed the war are vindicated by subsequent events.
In fact, as with the findings of the earlier Butler inquiry, which sat in private, it is astonishing that Mr Blair's performance did not attract stronger condemnation in the national media.
After all, he conceded that the claim contained in the Government's notorious “dossier” that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes should have been withdrawn.
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It remains a fact, however, that at the time the Government which he led was content to let the claim serve its purpose in persuading sceptics of the case for intervention in Iraq.
He also conceded that planning for the post-war phase had failed to take into account the country's entirely foreseeable descent into inter-factional chaos following the removal of the former regime.
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Since the test for a “just war” ought to include a sober assessment of whether the “good” achieved is likely to outweigh the humanitarian cost, the extent of this failure can hardly be overstated.
But what of the financial cost? The cumulative cost of the Iraq War to the Treasury has topped �7billion. Since the UK's national debt soared by around �240bn last year alone, due to the response to the financial crisis, a mere �7bn might be regarded as less significant now than it would have been if known in advance of the war.
On the other hand, it is still represents a lot of doctors', nurses' and teachers' salaries, and a good few hospitals and schools for them to work in. Alternatively, it is another �7bn of cuts which the next government will have to make.
And for what? Mr Blair's view that we are better off without Saddam is one not necessarily shared by Iraqis who have had to live through the past seven years of violence.
And, of course, it takes no account at all of those, estimated at anything between 100,000 to more than one million, who, in one way or another, have died as a result of the conflict.