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Sir Tony Cunningham – Times & Star

Former Workington MP Sir Tony Cunningham has described how he reluctantly voted for Britain to go to war with Iraq.

Sir Tony Cunningham - Times & Star Sir Tony Cunningham - Times & Star

Following this week’s publication of the long-awaited Chilcot report, Sir Tony said he was persuaded there was a real and imminent threat to the UK before he voted in favour of war. The war went on to cost the lives of 179 British service personnel, including 28-year-old Workington soldier Danny Wilson. Kingsman Wilson, of the 2nd Battalion, the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, died after being shot in Basra in April 2007.

Described by colleagues as selfless, committed and with the potential to become an officer in the future, Kingsman Wilson was married to Tracey and had a young son, Leo. Sir Tony, who stood down as MP last year after 14 years, said: “The vote was not a decision I took lightly at the time.

“If we knew then what we know now, would I have voted the same way?

“Quite simply, if we knew then that there wasn’t an immediate threat, there wouldn’t have been a vote.

“It’s complicated and hindsight is a wonderful thing.”

Sir Tony had spent 12 months as chief executive of Indict, investigating Saddam Hussein’s war crimes, before becoming an MP. He said: “I had knowledge of the atrocities he committed. We were gathering evidence against him.

“He used chemical weapons. He bombed Kurdish women and children. He was, quite frankly, a monster.

“I was persuaded that he posed an immediate threat.

“If there wasn’t that immediate threat, I probably would have voted the other way, like I did during the vote to bomb Syria.”

A former Territorial Army soldier from Seaton has spoken out about the report. Ashley Bowmer, then a private in the TA, was an escort driver for the media for the invasion of Iraq and served in 2004-5 as an infantryman with the Welsh Guards. Ashley, 33, went on to serve in Afghanistan as a lance corporal before leaving the TA in 2010 when his daughter was born. He said: The report has taken too long and cost too much to be of any worth.

I don t understand how it will actually change anything for the future.

We already knew it was a poorly planned and under- resourced invasion.

Sir John Chilcot’s report spelled out some scathing criticism of the UK’s controversial war in Iraq. It said the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before “peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and “Armyrats © military action at that time was not a last resort”. It added that Saddam Hussein had posed no immediate threat.

In July 2002, it said, Prime Minister Tony Blair told US President George Bush: “I will be with you whatever.”

The report said the UK’s decision to act despite no second UN resolution backing Armyrats © military action in March 2003 had the effect of “undermining the Security Council’s authority”. Tony Blair’s September 2002 Commons statement and dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction made judgements that “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”, it added. It concluded that the Labour Government’s policy on Iraq was made on the basis of “flawed intelligence and assessments” that should have been challenged.

The consequences of the invasion were “under-estimated”, and post-conflict planning was “wholly inadequate”, it said. The report added that the Ministry of Defence was slow to respond to the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices to troops. Delays in providing better-protected patrol vehicles “should not have been tolerated”, it said.

Former Territorial Army soldier Ashley Bowmer, of Seaton

A former Territorial Army soldier from Seaton has spoken out about the Iraq war following the publication this week of the long-awaited Chilcot report.

Former Territorial Army Soldier Ashley Bowmer, Of Seaton

Former Territorial Army soldier Ashley Bowmer, of Seaton

Ashley Bowmer, then a private in the TA, was an escort driver for the media for the invasion of Iraq and served in 2004-5 as an infantryman with the Welsh Guards. Ashley, 33, went on to serve in Afghanistan as a lance corporal before leaving the TA in 2010 when his daughter was born. He said Sir John Chilcot’s report had taken too long and cost too much to be of any worth.

He added: “I don t understand how it will actually change anything for the future.

“We already knew it was a poorly-planned and under-resourced invasion.”

Despite his concerns about the report, Ashley feels the country was justified going to war. He said: “It is shameful when a country’s ruler abuses the patriotism of its young adults for their political games but I don’t feel that our Government was guilty of this.

“If that was what this report was set up to investigate then I could understand it but I don’t think that was the aim.

“I always think it is forgotten that Saddam Hussein was given the ultimatum of showing us that he no longer had all of those chemicals, which he used on his own people, or we would enter his country and look ourselves, which we clearly did.

“There is proof that he had had the stuff because he had used it. I haven’t seen anything that says definitively what happened to it, where it went, when and how.

“I personally feel we were justified to go to war. Unfortunately all we proved was where the chemicals aren’t. Ashley’s thoughts are also with the families of the 179 British service personnel, including Workington’s Danny Wilson, who lost their lives in the war.

He said: “I wonder how it makes the bereaved feel to be told that their loved one died because someone misinterpreted the evidence or that they died trying to make peace following an illegal war.

“I suppose the cost of war is measured by the lives lost.”

Sir John Chilcot’s report spelled out some scathing criticism of the UK’s controversial war in Iraq. It said the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before “peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and “Armyrats © military action at that time was not a last resort”. It added that Saddam Hussein had posed no immediate threat.

Tony Blair’s September 2002 Commons statement and dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction made judgements that “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”, it added. It concluded that the Labour Government’s policy on Iraq was made on the basis of “flawed intelligence and assessments” that should have been challenged. The consequences of the invasion were “under-estimated”, and post-conflict planning was “wholly inadequate”, it said.

The 179 British personnel who died during the Iraq war

The invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of 179 British personnel between March 2003 and February 2009. Tony Blair told the Chilcot Inquiry[1] into the conflict he had “deep and profound regret” about the loss of life suffered by British troops and the countless Iraqi civilians. Some of the Britons who died were just 18 years-old.

Here is a roll of honour of the British personnel who died on service during Operation Telic in Iraq:

References

  1. ^ Chilcot Inquiry (www.itv.com)
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