Iraq war: it wasn’t about WMD, claims Lamont

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Parliament has today marked the tenth anniversary of the outbreak of the illegal Iraq war by overwhelmingly voting to learn the lessons that events of the last decade can teach us, but Labour’s Johann Lamont now says it wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction at all.

With no weapons of mass destruction having been present in Iraq, despite that being the pretext for invasion, the enormous bloodshed of the past decade must form an opportunity for everyone to learn from the mistakes that were made.

Holyrood has today clearly voted for one of the key lessons to be that international affairs must in the future be conducted as cooperatively as possible.

Despite having formed the Government that took us to war, Labour offered no amendments to the debate, abstained on the vote and previously tried to block the debate taking place.

Speaking during the debate, First Minister Alex Salmond challenged Labour leader Johann Lamont to admit that she was wrong in giving her support to the invasion.

Mr Salmond said:

“Instead of following the lesson of Tony Blair 10 years ago, perhaps she should join her current leader, or then-deputy prime minister John Prescott, who have recanted on their support for war and accepted that the case was never made and they were wrong to do so.

“I hope Johann Lamont and the remaining 23 members in this parliament of 129, who for one reason or another were misled into supporting an illegal conflict with incalculable consequences, at some stage, perhaps in voting for the motion today, will find within themselves the courage and integrity and admit that mistake to the Scottish people.”

Mr Salmond added that an independent Scottish Parliament would not have supported calls to invade Iraq, saying:

“We fought the war because of an arsenal of weapons that proved to be non-existent. Many thousands of people paid with their lives for the deception.

“The illegality of the war in Iraq is a disgrace without parallel in modern times. The shame of it will echo down the ages for Mr Blair and all of those who were complicit in sending young men and women to risk their lives on the basis of a gigantic fraud,” he said.

Mr Salmond argued that the decision made 10 years ago at Holyrood to back Westminster’s decision to go to war was based on “misplaced party loyalty”, saying:

“It is inconceivable that the decision making wasn’t based on loyalty that some people saw to their prime minister and party as opposed to a genuine estimation of the reasons for going into conflict,”

However Ms Lamont defended her decision to support the invasion, and claimed that her grounds for supporting the war were not based on Saddam Hussein’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction, the reason given by the Labour government of Tony Blair for supporting the American led invasion.  Ms Lamont angrily criticised Mr Salmond for turning the debate “into an argument for independence.

Ms Lamont said it was “one of the most difficult issues” she had dealt with, and explained:

“This debate did divide families at the time. It divided mine. It divided parties, though not apparently they SNP. It divided communities. But it was a division not between the peace-loving and the warmonger, the good and the bad, the pro-Blair and the anti-Blair, the pro-American and the anti-American.

“It was a division between what, on balance, people believed the better thing to do. Not the right or wrong thing to do, but the better thing to do in the most difficult of circumstances.

“This debate for me was never about weapons of mass destruction. It was about humanitarian action. I believed action needed United Nations endorsement and I was on record as saying that if that should not be forthcoming I would, if I was in the House of Commons, have voted against the war.

“Yet if I am absolutely honest, given my argument was not based on weapons of mass destruction but about Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, I am still not certain of what I would have done.”

Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said:

“The Scottish Parliament has today voted by an overwhelming majority to learn the lessons from the Iraq conflict, and to pay respect to the many people who have lost their lives. The wrong of the vote 10 years ago was righted.

“Today’s debate has made clear that the most important lesson is that our international affairs should be conducted as cooperatively as possible, and I can think of no better viewpoint that encapsulates the way people in Scotland would want their relationships with the rest of the world to be conducted.

“There has been ten years to reflect on the illegal conflict, and the desperation that existed among Labour and the Tories to rush to war no matter the lack of evidence.

“It is just disappointing that despite having had ten years to do so, Labour MSPs are still seemingly unable to learn from the mistakes that were made then. Abstaining in a debate of this importance about events that the Labour Government of the day was responsible for suggests they simply will not learn.

“People in Scotland can be proud of the stance that their Parliament has taken on Iraq, and the lessons that I hope have been learnt since the outbreak of that disastrous war.”