By a Newsnet reporter
Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the House of Commons debate on the Iraq war on Monday, SNP MP Pete Wishart has urged Labour to apologise for their decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
On 18 March 2003, most Scottish Labour MPs along with the one Scottish Tory voted for a motion which gave Parliamentary authority for the UK to participate in the US-led invasion of Iraq which began two days later, despite massive opposition in Scotland.
Of those that voted in favour, 11 are still MPs today – including Alistair Darling, leader of the ‘No’ campaign – 10 now sit in the House of Lords, and 1 is a Labour MSP. Two senior members of the Labour’s current shadow cabinet voted in favour of the invasion, Paisley South MP Douglas Alexander and East Renfrewshire’s Jim Murphy.
In an opinion poll published shortly before the invasion, more than two thirds of Scots said Westminster should consult the Scottish Parliament before taking part in military action against Iraq, and 65 per cent would oppose military action if it were carried out only by American and British forces.
The war proved massively unpopular with public opinion. An anti-war march in Glasgow on an international day of protest on February 15 2003 was attended by between 50,000 and 100,000 people. On the demo held in London the same day, over 1 million people took to the streets, the largest political demonstration ever held in the UK.
Demonstrations were also held in other European cities, with an estimated 3 million people attended the demonstration held in Rome, believed to be the largest anti-war demonstration in history. In Spain 55 demonstrations were held across the country, with over 1.5 million attending in Madrid and over 1 million in Barcelona. The events led one national newspaper in Spain to publish an opinion poll proving that more people believed Elvis was still alive than supported the Iraq invasion.
The UK’s involvement in the war lasted from March 20th 2003 to May 22nd 2011 and resulted in the loss of over 100 000 deaths including 179 British soldiers.
Pete Wishart MP said:
“On Monday it will be 10 years since Scottish Labour ignored the will of the people and pressed on with a disastrous war policy, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of people.
“This was Labour’s war – fully supported by the Tories. Tony Blair was the driving force behind the UK drive to war. He did everything he could to commit our troops, including the infamous ‘dodgy dossier’. There were of course no weapons of mass destruction – there was no collusion with Al Qaeda and there was no evidence of any uranium project. In short, the basis of going to war was based on a massive lie and fallacy.
“Worse, there was no legal case. There was no UN mandate for military action and the Government’s own legal advice was not convincing.
“The Scottish people didn’t want it. 100,000 marched through the streets of Glasgow in opposition and 1 million took to the streets of London. World wide it is reckoned that the protests to the war in Iraq were the largest ever witnessed. And yet invasion and war went ahead.
“And for what? Well, ten years after the invasion of Iraq, there are over 100,000 dead, a region destabilised, a country divided along sectarian lines, and international diplomacy discredited as never before. And that’s before counting the millions of displaced people, and the hundreds of millions of pounds that this war cost us. The world has been made a more dangerous place.
“The illegal Iraq war has been one of the most damaging foreign policy misadventures ever undertaken by the UK.
“I never want another night like the 18th of March 2003. I never want my nation involved in such reckless action ever again. That’s why one of the most compelling reasons for Scottish independence is that we will never again have a UK Government take us into an illegal war that we want nothing whatever to do with.
“Eleven of the Scottish Labour MPs who voted for the war remain in the House of Commons, 10 have been ‘elevated’ to the House of Lords, and one is now an MSP – yet none of them have shown any remorse, and no apology has been given.
“These MPs include Alistair Darling – leader of the ‘No’ campaign in the referendum for an independent Scotland. Unless and until Mr Darling apologises for voting for the disastrous Iraq war, the credibility of the ‘No’ campaign will suffer accordingly.
“This anniversary is surely the opportunity for Alistair Darling and all these other Labour parliamentarians to say sorry – at long last.”