The lessons learned from Iraq and living in a more sceptical age

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UN ambassador and now chairman of the UN Association started by saying that “Iraq is not in the state that we would have wanted it in 10 years on; bad mistakes were made in the aftermath of the invasion.” However, he hoped that the war would be given objective judgement in the Chilcot enquiry and the mistakes would be looked at, to which Snow suggested that there would be a danger that the verdict would never come out.

Rt Hon Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence explained that there are lessons learned but there are also consequences of decisions made at the time that could not be predicted.

“I think I’ve had less than half a dozen emails and letters saying we need to do anything about Syria. I think one of the consequences of what’s happened over the last decade is the default reticence that’s now captured in the public’s mind in the UK.”

Jack Fairweather, author of A War of Choice and former Daily Telegraph correspondent, said that he was happy to hear about a greater reticence for going into Syria:

“Thank God. . . . There is no doubt in my mind that intervention does not equal what we think it means. . . . Budgets are poured into issues around which diplomats on the ground . . . rarely have a deep grasp of these very complex tribal situations. . . . The answer is not to plonk down ten thousand – a hundred thousand – troops and spend 5 billion. Soldiers are not nation builders. Nation builders are the Afghans and Iraqis themselves.”

Caroline Wyatt defence correspondent for the BBC said that there were basic errors made in the Iraq operation from the beginning.

“We had a lot of questions about did we understand enough – should you invade places where you don’t necessarily understand the people, the culture the religion and other sensitivities? . . . I remember going in with the military . . . there were almost no translators so practically nobody could talk to the people of the country they were going into. Not being able to talk to people is a pretty fundamental difficulty.”

Peter Oborne, the Daily Telegraph‘s chief political commentator said that how the government and press dealt with information throughout the war in Iraq has made him very sceptical of believing anything in the future.

“It’s completely transformed me as a journalist. . . . I instinctively believed in the British state and I found it very hard to accept that the state intelligence service could get involved to create the idea for an invasion. I found this utterly shattering when it became clear afterwards.”

Greenstock added that we have learnt that “it’s probably a mistake to knock around the world removing other people’s leaders. The people of the country now only have the legitimacy to remove the leaders. . . . The caution of Obama [in Syria] comes from as much as he’s watching the Iraq experience.”

Cutbacks to the British and European armies mean that an invasion on the same scale as Iraq is no longer possible Snow said:

“The very fact that we’re no longer able to do what we did is probably a terribly good thing because it now means that will only ever be able to do . . . things to other people’s countries if virtually every other country agrees to come along with you and do it within the rule of law. . . . We won’t be able to go to illegal wars any longer.”

Listen to Jack Fairweather on the greater understanding of what soldiers do ten years after the start of the Iraq war:

Listen to Caroline Wyatt on the lessons learned from Iraq:

Listen to Peter Oborne on the lessons learned from Iraq:

You can watch the event again here: