By a Newsnet reporter

Ten years to the day from a key Holyrood debate on 13 March 2003 in the run up to the Iraq war, the Scottish National Party has highlighted the lessons that must be learnt from the conflict. 

The nationalists have also urged Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont to make clear whether she now accepts that she got her stance on the conflict badly wrong.

While the debate split the Labour ranks, Ms Lamont made clear her support for Tony Blair's plans to invade, arguing in the debate that “we must acknowledge that there may be serious reasons why we must go to war.”

A decade on from the conflict which many claim was illegal, and now leader of the Labour party in Scotland, Ms Lamont has been challenged to reveal whether she accepts that she was wrong to back Tony Blair's empty case.

In 2003, during a debate in Holyrood on the looming invasion, Ms Lamont supported Tony Blair's contention that the weapons of mass destruction allegedly possessed by Saddam Hussein warranted a war.

Ms Lamont said:

“Even if we do not trust the motives of the American Administration, we must acknowledge that there may be serious reasons why we must go to war.

“Unlike some, I do not have a Pooterish self-importance on this matter.  I ask people to reflect on what was said in Westminster by Ann Clwyd, who is not a Blair clone or a Johnny-come-lately to the debate but someone who has reflected on these serious issues and who says that we must go.”

In 2006, when asked, Conservative leader David Cameron confirmed he still thought the decision to invade Iraq was correct.  Praising Tony Blair's decision, he added: "You've got to do what you think is right even if it's unpopular, that's the only thing you can do."

Despite the horrendous loss of life that has scarred Iraq since the fateful decision to invade, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found because they were not there, even though the case for war was based on their presence.

In the run-up to the invasion, Mr Blair's government published the now infamous "sexed up" report which claimed that Saddam possessed chemical warheads which could attack British bases in Cyprus "within 45 minutes".  The claims in the report, which was instrumental in persuading MPs to vote in favour of the conflict, were later found to be without foundation.

Estimates of the number who lost their lives as a result of the invasion and the subsequent violence vary widely.  The Iraq Body Count Project estimates that there were around 110,937–121,227 civilian deaths from violence, and an additional 50-60,000 deaths amongst members of the Iraqi armed forces and various Iraqi militia groups.  179 members of the British armed forces also died in the conflict, as well as 4,486 US military.  

Iraq continues to be plagued by violence and political instability.  The immediate result of the US-led invasion was to give Al Qaeda backed armed Islamist groups a foothold in the country.  Sectarian violence, and attacks on Iraqi minority groups, remains widespread.

As the 10th anniversary of the conflict approaches, the SNP has called Ms Lamont's judgement into question, and point out that only independence can guarantee that Scotland will never again be tricked into participating in a Westminster sponsored illegal war.

According to an opinion poll published in the run up to the invasion, 65% of Scots opposed war with Iraq, and a similar number said that Westminster should consult the Scottish Parliament before taking the country to war.  Despite strong public opposition to the campaign, Westminster pressed on regardless. 

The SNP are now calling on Ms Lamont to explain why she prioritised the wishes of the UK government over those of the people of Scotland.

Commenting, SNP MSP and former Cabinet Secretary Bruce Crawford said:

“It is exactly ten years to the day since the Scottish Parliament debated the Iraq war, and this is an appropriate time to look back and learn from the appalling mistakes and distortions that led the UK into an illegal conflict that came at very high human cost.

“It is striking from the debate ten years ago that, amongst the Labour ranks, Johann Lamont was supportive of Tony Blair and George Bush’s determination to invade. It was a remarkable position for her to hold, putting herself in direct opposition to the millions of people at home and abroad who marched in vain to get the message across: not in our name.

"The only support Johann Lamont and the majority of her fellow Labour MSPs received 10 years ago came from the Tories - they were clearly wrong together.

“We now know that those of us who raised our voices in opposition to the conflict were proven right. There were no weapons of mass destruction to disarm, and it was wrong to defy the authority of the United Nations. The entire illegal war was built upon a premise that was simply untrue, rendering it the UK's biggest foreign policy misadventure since Suez.

“With the benefit of hindsight, does Johann Lamont today accept that she got it very badly wrong in supporting a war that saw such appalling loss of life - bearing in mind that there were a number of Labour MSPs then who did not tow Tony Blair's line, such as Susan Deacon, Bill Butler, Pauline McNeill and John McAllion.

“Johann Lamont should explain why she put Westminster’s determination to invade ahead of the views of people in Scotland and around the world who opposed the Blair/Bush war.

“The most striking lesson of all from the conflict is that never again should Scotland find itself dragged into illegal conflicts by Westminster governments - that requires achieving the powers of independence, which is why a Yes vote in next autumn's referendum is so important."


# Will C 2013-03-12 23:39
The invasion of Iraq war was a disaster 10 years ago, it remains a disaster today. Politicians like Lamont should humbly apologise not only to their own electorate but perhaps more importantly to the people of Iraq.
Independence will present Scotland with many oppotunities, among them, never again to partake in illegal wars. That alone, is worth a YES vote.
# Titus 2013-03-13 00:43
By a strange coincidence this headline appears in the Telegraph today....
Doctors call for Dr David Kelly inquest to resume
A group of doctors which has been investigating the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly wrote to the Chief Coroner today calling for his inquest to be resumed and the suicide verdict re-examined.
Titus Salt.
# Proadge 2013-03-13 07:44
The illegal invasion of the sovereign state of Iraq stands as one of the greatest crimes and human disasters of the modern age. Those who orchestrated it, particularly Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, not to mention the extreme right-wing cabal leading the US, and all those who facilitated it through their votes, including pygmies like Johann Lamont, will be forever damned by history. A couple of quibbles re above: Yes, the numbers of deaths are of course disputed. IBC figures are unrealistically low, only counting deaths reported in the media. Three years into the war the Lancet published credible figures suggesting the toll was 750,000. A figure of well over one million dead till now is realistic, plus many more than that wounded and many more emigrated. Second, Crawford repeats the cliche about the 'biggest foreign policy misadventure since Suez'. By most indicators, human, political, moral (although arguably not economic given the oil factor) Iraq was far, far worse than Suez.
# Macart 2013-03-13 08:42
Its not the economy stupid!

Its the principle!

This is my reason first and foremost for voting YES in 2014, that the Scottish electorate have the freedom and the right to choose their own path.
# Proadge 2013-03-13 13:10
[quote name="Macart"]Its not the economy stupid!

Its the principle!

Yes of course it’s about the principle not the economics. The point is that the major war crime that was the invasion and occupation of Iraq is compounded by the accompanying and ongoing pillaging of Iraq’s oil and the vast profiteering by powerful private interests such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton organisation. Some people have become fantastically wealthy as a result of the conquering of Iraq. That is not paralleled in the Suez debacle. Of course, the huge fortunes made by private interests in Iraq need to be set again the public money used to fund the invasion and occupation, which at a conservative estimate is over $1 trillion. Which is why comparisons between Iraq and Suez in economic terms are not straightforward .
# Macart 2013-03-13 14:10
It really is both injury and insult Proadge, couldn't agree more. I have a feeling as more comes to light on Iraq in the years ahead, many cabinet members of Blair's government will find it difficult to avoid responsibility. Wonder how the Peace Envoy sleeps at night these days?
# thomsor 2013-03-13 09:06
10 years since the Hollyrood debate on the Iraq war and Lamont is now in charge of Labour in Scotland. Was this her reward for backing Blair on his path to destroy Iraq? Seems that in 10 years nothing has changed for Labour, ignoring the wishes of Scotland in favour of Westminster. Be good if this raises its head during FMQs tomorrow.
# taimoshan 2013-03-13 09:30
Iraq was the game changer for my wife and I. Between us 70 years of supporting Labour was destroyed by the foolishness of Blair and his spineless cohort. We both lived in England at the time and were unaware of the foul behaviour of Labour in Scotland until we moved here.
1314 - I understand your distaste at Mealer's comment but such language may the only way to bring cretins like Lamont to their senses - and many unfortunates lost more than legs in this madness!
# hiorta 2013-03-13 12:46
Mealer's words were kindly compared to the criminal destruction of Iraq's people, infrastructure and the sill unknown future impact of the filthy depleted uranium scattered like capitalist confetti on these poor people.
# Dcanmore 2013-03-13 09:39
Lamont is a fanatic, the Party will always come first even the deaths of thousands of women and children won't change her because she will always believe that Labour and President Bliar were always right. She will only be retrospective if Milliband told her to be.
# Breeks 2013-03-13 10:17
Seems Cameron is ready to take us into Syria now, and he's already talking in terms of 'with or without' backing from Europe.

Presumably that will include 'with or without' backing from Scotland too.

History might encourage us to speculate whether it is also 'with or without' backing from the UN.
# tartanfever 2013-03-13 10:19
“Unlike some, I do not have a Pooterish self-importance on this matter. I ask people to reflect on what was said in Westminster by Ann Clwyd, who is not a Blair clone or a Johnny-come-lately to the debate but someone who has reflected on these serious issues and who says that we must go.”

I lived in England during this time, I wasn't aware of this truly shocking quote from Lamont. So Ann Clwyd was her reason for ignoring and shaming the entire UN Charter and everything it stood for ?

Good judgement call Lamont ! Maybe you should take some time out and visit Iraq to see your work, I'm sure the citizens of Iraq would love to know where you stand.
# X_Sticks 2013-03-13 10:27
There will be a large dirty stain on the Western world until Bush, Blair and their supporters (Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Alasdair Campbell are worthy of special mention) are brought to justice for war crimes.

That is what they are: war criminals.

The fact that Blair is now "Peace Envoy" to the Middle East is the sickest joke in the history of the planet.
# Leader of the Pack 2013-03-13 10:30
Everybody who had a hand in starting this war should be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Apologise are nothing but an admission of guilt.
# balgayboy 2013-03-13 10:33
@ Breeks,

It's a giving, first Syria then the real target Iran, then who knows what will happen as Russia and China are not going to standby and watch the west (aka) the USA dominate the mid-east and it's resources. The UK government are playing with fire on this one and the BT clingons would be better suited to more parochial interests such as tending to their constituents.
# mountaincadre 2013-03-13 14:26
[quote name="balgayboy"]@ Breeks,
In reply to Balgayboy,
US 5th fleet stationed across the straits of Hormuz from Iran in Barhrain(you know the place, the place thats not allowed its people to protest) as for China, well it gets 80% of its oil in that region from Iran and it comes through the straits, if had to speculate i would say that any attack on Iran(i believe this is what is on after Syria) will result in China having no option but to attack, the yanks have form on this, it's what they did prior to WW2 with Japan and look what happened there, the difference from then and now is that China will level America and most of Europe to achieve it's aims, this is whats truely scary, the yanks don't understand the chinese who would be willing to lose milions as long as there aims are achieved.
# pmcrek 2013-03-13 10:36
Perhaps she can also find out why British intelligence were going round shooting up market places dressed as said militants?
# nchanter 2013-03-13 11:53
Criticizing Ms Lamont is like criticizing a fence post. She is only in place to help keep the rest of the sheep under control as is all the other fence posts. The fence-master (gulp), is Westminster and the shepherd is any ones guess.
# cirsium 2013-03-13 12:04
The City of London?
# farrochie 2013-03-13 12:31
Here is a link to the debate at Holyrood, click on International Situation:
# Jonny 2013-03-13 12:44
Sorry if I'm being pedantic, but:

"attacks on Iraqi minority groups, remains widespread."

This is incorrect. Most attacks are against Shai Islam followers, who are in the vast majority, by Salafist/Al Qaeda followers who are in the minority.
# farrochie 2013-03-13 13:21
Even as our MSPs were debating, the "shock and awe", for which substitute "mass killing and mutilation of humanity", was being finalised and was duly delivered on 19th March.

The Labour Party was clearly given the task of insuring that objection to the coming war would be damped down in Scotland and left to our "betters" in Westminster.

Read the telling exchange between Lamont and Sheridan.

Lamont: "we must act against Saddam Hussein now if he has weapons of mass destruction"

Tommy Sheridan: "I say to Johann Lamont ...there is no proof that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction"

George Foulkes was one who continued to say for many weeks that he was sure WMD would be found.

As one who participated in anti-war demonstrations in Aberdeen and in Edinburgh, I was left with the feeling that our Parliament in the end had failed to meet the standards that the people of Scotland demanded.
# clootie 2013-03-13 14:04
Unless Scotland votes YES in 2014 it will all happen again - the name of the country invaded may change / the number of casualties may alter / The political justification will be tweaked.

We have a Westminster & Whitehall imperial focus on FORCE PROJECTION and intervention.

You can make big profits in a war - ask the Americans.
# weegie38 2013-03-13 15:01
"Wrong Together" - that could be an excellent slogan, couldn't it?
# Glenbuchat 2013-03-13 15:45
I was never a supporter of the Iraq invasion but nor would I support those who, wise after the event, indulge in wild condemnations of those who made difficult decisions based on, at the time, credible evidence.

Alex Salmond was wrong in March 1999 when he described NATO action to protect ethnic Albanians as "an act of unpardonable folly". I do not ask that he apologises but simply remember that the folly was his.
# cirsium 2013-03-13 17:46
What credible evidence? I remember reading the International Herald Tribune in the run-up to the war. The Colin Powell exposition (or should that be performance) at the UN was on the first page and on the second page was the report of the UN weapons inspectors stating that there were no WMD. Then there was the matter of the UK Government trying to pass off extracts from a twelve year old thesis as up-to-date evidence.

It was not folly to protest about the NATO bombing. Killing civilians and destroying infrastructure in Serbia did not address the problem of the Serb killers in Kosovo. That would have required troops on the ground. Another blunt instrument was the CIA funding of the KLA, a drug running/people trafficking gang. Look at Kosovo now
# davemsc 2013-03-13 22:13
You know fine well that there was absolutely no evidence of weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion of Iraq. The invasion happened precisely because there was no evidence, otherwise the UN weapons inspectors would have been allowed to finish their mission and prevent a huge number of lives being lost.
# mealer 2013-03-13 16:51
I stand by my comment and make no apology for it.I consider Ms Lamont to be a war monger,and complicit in a war crime.She helped facilitate the illegal bombing and invasion of Iraq.
# taimoshan 2013-03-13 18:31
Glenbuchat - the "unpardonable folly" you refer to and Alex Salmond's quote were in response to widespread air raids on Serbia and Kosovo which killed many non-combatants. One in particular on a facility in Belgrade, missed its target and resulted in many civilian deaths - a folly in the view of most including the Herald!
# Breeks 2013-03-13 19:23
As I recall it, the aspect of 'unpardonable folly' was sending the bombers into the Balklans, which for most of the 20th century was commonly held to be an unstable tinderbox waiting to erupt. WW1 started in the Balklans, and WW2 deepened the ethnic divisions between the Serbs and Croats which had the potential to escalate into an almighty punch up, with the Russians backing the Serbs, the US backing the Croats, and the Arabs backing the Muslims. To go in all guns blazing bombing 'somebody' did indeed feel like a high risk and reckless strategy, as in the proverbial fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

Salmond was slaughtered for his turn of phrase, but a fairer press might have recognised he was one of the cooler heads who recognised Kosovo had the potential to become extremely serious, and spread out beyond the Balklans.

It didn't, and thank goodness it didn't, but it could have.
# bringiton 2013-03-13 20:53
Westminster is now politically,eco nomically and militarily,effe ctively the 51st state of the USA.
No question but they take their orders from Washington when it comes to foreign policy decisions.
In geographical terms,Westminst er is about the same distance from Washington as Alaska and considerably nearer than Hawaii so no reason why it shouldn't sign up.
Should they decide that the EU is politically too far left for them,then the USA might welcome them with open arms.
This would allow them to ship Trident across the pond without any loss of face and possibly merge the City of London operations with those of Wall Street.
Maybe,Westminst er's only salvation when we walk away from them.

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