The Iraq war was an “ill-conceived campaign based on a faulty premise,” a Royal Navy officer turned politician has said.
Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken, who was a commander attached to the US Fifth Fleet in the North Arabian Gulf when the 2003 invasion began, said thousands of UK service personnel were placed in harm’s way without adequate equipment.
“It was particularly disappointing that Tony Blair, Jack Straw and the rest of the ‘sofa cabinet,’ having taken the courageous and justified decision to support the US in operations in Afghanistan directly against Al Qaeda, became embroiled in Bush and Cheney’s neo-con conflict in Iraq.
“What is equally unforgiveable, having decided to become embroiled in a ‘conflict of choice,’ they deliberately under resourced our armed forces and led to the ridiculous and unfortunately tragic situation of our brave servicemen and women being placed in harm’s way without access to some of the most basic equipment to defend themselves or complete the mission.”
Mr Aiken added: “There are wider implications in the Chilcot Inquiry that refers to the use of armed force rather than using other tools at the state’s power.
“It seems to be that the UK continues to follow the US perspective of using military power as the first rather than the last lever to advance change.
“The British people, and in particular the British armed forces, deserve better.”
His party colleague Danny Kinahan MP said it was important to remember that “the Iraq war is not over for the service personnel that suffer from the mental and physical injuries inflicted upon them or the bereaved families that must endure a lifetime of anguish”.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said the war had been “disastrous” for the people of Iraq and the Middle East.
“We challenged the British in the lead up to the war and took to the streets alongside hundreds of thousands of others to oppose the war at home and abroad,” he said.
“The Chilcot Report confirms Sinn Fein’s view that the war in Iraq was wrong, was not justified and should have never occurred.”
Green Party leader Steven Agnew said: “It is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge the Chilcot Report which states that Tony Blair exaggerated the case for the Iraq war and sent UK troops before exhausting peaceful options.”