John Prescott: Iraq invasion 'cannot be justified'


Lord Prescott: Iraq war cannot be justified as an intervention

Related Stories

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 "cannot be justified", Lord Prescott - who was then deputy prime minister - has said.

He told BBC One's This Week he had backed the Iraq War because he believed George Bush had a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said he could not "just disown it" but he now thought the war was wrong.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary William Hague has written to cabinet members urging them not to discuss the justification for the Iraq war.

The invasion of Iraq led by US troops, in coalition with the UK and other nations, began on 20 March 2003.

Lord Prescott said that, ahead of the invasion, Prime Minister Tony Blair had been keen "to get the Americans in" on the UN's approach to dealing with Iraq.

British tank and civilians in Basra 2003 The UK lost 179 servicemen and women in the Iraq conflict

He said that, after Mr Blair had sent him to the US to talk to Vice-President Dick Cheney, he told the PM it was clear "They're going to go in without you; whether you come with them or not, it doesn't matter to the Americans - they're getting ready".

Lord Prescott added: "But I tell you something that persuaded me. You know Bush was quite prepared to have a plan for Israel and the whole problem in regard to Palestine and he promised.

"And, therefore, that plan was something."

But Lord Prescott said the plan "fell apart as it often does in American politics because the influence domestically is too great".

He said that, despite these factors, "at the end of the day, Tony Blair obviously said to himself, 'I've promised to do this and I'm going to do it' - and that's today's consequences".

Start Quote

So when you say 'do you think of the loss of life since 2003?' of course I do - you would have to be inhumane not to. But think of what would have happened if he [Saddam Hussein] had been left there”

End Quote Tony Blair

Lord Prescott added: "And I have to be part in that - I can't just disown it. I go through my thoughts trying to justify it, but that's... it cannot be justified as an intervention."

Lord Prescott's comments go further than those made in a 2009 Guardian newspaper interview when he talked about misgivings he had about the war.

They come in contrast to comments made by Mr Blair in an interview for Newsnight's Iraq: 10 Years On special, shown on BBC Two on Tuesday.

Asked about the decision to invade, Mr Blair said: "If we hadn't removed Saddam from power just think, for example, what would be happening if these Arab revolutions were continuing now and Saddam, who's probably 20 times as bad as Assad in Syria, was trying to suppress an uprising in Iraq?

"Think of the consequences of leaving that regime in power.

"So when you say 'do you think of the loss of life since 2003?' of course I do. You would have to be inhumane not to, but think of what would have happened if he had been left there."

'Beyond doubt'

Mr Blair says he has given up trying to persuade people that invading Iraq was the right choice

In 2010, at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, Mr Blair - quizzed about the controversial claim in a September 2002 dossier that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes' notice - said it "assumed a vastly greater significance" afterwards than it did at the time.

He has insisted that, on the basis of the intelligence available at the time, it was "beyond doubt" Iraq was continuing to develop its weapons capability.

The UK lost 179 servicemen and women, of which 136 were killed in action, before the last British troops were withdrawn in April 2009.

Conservative estimates put the number of Iraqis killed in the invasion and ensuing sectarian violence at about 100,000.

Meanwhile, sources close to Foreign Secretary Mr Hague have confirmed that he has written to cabinet ministers reminding them of government policy not to comment on the justification or otherwise for the Iraq war until after the Chilcot Inquiry reports.

The Guardian reports that the letter has angered Lib Dem ministers whose party has always considered it an illegal war started by Mr Blair.

One Whitehall source said what Mr Hague had done "is write to cabinet ministers reminding them of government policy that we should not prejudice the Chilcot Inquiry."

Sir John Chilcot has said the report into his inquiry, which featured 18 months of public hearings between 2009 and early 2011, will not be published before the middle of this year at the earliest.

In his last update, in July 2012, Sir John said the inquiry had made "extensive progress" in drafting its report - expected to be about a million words long - but that the inquiry was "unprecedented" in scope and the issues were "complex".


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    An Iraqi friend's opinions at the time -
    The threat Saddam posed was to Iraqis and Israel - he wanted WMD to wipe out Israel to gain face in the ME. Bush wanted oil because Saudi reserves were depleting. My friend feared the threat of Shia Sunni fighting (the main cause of deaths) if Saddam went, and thought that any WMD would be moved to Syria.
    To me,it makes more sense than any dodgy dossiers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    I find it startling that the UK is still classed as a "democratic" nation when the hundreds of thousands of people who protested against the war were so blatantly ignored. It shattered my faith in democracy as a whole. I will never again trust any politian to truly represent the people of this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    I'm sure most people were convinced before the war that Saddam had WMDs. He had used them before and we all believed he had more and more deadly WMDs in his arsenal. The government of the day had to make a decision based on what it believed to be true at the time. Tony Blair is also right that if Saddam were in power now, his response to the Arab spring would make Syria look like a picnic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    I think it is now broadly accepted that going to war against Iraq was one of the greatest mistakes any British government has ever made. What remains to be known is precisely why Britain joined in the campaign. Lord Prescott's comments on this matter offer an insight, but doesn't seem to provide the full picture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Just because one man is a potential threat, and even causing mayhem in his country, does not justify war crimes, and wars of aggression based on lies. It could have and should have been dealt with above board and honestly, with respect for innocent civilian lives.


Comments 5 of 14


More Politics stories


Politics Live

    08:43: New nuggets Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Norman Smith says with 100 days to go until the election, the main parties are sticking to the themes they've stuck to for weeks - Labour on the NHS, and Tories on the economy. He says there are a couple of new nuggets from David Cameron though - a hint he's minded to continue protecting pensioner benefits such as bus passes and winter fuel allowances, and a view that Northern Ireland should be included in TV debates.

    08:31: Not no, but not a yes either Nick Robinson Political editor

    Nick Robinson says David Cameron doesn't want to be seen to be saying "no" to the TV debates - but he's not exactly saying "yes" either.

    08:30: Ed Milband on election BBC Breakfast

    The Labour leader says "Britain can do a lot better" and his party wants to put working people first. "This is a big election, and I'm going to fight for it," he says.

    08:28: Cameron on TV debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    David Cameron says you can't include SNP and Plaid without having parties from Northern Ireland. He says that he initially was making the point that the Greens should take part, but the broadcasters have gone further. He says he had also had concerns about the debates taking place during the election campaign itself - he thinks they dominate the campaign too much.

    08:26: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Breakfast

    Explaining how Labour is going to fund an extra £2.5bn a year across the UK for the NHS, Mr Milband says the party has "very clear plans" to raise the cash - from mansion tax, clamping down on tax avoidance and a levy on tobacco firms' market share.

    08:23: In quotes: Cameron on benefits cap BBC Radio 4 Today
    David Cameron
    08:20: Miliband on the sofa BBC Breakfast
    Ed Miliband
    08:19: Ed Miliband on TV debates BBC Breakfast

    "The PM is wriggling and wriggling to get out of these debates - let's make these debates happen," says Ed Miliband.

    08:16: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Breakfast

    The Labour leader is talking about the NHS again. He tells BBC Breakfast the "iron curtain" between health and social care isn't serving us well. "The NHS has got to start taking an interest in the social care system," he says.

    08:16: David Cameron on benefits cap BBC Radio 4 Today

    David Cameron says that families subject to the existing benefits cap have been more likely to find work than people not hit by the cap. His party is "unashamedly pro-work and pro- people who work hard". The Conservatives are proposing to lower the cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year and use the money saved to boost apprenticeships.

    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

    tweets: "There's horror and there's hope". @Ed_Miliband speaks movingly of his grandfather who died in a Nazi camp & those who were saved @bbc5live

    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: The most arresting sequence of Ed Miliband's @bbc5live interview was about Labour leader's loss of his grandfather in the Holocaust

    Ed Miliband on TV debates BBC Radio 5 live

    "He gives it the big one about leadership," says Ed Miliband. If so, why is he so scared of the TV debates, the Labour leader asks of David Cameron. Mr Miliband says he'll take part, even if there's an empty chair where the Conservative leader should be.

    08:00: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Radio 5 live

    He says the NHS is always going to be a priority for Labour and "staff and patients are crying out for a sense of a plan" for it - adding that his party has "the right policy and the right plan".

    07:56: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Radio 5 live

    Labour leader Ed Miliband there is a "big fight on for the future of the NHS" and that he wants to "rescue" it, not weaponise it.

    07:53: Ed Miliband talking NHS BBC Radio 5 live
    Ed Miliband on 5live
    07:47: Andy Burnham on NHS BBC Radio 4 Today

    The shadow health secretary says the country needs to "rethink" the way we care for older people, who are often "trapped" on hospital beds and subject to "flying 15-minute visits" by social care workers on home visits. "We need to support people with dementia and autism as well as those with cancer," he says.

    07:39: Andy Burnham on NHS BBC Radio 4 Today

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, tells BBC's Radio 4's Today programme the Labour Party is planning to "re-set" the NHS in England as the "National Health and Social Care Service".

    07:25: David Cameron on election choice BBC Breakfast
    David Cameron

    David Cameron ends his Breakfast appearance by being asked about the lessons for the UK from what has happened in Greece. He says the election choice is "competence with the Conservatives", or "chaos with other options".

    07:24: David Cameron on TV debates BBC Breakfast

    On the subject of TV election debates, Mr Cameron said it was a "good thing" that discussions had been taking place about which parties should be included. Asked if he would take part in the debates if Northern Ireland parties were included, he replied "yes", adding "a deal could be done".

    07:21: David Cameron on apprenticeships BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron says apprenticeships are "very good" options for young people and the overwhelming majority of apprentices get jobs afterwards. The Conservatives are saying that they can create more using money saved by cutting the benefits cap limit.

    07:16: David Cameron on benefits cap BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron tells BBC Breakfast that plans to reduce the benefits cap shows the Conservatives want to build on what he says is a successful policy of getting more people in to work - he says there was criticism in some parts of the country that £26,000 was too high. It's "absolutely crucial" to making sure young people get jobs and build a future for themselves, he says.

    07:13: David Cameron on Breakfast
    David Cameron

    The Prime Minister David Cameron is appearing on BBC Breakfast from Downing Street.

    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

    tweets: Significance of today is not that it's 100 days until an election. It's Holocaust Memorial Day - when we pledge 'Never Again' @HolocaustUK

    06:59: Party campaigns Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The Tories are going on about the economy, there is a big push from Labour on the NHS today - I can see this going on right up to polling day. We've seen that the NHS is the number one issue for voters, but it has not yet translated to a lift off for Labour, despite the NHS winter crisis - which suggests the strategy appeals to the traditional Labour vote, but doesn't reach out beyond that.

    06:57: The morning papers

    Meanwhile the Daily Mirror reports a survey which suggests a third of voters haven't made up their minds about how to vote yet.

    Mirror front page
    06:53: The morning papers

    A bit more on how the 100 days to go point is being marked in the papers. With David Cameron and Ed Miliband appearing face-to-face on its front page, the i asks "where are the parties, what are the hot issues?". It also carries a poll suggesting the Tories have taken the lead over Labour.

    I front page
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: David Cameron is on @bbcbreakfast at 0710 and @BBCR4Today at 0810. Ed Miliband is on @bbc5live at 0750 and @bbcbreakfast at 0810.

    06:42: Breakfast briefing
    Chris Mason on Breakfast

    The two main parties "will be playing their hits today - what they think works with voters", BBC political correspondent Chris Mason tells BBC Breakfast. So Labour's focus is on the NHS and integrating social care. The Conservatives are talking about the economy and the benefits cap - they want to lower the cap and use the money to create more apprenticeships. The Lib Dems and UKIP are both focusing on what impact they might have in partnership with larger parties.

    06:35: The morning papers

    The Daily Telegraph has an interview with David Cameron in which the prime minister pledges to reduce the annual benefits cap to £23,000 as the first act of a new Conservative government - a theme that also features in the Daily Mail.

    Telegraph front page
    06:29: The morning papers

    Most of the papers mark the 100 days to go, with the Sun featuring the faces of readers on its front page and setting out its "Sunifesto" in a special edition, saying there are "100 days to save Britain".

    Sun front page
    06:27: The morning ahead Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    It's an early start for the party leaders with David Cameron and Ed Miliband both appearing on BBC Breakfast and BBC radio between 07:10 GMT and 08:30 GMT. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are also launching an election poster. The economy will take centre stage at 09:30 GMT when the GDP figures are out.

    06:21: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh day's coverage of political developments ahead of the 7 May General Election - yes there's just 100 days to go now. You'll be able to listen or watch all the BBC's political output today on this page and we'll be bringing you all the best clips, quotes, analysis, reaction and breaking political news throughout the day. If you want to see what to expect, here's yesterday's campaign countdown.



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.