The 2003 invasion of Iraq is an unresolved issue in the hearts and minds of the British people.
A vocal critic of the Iraq war, foreign office diplomat Carne Ross directly contradicted the official line that there was ‘no alternative to war’. He turned his back on power and status and went on to set up Independent Diplomat.
Host Ross Ashcroft joins Carne Ross at his headquarters in New York to discuss what can be learned from his progressive approach to foreign policy.
In 2003, Carne Ross was a Foreign Office diplomat on the fast track to ambassadorship and almost certainly a knighthood when he turned his back on power to set up Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory diplomacy group.
Ross gave testimony that was deeply critical of the government during the Butler Inquiry into Weapons of Mass Destruction claims. He said the existence of WMDs were questionable, the concern over their potential danger, heavily inflated.
Ross told Renegade Inc he didn’t quite understand at the time, the ramifications of his actions.
“I remember pressing the send button on my word processor,” he said. “I was in Kosovo at the time and thinking this action is some kind of ending but I don’t quite know what. Three days later I sent my evidence as my resignation letter to the Foreign Secretary without really knowing what would follow at all.”
The Foreign Secretary did not reply. A short while later Ross received an email from personnel offering psychological counselling, which he declined.
Then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair stepped in to totally contradict Ross’s concerns.
Ross said his reaction was ‘visceral’.
“Tony Blair is responsible for a great many deaths, including people I know,” he said. “He has not really been held accountable for his actions. I don’t think a public inquiry, however much it contradicts his own account of what happened, is sufficient accountability.
“I think he should be prosecuted for what he did. He should face material consequences. This was a war.”
The former diplomat says there was a lot of groupthink inside the Foreign Office. After 9/11 it became clear that from the top down, the government wanted a particular result.
A lot of the evidence and justifications used to invade Iraq and Afghanistan were “fundamentally false,” he said.
“The Prime Minister wanted to add a particular account of the threat and the evidence was massaged to fit that prerogative,” he said. “It wasn’t the other way round. We didn’t look at the evidence and produce an analysis that Iraq’s WMD was a threat because in fact we had been doing that for many years and had come to the conclusion that Iraq’s WMDs were not a threat. So the impulse to change that story came from the top.”
Carne bluntly calls the former British Prime Minister “a lapdog and a poodle” of the United States’ and its foreign policy objectives.
“Everything was about America,” he said. “I worked on the Middle East with the British foreign office for many many years. And there was a very clear transition during the Blair years.”
Ross said Foreign Office representatives used to go to Washington to offer independent analysis and recommendations. But after a while, “and towards the end”, particularly after 9/11, it simply became a task in receiving instruction.
“Blair was in sort of awe of the Americans. I think he wanted to be an American.”
Likewise Carne says the British Press and Parliament “utterly failed” to adequately oppose the war in real, tangible terms.
“Basically Iraq is a disaster,” says Carne. “I’m not saying Saddam Hussein was a good thing and I’m glad that he was overthrown, and I was very very opposed to his regime. But the aftermath of the invasion has been a disaster for Iraq of endless chaos which is itself then fostered further.
“ISIS was born of the Iraq chaos it was born in prisons – in American prisons – holding Baathist activists who became extremists, who became ISIS.”
“The allies invaded Iraq to destroy a fake threat and in doing so, created a real one that now threatens everybody,” he says.
The West has supported autocrat-after-autocrat, repressive-government-after-repressive-government, and continues to do so today. In Saudi Arabia. In Yemen.
Without ‘real values’ underpinning foreign policy, The West will continue to spawn real threats out of fake ones.
Watch the full interview above.