Six years on but anger still rages over Iraq

By Ian Dunt

It’s the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq but anger still prevails at the UK’s role in the conflict.

Yesterday, Carne Ross, a former British diplomat and Britain’s leading expert on Iraq at the United Nations, launched a strongly worded demand for an inquiry while giving evidence at a public administration committee inquiry into civil service leaks.

He told MPs it was “disgraceful” that minister pretended the Hutton and Butler reports had told the public the full story.

“A lot of facts still have to come to light,” he added.

On Monday a BBC poll revealed three quarters of British people believe there should be a full inquiry into the invasion.

The poll came just days after communications released under the Freedom of Information Act showed pressure was put on the authors of a report on Iraq by Downing Street officials to remove caveats about the country’s offensive capabilities.

One memo to John Scarlett, director general of MI6, and copied to Alistair Campbell, specifically warned against too many caveats being included in the dossier.

That release instantly prompted demands from both opposition parties for a full inquiry.

“The jigsaw of how the public and some MPs were duped nears completion with this crucial revelation, and further strengthens the case for a full public inquiry,” said Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: “Now that British troops are coming home, there is no longer any excuse for delaying a full-scale inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war, other than the government’s concern that its own reputation might be damaged.”

But the government is standing firm against calls for an inquiry, with Gordon Brown sticking to the line that an inquiry cannot be reasonably conducted while Britain still has troops in Iraq.

The number of British troop deaths in Iraq stands at 179 after Ryan Wrathall died of a gunshot wound on February 12th. America has suffered far more deaths, with 4,259 troops killed since the invasion.

But Iraqis have borne the worst of the violence. Coalition forces decided early on not to calculate the civilian death toll, with general Tommy Franks famously saying: “We don’t do body counts.”

But various groups have undertaken the task themselves. iraqbodycount.org estimates civilian deaths at between 91,129 – 99,508. That is generally considered a conservative estimate.

On the other end of the scale, Opinion Research Business’ research puts the body count at 1,033,000 violent deaths as a result of the conflict.