Thursday 12 October 2006

The Iraq Exit Strategy

Last night I was asked to appear on Newsnight to comment on the report of the terrible scale of casualties in Iraq.

I explained that the important question now was how deaths on this scale can be avoided in the future. Dreadfully having taken us into this war neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown appear to have any idea of an exit strategy from the dreadful and bloddy mess that is Iraq today.

On the programme I proposed that Britain and the US should start by admitting that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and appreciate that Britain and the US are not part of the solution but part of the problem.

Both countries should now set a deadline for withdrawal and appeal to the rest of the world via the United Nations to assist in securing a settlement in Iraq.

I did not expect my views to be largely endorsed within 24 hours by the Chief of Staff of the British Army.

Sir Richard Dannatt has tonight been reported as stating that the presence of British troops in Iraq is exacerbating the situation and that we should withdraw soon.

The Government has responded by confirming that there will be no change of policy from its existing commitment to staying in Iraq.

Some Labour MPs are trying to spin the story away from this soldier's assessment of the situation in Iraq into challenging the constitutionality of a leading serviceman commenting on such a major policy issue.

The reality is that it is the overwhelming opinion of the Britsih people that British troops should withdraw and that this has now been confirmed by the professional judgement of Britain's most senior military leader.

In the name of reason and humanity the Government must now act and bring forward an exit strategy. The Government appears to be paralysed by indecision on this issue.

Anyone leading or offering themselves as candidates to lead this country must demonstrate now that they are capable of leading on this critical question and indeed have an exit strategy to remove this country from this disastrous mess we have been taken into by the current cabinet.

I am calling upon the Government to bring before Parliament as a matter of urgency in the next week its strategy for withdrawal so that Parliament can debate it and decide.

Now is the time for all people of reason and good will to stand up and demand action of our Government.