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Colonel blames Blair over Iraq 'catastrophe'

Andy McSmith, The Independent

02 October 2005

Lack of political leadership from Tony Blair is putting British troops at risk in Iraq, according to a former commander of the British invasion force. Britain could lose the war against Iraqi insurgents and risks being driven into neighbouring Iran.

Colonel Tim Collins - famed for the speech he delivered to his men in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment hours before they went into action in March 2003 - described the situation in Iraq now as "a right rollicking cock-up".

He accused the US and Britain of having "blundered" into Iraq without an adequate plan for postwar reconstruction, and claimed that personal rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is now preventing the Government from forming a strategy for getting British troops out.

The colonel's attack came at the end of a week during which Mr Blair's efforts to keep Iraq out of the news misfired spectacularly. Stewards at Labour's annual conference forcibly evicted Walter Wolfgang, an 82-year-old protester, for heckling the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Mr Wolfgang later received an apology from the Labour Party, a promise that he would be welcomed back to next year's conference, and an invitation to lunch with the party chairman.

At the conference, Mr Blair acknowledged that there were "good people" who opposed the Iraq war, but insisted that: "The way to stop the innocent dying is not to retreat but to stand up for their right to decide their government in a democratic way."

But Colonel Collins told the Morgan and Platell show last night that British policy in Iraq is "directionless" and that if it ended in a military catastrophe, the blame "would ultimately land on the Prime Minister's desk".

He added: "We blundered into Iraq, relying on pure military force and brute instinct to remove the regime and then step back and think that would solve it.

"We didn't have a plan to remove the Baathist regime. We created a vacuum in which the insurgency thrived. We are now living with the consequences of that mistake. And we are compounding the mistake by not giving any direction. We could pay a price for this [with] the Army being chased over the border into Iran," he warned.

"It's pointless having armies deployed overseas unless there's prudent counsel at home. There appears to be no prudent counsel. The only thing on the political agenda here in the UK seems to be the spat between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown."

Lack of political leadership from Tony Blair is putting British troops at risk in Iraq, according to a former commander of the British invasion force. Britain could lose the war against Iraqi insurgents and risks being driven into neighbouring Iran.

Colonel Tim Collins - famed for the speech he delivered to his men in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment hours before they went into action in March 2003 - described the situation in Iraq now as "a right rollicking cock-up".

He accused the US and Britain of having "blundered" into Iraq without an adequate plan for postwar reconstruction, and claimed that personal rivalry between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown is now preventing the Government from forming a strategy for getting British troops out.

The colonel's attack came at the end of a week during which Mr Blair's efforts to keep Iraq out of the news misfired spectacularly. Stewards at Labour's annual conference forcibly evicted Walter Wolfgang, an 82-year-old protester, for heckling the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw.

Mr Wolfgang later received an apology from the Labour Party, a promise that he would be welcomed back to next year's conference, and an invitation to lunch with the party chairman.

At the conference, Mr Blair acknowledged that there were "good people" who opposed the Iraq war, but insisted that: "The way to stop the innocent dying is not to retreat but to stand up for their right to decide their government in a democratic way."

But Colonel Collins told the Morgan and Platell show last night that British policy in Iraq is "directionless" and that if it ended in a military catastrophe, the blame "would ultimately land on the Prime Minister's desk".

He added: "We blundered into Iraq, relying on pure military force and brute instinct to remove the regime and then step back and think that would solve it.

"We didn't have a plan to remove the Baathist regime. We created a vacuum in which the insurgency thrived. We are now living with the consequences of that mistake. And we are compounding the mistake by not giving any direction. We could pay a price for this [with] the Army being chased over the border into Iran," he warned.

"It's pointless having armies deployed overseas unless there's prudent counsel at home. There appears to be no prudent counsel. The only thing on the political agenda here in the UK seems to be the spat between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown."


:: Article nr. 16369 sent on 02-oct-2005 18:16 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=16369

Link: news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article316589.ece



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