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Cook: Blair Must Admit Iraq War Was Mistake

By John Deane, Chief Political Correspondent, PA News

Prime Minister Tony Blair must admit that the Iraq war was a mistake, former Cabinet minister Robin Cook demanded today.

Mr Cook issued the challenge after US official David Kay quit his role as head of the organisation searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, saying he did not believe there were any major stockpiles to be found.

Mr Cook, a former Foreign Secretary who quit his last Cabinet role as Leader of the House of Commons in protest at the war, said he believed Mr Blair led Britain into the conflict in order to demonstrate to US President George Bush that he was a reliable ally.

Mr Blair had been driven by “missionary zeal” and “evangelical certainty”, said Mr Cook.

Mr Cook told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is becoming really rather undignified for the Prime Minister to continue to insist that he was right all along when everybody can now see he was wrong, when even the head of the Iraq Survey Group has said he was wrong.

“I think it is very important that Tony Blair does concede that there were mistakes made, maybe in all good faith, probably he believed them genuinely, but there were mistakes. Because if we don’t face up to the fact that we got it wrong, then we are not going to learn the lessons.

“We have got to drop this very dangerous doctrine under which we went to war of the pre-emptive strike. If there was no threat from Iraq we obviously had no right to carry out a pre-emptive strike to remove that threat. And we better drop that doctrine before somebody else in the world uses it in their own back yard.”

Mr Cook continued: “I have always believed that the difficulty was not that Tony was behaving in a way which was deceiving the world. He was behaving in a way which had a missionary zeal, an evangelical certainty ...

“The reality of course is that No 10 was keen to get into the war, not frankly because they were particularly concerned about WMD – I suspect by March they also knew that the September document had over-egged the case – they were keen to get in to impress President Bush that they were a reliable ally. That is not a good basis on which to run British foreign policy.”

Mr Cook said that Mr Blair should use the opportunity of the publication of the Hutton report next Wednesday to set the record straight.

“I believe that Tony Blair has been a very good Prime Minister, and his domestic record is a very good record. I will judge him on the totality of that. But on this he made a wrong call, and frankly in his own interests as well as in the interests of Britain, and to make sure that we never do this again, he really does need to face up to that, and he has got a good opportunity this week to say so.”


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