Left-wing MP Jeremy Corbyn pledged that if he wins leadership of the party in the September 12 elections, he will make a public statement apologising on behalf of the Labour Party for Britian’s role, with US, in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which ended after eight years, a move never been taken by Tony Blair who led Britian into that war.
Such an apology marks an important move, especially in a party where the Iraq war still is a sensitive topic, and signals a wider departure from existing Labour’s defence and foreign policy.
Corbyn told The Guardian newspaper: “It is past time that Labour apologized to the British people for taking them into the Iraq war on the basis of deception and to the Iraqi people for the suffering we have helped cause. Under our Labour, we will make this apology."
He made a promise UK’s future military interventions will become less often, stating that, “let us make it clear that our party will never make the same mistake again, will never flout the United Nations and international law.”
If Corbyn wins leadership, then it is expected that David Cameron’s vote to expand current UK airstrikes on ISIS insurgency in Iraq to Syria, will not be supported.
The declared apology over Iraq war is aimed at helping the party gain back its former party members who had left after opposing the decision to go to war, in which Corbyn voted against as well.
The planned apology over Iraq is aimed at helping win back party members who either left or have stayed but felt estranged as a result of the decision to go to war, which Corbyn voted against.
In addition, for the Labour Party to win in the 2020 elections, it needs to rebuild a firm coalition with those who did not support the invasion, Corbyn said.
“So it is past time that Labour apologised to the British people for taking them into the Iraq war on the basis of deception and to the Iraqi people for the suffering we have helped cause. Under our Labour, we will make this apology,” he added.
Corbyn’s planned apology attempts to avoid the findings of the six-year-old Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.
“The endless delay on the Chilcot inquiry is wrong. But we don’t have to wait for Chilcot to know that mistakes were made and we need to make amends,” Corbyn said.
Pressure on the long-delayed Chilcot inquiry to produce a report, into the nation's role in the Iraq War, is intensifying. With patience running out, the government may finally announce a date next year for publication.
Yvette Cooper, one of Corbyn’s main rivals, who voted for the military action in 2003, also spoke of the issue of Iraq on Thursday on the BBC’s World at One, stating that “we need the Chilcot report to know exactly what happened but we were wrong, there were no weapons of mass destruction and also the strategy was wrong, because it drew resources from Afghanistan at a crucial stage.”
When she was asked directly if she personally had been wrong in the way she had voted, she replied that, “we all were and we have to accept that and take responsibility for that.”
Corbyn added in a statement, “As a party, we found ourselves in the regrettable position of being aligned with one of the worst right wing governments in US history, even as liberal opinion in the US was questioning the headlong descent into war.”
“It has also lost Labour the votes of millions of our natural supporters, who marched and protested against the war. We turned our backs on them and many of them have either withheld their votes from us or felt disillusioned, unenthusiastic and unmotivated,” he continued.
Corbyn appeared in a footage in 2014 revealed by Channel 4 News comparing the actions of ISIS militant group to US forces recapturing the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, stating that, “yes they are brutal, yes some of what they have done is quite appalling, likewise what the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling,” Corbyn told Russia Today, highlighting that he regarded the militant group as a “vicious, repugnant force that has to be stopped”.
The Iraq Body Count project calculated the civilian death toll to be 219,000 since the 2003 invasion that toppled former Iraq President Saddam Hussein, though others state that the estimates aim at much higher. The number of British personnel killed in the war was 179 and the US 4,425.