Article published in the Sunday Express, 23 August 2015. © Richard Kemp
JEREMY Corbyn thinks the betrayal of our Armed Forces is a price worth paying to persuade the Labour Party’s disaffected anti-war activists to support his leadership bid.
That is what his proposed apology for the British involvement in the Iraq war would amount to: a betrayal of the 197 British troops killed, the hundreds wounded and the thousands who bravely fought for their country in Iraq. He would not only be telling those troops and their families their sacrifice was for nothing but also their actions were illegal, immoral and dishonourable.
Of course the war remains deeply controversial but Mr Corbyn’s unsubstantiated, rabblerousing declaration that it was illegal does not make it so and Britain’s involvement was not, as he alleges, based on deception.
I was working for the Joint Intelligence Committee at the time of the invasion.
I was not directly involved in the decision making or in the production of the weapons of mass destruction dossier but was aware of the war planning at the top level.
There was an absolute belief among the political and military decision-makers, based on intelligence, that the Iraqi government possessed chemical weapons.
Saddam Hussein’s long-term sponsorship of international terrorism, his regime’s associations with Al Qaeda and his hatred of the West meant the risk that he might transfer chemical weapons to Islamist extremists or use them himself simply could not be taken.
Is that what Mr Corbyn is proposing to apologise for?
A decision made in good faith to protect the people of this country from chemical attack in the post-9/11 era of mass-casualty terrorism?
Or is the apology for Britain’s part in overthrowing one of the most vicious, ruthless dictators the world has known, a man who oppressed and murdered his own people, sometimes using chemical weapons?
Is it for giving the Iraqi people the chance to hold the first free and democratic elections in the history of their country?
Or will Mr Corbyn be apologising for the deaths of perhaps 219,000 Iraqi civilians killed following the 2003 invasion?
Maybe he is unaware that these tragic people were not killed by British or US forces but deliberately slaughtered in industrial scale terrorist bombings by Islamist extremists and Ba’athists often supported by other Arab governments, and by Shia militias directed by Iran’s ayatollahs.
The depredations now being visited upon Iraq by IS are not the consequence of the 2003 invasion, they are the direct result of President Obama’s premature withdrawal of US forces in 2012.
Mr Corbyn’s proposal to apologise is not just about gaining the support of the naïve peace people.
It is symptomatic of a far deeper malady that affects all of his thinking on defence.
It is a malady that will embolden our enemies and endanger security not just if he gets to be prime minister but even if he becomes Labour leader.
Under his leadership the party is unlikely to support a vote to extend the UK military campaign against IS into its Syrian heartland, a move essential if we are to defeat or even contain its threat.
He cannot bring himself even to condemn IS.
Instead he asserts a moral equivalence between their rape, torture, violent subjugation and mass murder, and the legitimate, lawfully conducted and carefully focused operations of US forces battling Al Qaeda.
“What the Americans did in Fallujah and other places is appalling,” says Mr Corbyn.
But what does he know of Fallujah apart from peace lobby slogans?
This is part of a disturbing pattern.
A man with aspirations to lead our country dares equate the murderers of the Provisional IRA with the soldiers of the British Army in Ulster.
Yes, in our long fight to uphold law and order we made serious mistakes but the IRA’s policy was murder, brutality and torture of their own people as well as their enemies, and insurrection against a democratically elected government.
Mr Corbyn may care nothing for British soldiers but the people whose freedoms they have valiantly defended down the centuries know better than he does.
They will never allow such an irresponsible and morally confused man, who even called for “acceptance and understanding” of the IS butchers, to run this country.