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21 Mar, 2013 23:55

Iran, Mali and Syria show lessons of Iraq not learned – UK ex-deputy PM John Prescott

Ten-years on, the lessons of Iraq have been lost with the drive for militarily intervention in Syria and Iran akin to a modern-day Crusade, John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister under Tony Blair, told RT in an exclusive interview.

Looking back on the drive that led to the invasion of Iraq, Prescott says regime change was never on the government’s agenda.

“Saddam was an evil man, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re not the believer in regime change. You can’t just go into another country and decide: ‘I don’t like its leader’”, he said.  

While Prescott argues the available intelligence and Saddam’s previous use of WMDs provided a framework for military intervention, UN endorsement was viewed as a prerequisite to military action. However, Washington’s willingness to sidestep the UN drastically impacted the UK’s course of action.  

“When I reflect in 10 years, not so much about how I came to be agreeing with Tony [Blair], and then the process of what changed, and it became regime change. In fact, when I talked to Vice President [Dick] Cheney when I was sent over to talk over that, I mean this was a man who didn’t give a damn about what was going to happen about the UN. He just really wanted to go in Iraq. To their mind, President Bush the father had stopped at Kuwait and not gone in and dealt with Saddam [Hussein]. So all the Americans used to say to me: it’s business as usual. And to that extent, I was very alarmed and told Blair that.”  

“I came back and told Tony, the Americans are going in with or without you. We don’t make the difference. They’re going in.”

Prescott, who argues that the decisions were seemingly right at each stage, has come to realize the immense impact the war continues to have on Iraq to this day.

“I must accept the responsibility for the part I played in that decision [to go to war.]”

“It’s not very easy, people have died, how do you do it [come to terms]? Even if you talk about British troops [killed] – there was nearly 200 of them – or indeed the many thousands of civilians who continue to die, even today in what is happening in Iraq.”

Former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott (AFP Photo / Carl Court)

Prescott says that despite intelligence and diplomatic failures that led to the Iraq invasion, the real question remains- why are the Western political elite ramping up for war again?

“Bring it forward now to the 10-year [anniversary] and what begins to wooly me all the more is it does seem, and Tony Blair is saying it, that in the case of Syria, or indeed in Iran, and I think there are implications in Mali, the feeling is you go in then, to do the same thing. Now that’s just wrong. We’re not learning the lessons of Iraq. It doesn’t bring peace. Shock and awe might win militarily, but the weeks that follow cause an awful lot of deaths amongst civilians” The former deputy PM argues the drive to intervene in Syria and Iran is

“almost the Crusades again.”“The Western superior values now have to be planted in these countries. I mean, at the end of the day, what are we doing now? We’re providing bullet protection equipment for the rebels [in Syria] while civilians are being killed and driven out of the country. And you cannot change it. Iraq teaches simply by getting rid of the leader, it doesn’t bring a kind of peace and quiet. No. You’ve got different religions that hate each other, different leaders come in, and that’s in all these Mediterranean countries.” Prescott warns that the West must relinquish control to the people in the Middle East to choose their own destiny. And while the lessons of Iraq have been lost on the West, those states which have run afoul of Washington and its allies have learned their own valuable lesson as well.

“The interesting thing is, Tony Blair got [slain-Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi to drop his investment in [his nuclear program.] Would we have invaded, would other nations have gone in if it had the bomb? No,” he said.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.