A confidential letter warned MPs not to mention the war ordeeply controversial issues surrounding it. As March began,UK Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a directive instructingConservative MPs to make no mention of Iraq or the conflict’s100,000 deaths, according to a private correspondence leaked to theGuardian.“The foreign secretary has written to colleagues to remind themthat the agreed position of the coalition government is not tocomment on the case justification for the war until Chilcot hasreported,” a source close to Hague told the newspaper.The Chilcot Inquiry is the UK public investigation into thecountry’s role in the Iraq War. Whitehall sources said that Haguewasn’t attempting to enforce a gag on a highly controversialpolitical issue, but was delaying commenting on the war until afterthe inquiry’s publication.The results of the Chilcot Inquiry were supposed to have beenpublished in 2012, but were delayed last July. Conclusions are nowexpected to be made public mid- to late-2013. However, it isunlikely the inquiry will render a formal judgment on the Iraqintervention.The report has utilized “oral and documentary evidence,”according to a 2012 letter from Chilcot to UK Prime Minister DavidCameron, written at the time of the inquiry’s delay. Thisincludes evidence such as cabinet meeting minutes.Despite having agreed it is “essential to hold as much of theinquiry as possible in public,” the British Foreign Officeprevented the release of telephone conversations between then-UK PMTony Blair and then-US President George Bush in the days precedingthe invasion. The evidence is also inconsistent, and gaps in the documentaryrecord and lapses in memory may have hindered the investigation,according to the letter.Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry’s head, once said the final reportwould be twice the size of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ – over 1million words long.The 2003 invasion resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands ofIraqis, and 179 British deaths. The WikiLeaks Iraq war logs showedthat more than 90,000 Iraqi civilians died throughout the course ofthe conflict, placing the overall number of Iraqi deaths at over100,000.The instruction not to mention these events has led to a bitterrow within the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. LiberalDemocrat ministers stood strongly opposed to the Iraq invasion atthe time, while Conservative Party members stood in staunchsupport. Many Liberal Democrat MPs intend to defy thedirective.“William Hague is entitled to his views on what should besaid about the Iraq war but he can’t force them on the LibDems,” a senior Liberal Democrat source told the Guardian.“The idea that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will be muteon the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq will get veryshort shrift indeed.”The party’s former leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, also spoke outagainst the attempt to silence MPs on the war’s anniversary,pointing out the high levels of Conservative enthusiasm for the warin 2003, despite their not being the ruling party.He went on to label UK intervention in Iraq as the country’sbiggest foreign policy blunder since Suez, which Conservative MPKenneth Clarke recently also used as a comparison while speaking tothe BBC, calling the Iraq War “the most disastrous foreignpolicy decision of my lifetime… worse than Suez.”In 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated thatthe US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened theUN charter.Despite the primary motivation for the invasion being SaddamHussein’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, thefailure to locate them both before and after the Iraq Warintensified international debate about the decision to go to war.The only such discoveries ended up being badly corroded munitionsproduced in the 1980s, which could not be used as originallyintended.The UK’s decision to participate in the invasion was met withwide-scale protest at the time, not just in England but acrossEurope and around the world. In February 2003, an estimated 6 to 10million people participated in protests that spanned 60countries.In the UK, an estimated 750,000 to 1-million-plus protestersparticipated in anti-war demonstrations; the march in London wasnamed the largest political demonstration Britain had ever seen.Later in March, tens of thousands of schoolchildren staged walkoutsacross the country, and in the day following the actual invasion awide-scale demonstration took place in front of the Houses ofParliament. In the days afterward, over 100,000 people took to thestreets.
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