Jeremy Corbyn Apologises On Behalf Of Labour For The Iraq War
"I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq," said the Labour leader.
Jeremy Corbyn has apologised on behalf of the Labour party for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 after an inquiry into the conflict strongly criticised former prime minister Tony Blair.
In a speech delivered in front of the families who lost loved ones during the Iraq war, the Labour leader said the war was "disastrous" and political parties needed to "face up to their mistakes".
Corbyn, who voted against the war in 2003, received a standing ovation from the bereaved families both before and after his 10-minute speech in Church House, Westminster.
It came hours after he made a statement in parliament about Sir John Chilcot's landmark inquiry, where he stopped short of apologising.
But he told the gathering of party activists, anti-war campaigners and families: "I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq.
"That apology is owed first of all to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and the country is still living with the devastating consequences of the war and the forces it unleashed. They have paid the greatest price for the most serious foreign policy calamity of the last 60 years."
"The apology is also owed to the families of those soldiers who died in Iraq or who have returned home injured or incapacitated. They did their duty but it was in a conflict they should never have been sent to.
"Finally, it is an apology to the millions of British citizens who feel our democracy was traduced and undermined by the way in which the decision to go to war was taken on the basic of secret ‘I will be with you, whatever’ understandings given to the US president that have now been publicly exposed."
But his apology was not universally welcomed. Labour MP Mike Gapes said Corbyn did not speak for him.
The Labour leader has called in the past for Blair to face trial for war crimes, but Wednesday's long-awaited report did not officially express a view on whether the conflict was illegal.
In his speech to MPs, Corbyn did not name Blair or anyone else in his criticism relating to Chilcot's report. He said: “There are no more important decisions a member of parliament ever gets asked to make than those relating to peace and war.
“The very least that members of parliament in the country should be able to expect is rigorous and objective evidence on which to base their crucial decisions.
“We now know that the house was misled in the run-up to the war, and the house must now decide how it should deal with it 13 years later – just as those who took the decisions laid bare in the Chilcot report must face up to the consequences of their actions, whatever they may be.”
Corbyn had said the immense length of the report, which he was only able to begin reading in full this morning, meant his response today was "provisional".
But in his initial response in the Commons, ahead of the press conference later in the afternoon, Corbyn said that the war was "by any measure, a catastrophe":
The decision to invade and occupy Iraq in March 2003 was the most significant foreign policy decision taken by a British government in modern times. It divided this house and set the government of the day against a majority of the British people, as well as against the weight of global opinion.
The war was not in any way, as Sir John Chilcot says, a "last resort".
Frankly, it was an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext, as the inquiry accepts, and has long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion.
It led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions of refugees. It devastated Iraq's infrastructure and society.
The occupation fostered a lethal sectarianism that turned into a civil war war. Instead of protecting security at home or abroad the war fuelled and spread terrorism across the region.
While Corbyn spoke, he was heckled by one of his own MPs, Ian Austin.
Austin, who voted in favour of the war 13 years ago, was heard to say: "Sit down and shut up. You're a disgrace."