These are the most significant quotes from.
You can read the full transcript of the session here
And you can watch the video here
3rd of February 2010: Morning session: Evidence
- Rt Hon John Reid MP former Secretary of State for Defence
REID: I was given every opportunity, as were other members of the Cabinet, to ask questions. I could have asked questions of the Attorney General.
PRASHAR: Were you at the Cabinet meeting –
REID : Yes, I was, and everyone was allowed to speak at these meetings. I don’t recognise some descriptions of some of the least quiescent of my colleagues claiming to have been rendered quiescent, but I don’t know about the processes. I think people are perfectly entitled to take a different view.
FREEDMAN: Can I just follow that up with a point that has been put to us quite strongly by some of the families of those who have lost their loved ones in Iraq? It goes something like this, that they understand that forces go to fight and what people sign up for, but the problem in Iraq was that our forces went in on a false premise, that they were going in to find weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to be there, and th they got there, the problems that were faced had not been properly anticipated, that there had been inadequate planning for the situation in which our soldiers had to fight, and that this, therefore, went on for far longer than anybody had anticipated and it became a more enduring conflict, and that this was therefore much more difficult to support and to understand than other conflicts. So my question is: was there an enduring problem that we faced, that the circumstances in which we went to war left public confidence undermined and less willing than in other conflicts to give us the support our troops would have liked to have had?
REID : Yes, around one central question, and I understand the feelings of the families, and it is this: if people believe that we told the truth, that we made the best judgment in terms of the evidence, the suffering won’t go away, because they have lost their loved ones, but they will not believe that they were in a sense betrayed. So at some stage there may be closure. If people believe that we intentionally lied, that, for some bizarre reason, all of these people in the Cabinet made it up about weapons of mass destruction,there will be no such closure and there will be even greater anger to add to the grief. I understand that. I know what members of the Cabinet saw. I know the history of Saddam Hussein. I know what he did to women and children with chemical weapons. I know that he used chemical gases against the Iranians that even Hitler wouldn’t use because it would blow back on his troops. I know what sort of man he was. I know the evidence that was presented to us. I know what our intelligence service said, which is he had the precursor chemicals; 10,000 litres of anthrax, 4 tonnes of VX gas, I think I remember. I know we queried people about it. I know the whole history of the 1990s, of him pushing out the inspectors. I know that he was saying that he had the things, and I know that the weight of evidence, though it is fragmentary, all intelligence is fragmentary, though it is not complete, no body of evidence is complete. All of that suggested to otherwise rational and neutrally-minded people, who had to take these decisions, that he had this stuff, and, in the wider context that I mentioned already, it was very dangerous for our security. People will make their judgments on that. I am content with my conscience that I made a judgment in good faith and in truth.
FREEDMAN: I just want to emphasise that it is not just a question of whether the judgments were made as you say they were made, it is also a question of the perceptions afterwards about how they were made, and it is a question of whether or not you felt at the time that your task with public opinion had been made that much more difficult because of the beliefs of the way in which we had gone to war, whether you feel these beliefs were correct or not?
REID: Well, they had obviously made the task more difficult, and still do. I mean, there are families who hurt grievously. It is bad enough in any conflict when there is a loss of life. When there is a loss of life and a question at the back of your mind as to the nature of the entry into that, that must make the heart all the more. I don’t think that is the least bit non-understandable. It is perfectly understandable and that means it is more difficult. If people, however, believe that this was done in bad faith, I think that’s where the capacity to stand up against foes in future becomes much more difficult. Of course it does, and that’s why it is so important that we have this open questioning here, so that people ca see that this has been conducted in a way where questions have been asked and difficult areas like this are being given. That’s why I have no difficulty in having this discussion, because people’s lives depended on it. It is just that I happened to have the belief, and still do, that the greatest threat to my children and the future generations of children, the greatest threat of a magnitude that is almost unimaginable, is the coming together of people who are unconstrained by any morality, indeed driven by a perverse morality, that says that there is no distinction between combatants and civilians, that murdering thousands or tens of thousands, it doesn’t matter. Now, we have had these regimes before, like the Nazis, but they were constrained by the nature of their technology. They were constrained by having to use the exhaust fumes of vehicles or canisters of Zyklon B. Nowadays, there is no such constraint on the capability. So that unconstrained intent comes together with the unconstrained capability. God help the future generations, and that is part of what was at the back of our mind when we were making these decisions.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Dr Reid. I would like to ask my colleagues if they have any last questions before I turn to you for your own fine reflections? Well, can I ask — we have two things, I think, in mind. One is: is there ground which we have not been able to cover so far this morning that you think would be relevant and useful; and the other is any more general reflections? You have given us a number in the course of this hearing, but if you would like to give us a summation, the time is now.
REID: At risk of — you know, I think the most important one I have made is the one that I made here, which is perfectly understandable in matters like this, that we all have deep divisions in this country, because it is a democracy and you should never, ever embark on something that risks the lives of your young men and women without having thought this through. If nothing else, I hope that these will illustrate that, rightly or wrongly, in the end, we did try to think these things through. One, the coming together of unconstrained intention to murder with unconstrained capability to do so in a world where globalisation is bringing proliferation nearer to us all is the context in which your Inquiry takes place, Sir John, and I hope that that in some way is illustrated by the questions you ask and the conclusions you come to. Secondly, the nature of conflict has changed. The nature of conflict has changed. The idea that there the Stabilisation Unit, on all of these new ideas, in a big sense, so that we can deploy to some areas in the world, in order to prevent these things, the services at however high a level, and the decent common values interpreted into a better life for many more people than we do, because poverty, ignorance, failed states and so on are the root causes — they are the soil in which will be a conventional war under agreed, legal rules where both sides will respect the rights of others for a determined piece of land for a determined period of time, at the end of which there will be a defined agreement and we will all go home, that has changed. There is a battle which is not about territory. It is an argument sometimes, sometimes, coming into conflict about sets of values. 100 years ago, we didn’t have to look at other people’s values because we didn’t have television, we didn’t have 24-hour-a-day media. We had colonial interventions here and there, but now it is impossible to avoid a situation where people have to confront these different values. We have to find a way of resolving that without violence. Thirdly, if we are going to do that, we have to find a way of deploying other than guns, and, therefore, when we think of mobilising an army, we have to find a way of building on the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit, on I leave that open. Fifthly, I wouldn’t like to leave without recording this sort of things flourishes. Fourthly, the question about our capacity to endure formally my lasting appreciation, my admiration and my deep, deep respect for every single person who, in our armed forces, became involved on behalf of this country in these conflicts. They are not part of the controversy. They are not part of the big argument about right or wrong. They just do what they are asked to do, and they do it for one reason, and that is they want to protect the security of this country. So for those who fought and those who fell, I just want to record my respect and admiration and deep sadness at the loss of life.