The Independent (UK)
March 30, 2003
Cook: 'Pull out of bloody, unjust war'
'There will be a legacy of hatred for the West if the
Iraqis continue to suffer from the war we started'
By Andy McSmith, Political Editor
Robin Cook last night launched a searing attack on the
US and British governments for their prosecution of
what he called a "bloody and unjust war".
It is the first time since the start of the conflict
that a leading British political figure has called for
hostilities to be ended with Saddam Hussein still in
Mr Cook's call for an immediate withdrawal from the war
zone is a warning to Tony Blair of the immense
political problems ahead if - as is now feared - the
conflict drags on and the coalition forces are obliged
to lay siege to Baghdad.
The former foreign secretary broke the silence he has
maintained since his resignation speech in the Commons
nearly a fortnight ago, which was greeted with an
unprecedented standing ovation from fellow Labour MPs.
Mr Cook's intervention will raise new doubts about
whether Mr Blair can survive in office if the war is
not over quickly. His opponents on the far left of the
party issued a new call yesterday for his removal.
Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Mr Cook said: "I have
already had my fill of this bloody and unjust war. I
want our troops home and I want them home before more
of them are killed."
He attacked Mr Bush for "sitting pretty in the comfort
of Camp David" while Allied forces risked death in an
"unnecessary and badly planned" war. "It is easy to
show you are resolute when you are not one of the guys
in a sandstorm peering around for snipers," he wrote.
"Nobody should start a war on the assumption that the
enemy's army will co-operate. But that is exactly what
President Bush has done.
"And now his Marines have reached the outskirts of
Baghdad, he does not seem to know what to do next."
He was scathing about the new tactic outlined by the US
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which Mr Cook
summarised as sitting down outside Baghdad "until
He warned: "There is no more brutal form of warfare
than a siege. People go hungry. The water and power to
provide the sinews of a city snap. Children die.
"There will be a long-term legacy of hatred for the
West if the Iraqi people continue to suffer from the
effects of the war we started."
Mr Cook revealed the thinking of many of those who sent
the coalition into war, confident of a quick victory.
"Shortly before I resigned, a Cabinet colleague told me
not to worry about the political fallout - the war
would be finished long before polling day for the May
local elections. I just hope those who expected a quick
victory are proved right."
He commended the decision to bring back the bodies of
slain troops for burial in Britain, but added: "I can't
help asking myself if there was not a better way to
show consideration for their families.
"A better way could have been not to start a war that
was never necessary and is turning out to be badly
planned." Mr Cook's call for an immediate end to the
war was echoed by Doug Henderson, who worked with him
in the Foreign Office as Minister for Europe.
He told BBC Radio 4 that the only alternative was an
escalation of the conflict, dragging in Syria and
possibly Iran. "I think a ceasefire and withdrawal is
by far the better way forward," he added.
Downing Street played down Mr Cook's comments and
insisted that the war would be fought to the finish.
A spokesman said: "Robin Cook has a well-known position
on Iraq and it is not one that the Government shares.
"As the Prime Minister said in the press conference in
Camp David, we will see the military campaign through
until we achieve our objectives: that is, Saddam gone
and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction disarmed."
Meanwhile, some of the Prime Minister's most hardened
opponents were meeting in London yesterday to plan how
they could "reclaim' control of the party.
Mark Seddon, editor of the left wing newspaper,
Tribune, urged the 300 delegates to a Labour AgainstA
the War conference to set up a new organisation to
"reclaim'" control of the Labour Party.
Later, delegates voted by more than two to one to
campaign for a change in the party leadership..
Although Labour Against the War has relatively little
support inside Parliament - mainly from hardened left
wing MPs - what will worry Mr Blair is the links it has
established with several large trade unions, including
the GMB general union and the CWU postal workers union.