On Sunday May 22, 2011, families of U.K. troops still stationed in Iraq finally had some good news. Most UK troops left Iraq back in 2009 but a small contingent remained to carry out training of Iraqi forces.
Troops had been withdrawn as a cloud descended on why they had ever been sent to Iraq in the first place. Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained that Iraq was a global threat and housed many weapons of mass destruction. In the end none were ever found and the initial mission only managed to bring down Saddam Hussein. Although that was quite an achievement, and in many people's minds no bad thing, it was not supposed to be the reason for the war.
It did leave a bad taste in the mouth. Iraq was blown to pieces and there were deaths on all sides, both military and civilian. The country remains volatile but there are hopes that Iraq can find itself and begin a new era. When the last few remaining U.K.troops left Iraq, Britain left a presence in Iraq, in a training role. These trainers would help train the Iraqi Navy.
There was cause for celebration as the exit brought an end to the formal conflict in Iraq, as far as U.K. troop involvement went. In spite of reports that the country is still volatile, in-roads have been made. The political skyline is perhaps safer.
Once former British P.M. Tony Blair had to face The Chilcott Inquiry, over the ins and outs of why we went to war in Iraq, a blanket of secrecy covered any news about Iraq. But it was goodbye to Iraq and hello to our troops. After 8 years in Iraq it was time to come home. The last man to leave Iraq on May 22, 2011 was Brigadier Tim Chicken. Such an inappropriate surname for a hero. 51-year-old Tim was the Director of the Iraq Training Assistance Mission since 2010. Tim had previously been awarded a CBE and OBE in the Queen's honours lists. He has a long military career serving in Ireland, the Falklands, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Brigadier Chicken said of his team, "Being the last member of the team to leave, I've had the opportunity to reflect on all we've achieved. It's very impressive."
On March 19, 2013, it was the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. A war most people now recognise as illegal. In 2011 there were hopes that Iraq would become a much safer place. The people would surely be better off without Saddam? Sadly Iraq is one more country where peace is elusive.
On the 10th anniversary bombs rocked Iraq. The Telegraph reported: "Explosions ripped through a crowded Baghdad market and several districts across the city, while a suicide bomber driving a truck detonated a payload at a police base in town just south of the capital. The attacks, which left another 200 people injured with shrapnel wounds, were aimed mainly at Shia Muslim areas and blamed on Sunni extremists loyal to al-Qaeda. The attacks, clearly intended to mark the anniversary, were a stark reminder of the insurgent threat in the country, which some Iraqis say has left them nostalgic for the rule of Saddam.
Politicians in the west should look long and hard at Iraq and its legacy. As ministers such as Hague in the U.K. and Kerry in the U.S.A. angle for war in Syria they must heed Iraq.
How many more crippled countries will it take for good sense to prevail?