The Government should apologise to the Iraqi people and families of British troops killed in the conflict, according to Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie.
Captain Beattie, who served in Iraq with the Royal Irish Regiment, said it needed to be recognised that Iraq had “suffered terribly”.
The 50-year-old said the Chilcot report “spreads the jam of blame” across many people and organisations.
He recalled troops being “woefully unprepared” but “in absolutely no doubt whatsoever” that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction.
He said Tony Blair went off on a “solo run” and decisions were made on an “ad hoc basis”, adding: “One of the things which did surprise me slightly is that there was a genuine belief on the part of the intelligence service, and Tony Blair, and the Cabinet, and the Government – a genuine belief that there were weapons of mass destruction, and I don’t know where that really comes from.”
Mr Beattie said the Government and the Ministry of Defence has some apologising to do, saying: “I think still we need people to acknowledge that Iraq has suffered terribly, that we need to apologise to the Iraqi people and we need to apologise to the military families who lost loved ones and to the soldiers who fought and carry the scars.”
He added: “Individuals can apologise, Tony Blair can apologise if he wants, the leader of the Labour Party can apologise if he wants, but our Government, which is our Government sitting now, who has been handed the Chilcot report, it’s up to them to apologise, and it’s them who should apologise to the Iraqi people, to the families of those who lost loved ones, to the military in general, and to all of the people in this nation who were taken into a war that we should not have been.”
Mr Beattie said few involved in sending the armed forces to war emerged with credit.
“At worst they were party to an exercise in deception. I led soldiers into Iraq in 2003. We were short of equipment and woefully unprepared.
“We were left in no doubt that we were as likely to get gassed as shot or bombed. We trusted what our political masters told us. We were wrong to do so.
“Every time a politician cries wolf and we go to war on a false premise, it makes it that much harder to gain support for intervention in future conflicts where there really is no excuse not to,” he said.
Captain Beattie said the Iraq war had left a legacy of “mental scars” on British troops who fought in the conflict, and many soldiers were “afraid” to say they were involved in the invasion. He said it became obvious to soldiers very quickly that the enemy was “a wretched bunch”.
Responsible for prisoners of war, he said: “Wretched – as in their clothes were in tatters, they had no food, there was nobody commanding them.