Ten years after Iraq protests, Gloucestershire campaigners look back at the war
A DECADE ago war loomed on the horizon.
Next week sees the 10th anniversary of the climax of the people's "war against the war" when a million people marched for peace.
Around 1,500 people from Gloucestershire were among the throng that demonstrated in London on February 15 2003, with over 30 coaches travelling from the county.
Just a month later the UK found itself alongside the US in waging war against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
Bissell's 8910E Aroma Pro is the ultimate in home cleaning giving you a machine that provides outstanding results when not just cleaning carpets but stairs and upholstery too.
Terms: Limited Stock Offer . FREE Delivery to most UK postcodes.
Contact: 01664 491439
Valid until: Tuesday, May 28 2013
With support from celebrities, such as George Clooney and Ms Dynamite, the peace movement had gathered momentum.
In Gloucestershire, people found imaginative ways to make their voice heard.
Among them was Stroud mum-of-four Grace Trevett who travelled 3,000 miles in a double decker bus to Baghdad. Dubbed "human shields", her group aimed to highlight the plight of the Iraqi people.
Speaking from Baghdad at the time, she said: "People come to see us and say 'why do they want to do this to us? We are good people'.
"Being here makes it unbelievable that anybody could consider dropping bombs on a country like this. There are children playing in the streets."
Strength of feeling combined with creativity produced a more vigorous anti-war movement than seen for any recent conflict.
The Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors, led by "Chief Inspector" Dave Cockroft from Stroud turned RAF Fairford into a focus for protest, repeatedly requesting permission to inspect the base for "weapons of mass destruction".
The march in London saw people of all backgrounds and faiths come together and was the largest gathering on the capital's streets since the VE Day celebrations of 1945. Their optimism that Prime Minister Tony Blair would find it impossible to wage war in the face of mass opposition was shattered a month later when UK troops joined the US for the invasion of Iraq.
Usman Bhaimia, Gloucester City councillor for Barton and Tredworth, quit the Labour party in the run up to the Iraq war, in protest at Tony Blair's policy.
"It made me really angry when we went into an unjustified war in Iraq. We knew there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
"People in the Barton area, from all backgrounds, were not happy at all. Even today that feeling remains."
"The war made the world more dangerous for British people, all over the globe. And, even after 10 years, there is no peace or stability in Iraq."
Mr Bhaimia won two elections for the Liberal Democrats, but has since rejoined Labour, following Ed Miliband's apology for the Iraq war.
Martin Whiteside was a Stroud peace campaigner in 2003. He is also an international aid worker, and is now a Stroud district councillor for the Green Party.
"Although it might be relatively easy to win a war and oust a dictator, it is much more difficult to create a just and lasting peace. Blair and Bush took us into the war in Iraq without listening to the many regional experts querying the lack of plans for the peace that was supposed to follow. The result was a disaster for the Iraqi people that is still going on, with 33 killed by a car bomb last Sunday. These atrocities don't hit headlines because they are so common. That is the aftermath of the war we started and so many of us marched against.
"These lessons are not being learnt. The West may have helped topple Gadaffi, but has a just and secure peace been established? David Cameron seems to be prepared to lead arms export drives to some very repressive regimes indeed.
"Until we invest more time, energy, political capital and money on creating justice and building peace than we do on war and arms, the disaster of war will continue. When will we ever learn?"
Air Vice Marshall Tony Mason
Tony Mason, of Cheltenham, was adviser to the House of Commons Defence Committee in 2003.
"It was a gross error of judgement by Tony Blair. He was obviously led by George Bush, who was driven to overthrown Saddam Hussein.
"The war diverted resources away from the much more serious problem in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to recover.
"There was no evidence to support Blair's claim that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
"There was no provision for the stability of Iraq after the war, with tragic consequences. It left a political vacuum which Iran has been able to exploit. History will regard 2003 invasion as a disastrous intervention with little or no real grounds. Sadly all my fears at the time have been justified.
"The cost to civilians in Iraq was far more serious than anything inflicted by Saddam Hussein.
"Tony Blair disregarded all the evidence.
"I have supported British intervention in other conflicts, including Afghanistan. But not one of my old colleagues in the RAF, the army or navy supported this invasion.
"I was adviser to the House of Commons defence committee at the time. From my sources in the MOD I was quite sure that there was no evidence of Saddam having Weapons of Mass Destruction.
"Before we undertake any conflict we should be clear about what the political result should be, and that it is achievable."
David Drew, now a Stroud district councillor, was Stroud's Labour MP at the time. He was one of 121 Labour MPs who voted against Prime Minister Tony Blair, opposing the war.
"The evidence was tenuous. We went to war on a lie. It has done irreparable damage to the West's reputation. The lessons have not been learnt, we are getting involved in conflicts which there must be another way of resolving. We won the conflict but lost the peace. There was no post-conflict plan, and Al Qaida has simply migrated.
The war cost the lives of servicemen and thousands of Iraqi civilians. It created gross distrust of politicians. I don't feel vindicated, I just hope that people would listen. Why were the people so ignored? Why were people treated with such contempt."