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Gulf War General Says Iraq Invasion 'Totally Unjustified'
22 September 2002
The officer who commanded the British 7th Armored Brigade in the Gulf War has revealed that he is strongly opposed to a military invasion of Iraq.
Maj Gen Patrick Cordingley, who commanded the brigade - the renowned Desert Rats - in 1991, believes that Iraq poses no imminent threat to Britain or its interests and that "the case for war has not yet been made by the politicians".
Gen Cordingley told The Telegraph: "I'm absolutely opposed to a war. I feel very strongly that it is wrong. There is no justification for sending British troops to Iraq."
He doubted that the dossier of evidence against the Iraqi regime - to be released by Tony Blair on Tuesday - would prove the case for war. "I don't think they have much, frankly," he said.
It is understood that Gen Cordingley also has grave concerns about the number of casualties that could result from having to fight all the way to Baghdad.
Based on his forecast from 1991 that military casualties in a full-scale conflict could amount to 15 per cent, a suggested British and American invasion force of 250,000 troops could suffer more than 37,000 casualties.
In the event in 1991, the predicted battles between two large armies did not materialize and allied casualties numbered fewer than 250. The United States lost 148 men and Britain 24 - nine of them to US friendly fire.
Gen Cordingley, 58, is the first retired senior Army officer and Gulf War veteran to condemn the Government's stance on a possible Iraq war.
The Telegraph has learnt, however, of a growing unease among senior British officers. One serving officer said that Britain and the US should embark on a war only with the sanction of the UN.
He said: the Army is apolitical and will do as it's told. But there is concern that an invasion of Iraq could totally destabilize the entire region. Saddam Hussein has been contained for 10 years.
The question being asked is, 'Why choose war now?' - especially when there's no proof that he's linked to al-Qa'eda.
"There is also growing frustration that, while the Americans appear to be making all sort of plans for an invasion, the British military is completely in the dark. Nothing has come down from the top, and we need direction."
Gen Cordingley has immense experience of the complex politics and culture of the Gulf region.
In 1996, he published an account of his experiences, entitled In the Eye of the Storm, which was based on a diary he kept throughout the conflict. In the epilogue, he records the sense of inevitability of war as the military build-up began.
"Once the coalition was ready to fight, the temptation for the politicians to find a military solution to the problem must have been overwhelming," he wrote.
"The political conundrum as to whether Saddam Hussein should have been removed from power is perhaps more difficult to comment on without reference to hindsight, but I remember thinking at the time that no one wanted a vacuum in the Middle East, nor did the Americans want to be seen as king-makers."