"A form of common assault"

A former British commander in Iraq questions the motives for the invasion and attacks the coalition's handling of the aftermath.

Published September 17, 2004 1:12PM (EDT)

A British army commander during the war with Iraq questioned the motives of the U.K. and U.S. governments in invading the country yesterday, and attacked their handling of the aftermath.

Col. Tim Collins, celebrated for a rousing speech to his troops on the eve of the invasion, said America and Britain were suffering the consequences of toppling Saddam Hussein without thinking about what to put in his place. That failure raised questions about the reason for going to war, suggesting it was to vent anger at Saddam rather than to liberate oppressed Iraqis.

Col. Collins, who has left the army, said: "The evidence would show, in hindsight, that the preparations for a free and fair Iraq weren't made. Therefore one must question the motivation of the powers that went to attack it." He added: "The simple fact is that nature abhors a vacuum and so does politics. If you knock something down, you must be prepared to put something in its place or live with the consequences of that which fills the vacuum."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's "Today" program, he said that if the war was ordered to liberate Iraq, the coalition was guilty of gross incompetence. But there was reason to think it was a "cynical war that was going to happen anyway, to vent some anger at Saddam Hussein's regime with no regard to the consequences on the Iraqi people.

"In which case it is a sort of form of common assault -- and the evidence would point towards the latter," he said.

Col. Collins, who commanded the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, said he thought the international community was dismayed by the results of the war. Nevertheless, liberating Iraq was still "the right thing to do." The country could become stable, but it needed a lot of help, he said.

By Richard Norton-Taylor

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