Tim Collins, who commanded the Royal Irish Regiment during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said “the war as it was prosecuted was a mistake, and history will judge that”.
He said the 20th century had been “blighted by a war which began in 1914 and arguably didn’t end until the fall of the Berlin Wall. It now falls on Australia and the United Kingdom to persuade the Americans not to blight the 21st century with a war which involves future generations.”
While he believed removing Saddam Hussein had been necessary, the US-led coalition had been “incompetent’ in not forging a broader coalition and in not having a five-year plan for after the invasion…
Colonel Collins, who has retired from the military, achieved overnight fame in 2003 when British journalists recorded a stirring address he made to his troops just before they crossed over into Iraqi territory. For a time he was a pin-up among coalition military commanders. But in his recently published book, Rules of Engagement, he criticises US military culture for its failure to engage with the local population. He told the Herald: “The Americans really only understand subjugation”…
It appears the book is hardly a seditious document though: see “REVIEW ESSAY: British Armed Forces in Iraq” (Royal United Services Institute site).
The last four chapters, which concern the levelling of ‘war crimes’ allegations against Colonel Tim Collins, are the most interesting of the book. Although one-sided, it is both riveting and at the same time worrying. To consider that it is possible that some of his superiors at the MoD acted with ineptitude at best, or duplicity at worst, is a frightening prospect for the future of the British Armed Forces.
Regardless of whether you believe Tim Collins or not, the epilogue is filled with poignant questions and heartfelt insights into the British Army of today from a very experienced soldier. Rules of Engagement may be a bit self-centred but it focuses on an officer who has the best interests of his men at heart. If the Armed Forces had more officers like that then Colonel Tim Collins might not have had to face those allegations on his own.
Perhaps then the fact that he was a believer in the cause adds weight to his critique of US strategy?
From a very different viewpoint, that thriller I have been reading — which is not bad but woefully proofread if at all — has one marvellous but of course unlikely trope, that the (unnamed) British Prime Minister depended on his teenage son’s web surfing to garner evidence on Saddam and WMD for his dossier on Iraq pre-invasion.