Lord Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff Credit: David Rose

General Sir Lord Dannatt: 'Going to Iraq was an error of near biblical proportions'

Joe Shute

General the Lord Dannatt is sitting at the head of a spacious boardroom table in Millbank House, searching for words. Beyond him, out of the window is a vista of Parliament Square where on March 20, 2003, thousands gathered to march against the invasion of Iraq.
Today he admires the view, but the war in Iraq is something that until recently Lord Dannatt has not been able to take in from a particularly removed perspective. As Chief of the General Staff between 2006 and 2009, and prior to that Commander in Chief Land Command, he was embroiled in the key decisions around the six-year military mission in which 179 British troops lost their lives.
It has been a year in which the unsavoury legacy of the Iraq conflict has been a mainstay of the news. In July, the conclusion of the Chilcot Inquiry delivered a damning verdict on the decision to take Britain to war. Earlier this month, too, the Ministry of Defence was forced to pay thousands of pounds in compensation to former Army officer Rachel Webster, who was left traumatised when she was arrested by officers working for the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), a controversial government unit set up in 2010 to investigate alleged abuses by service personnel during the war. The case followed that of three Army veterans who face prosecution for manslaughter over the death of an Iraqi teenager in 2003.