I did not know Corporal Paul Thomas. I did know his parents. I attended Paul's funeral in 2004. It was the event that brought the horror of war home to the village of Castle Caereinion, in Montgomeryshire. I live just 3 miles from the village. It was very much my village until I moved two miles nearer to Berriew in adulthood. I will never forget the sound of the rifles being fired at the graveside. In our local weekly newspaper this weekend, the Montgomeryshire County Times, there was an article reporting that the Elizabeth Cross has been presented to Paul's parents in his memory. Paul was a member of the Second Battalion The Light Infantry. His father, David is quoted as saying on behalf of himself and Paul's mother, Joyce "We were really proud to receive this honour on behalf of the Queen. Paul was a fabulous lad, he was our only son, and we are both very, very proud of everything he achieved".
There's another story arising from the Iraq war in the newspapers this week - the Chilcot Inquiry. Already, I find some of the witness statements to be deeply shocking. I supported the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair in his decision to take Britain to war. There were two main reasons. Firstly, I accepted his word that Saddam Hussein possessed what were referred to as 'weapons of mass destruction', and that he could, and intended to use them against our country. And secondly, because I did not settle on a firm opinion until it was clear we were actually going to war, I wanted our young soldiers to feel confident that they had my full support, as they were putting their lives at risk on my behalf. I saw my support for the British Prime Minister's decision as the pursuit of national security, and as loyalty to our armed forces. I would not have supported going to war to achieve 'regime change'.
This week we have been told that for many months before going to war, Tony Blair kept secret from us that he had agreed to join President George Bush in his mission to achieve 'regime change', and that the Prime Minister's claims about weapons of mass destruction were exaggerated (at best) or downright untruthful (at worst). I cannot believe that a British Prime Minister would behave in such a way. And I cannot believe that Gordon Brown, our current Prime Minister was not fully aware of this mendacity. How in God's name can we expect the people of our country to have respect for the institution of Parliament, when its integrity was so shockingly abused. How can anyone have respect for these seriously tarnished individuals ever again.