A former soldier from Liverpool has talked to JMU Journalism about his experiences in Iraq, stating his belief that “we were all pawns in Blair and Bush’s adventure”.
As the UK's Iraq war inquiry continues, with former Prime Minister Tony Blair giving his evidence in London, 25-year-old Darren Kewley spoke about his involvement in Iraq, and his feelings now that he has left the Armed Forces.
Darren served as Signaller with the 7th Armoured Brigade in 2003, in his own words as a "naive 18 year-old soldier", and with the 4th Armoured Brigade in 2004. He left the Army in 2006 and now works in IT and communications, but the conflict has left a lasting impression on Aigburth-based Darren.
After a gruelling two months training in the Kuwaiti desert, Signaller Kewley was part of the invasion force in southern Iraq in March 2003. He felt “a mixture of excitement, fear, amazement, shock, awe, horror and most of all boredom” on his first tour of duty.
“Our initial contact was with the Iraqi soldiers surrendering to us. Many
seemed like there was no fight in them and they were serving out of fear
of Saddam rather than for pride,” he said.
As his regiment pushed into Basra, children played in the dusty streets
with no shoes on their feet, scavenged through rubbish and lived
impoverished lives in the shadow of Saddam Hussein’s palace.
“At first I didn’t give a great deal of thought to the moral or political debate,”
said Darren. “There were numerous stories of terrible things that had
happened first time round, so the entire principles for going to war
seemed black and white to me.”
However, as his first tour continued, experiences Darren had and
incidents that happened made him question the way war was being
waged. “Looting broke out in the city and law and order began to break
down. There seemed to be no plans for the aftermath of the invasion and the Americans seemed to have a different viewpoint,” he said.
At the end of his tour of duty in July 2003, Darren returned to his base in Germany. “I left feeling uncertain about what had been achieved there. It appeared things were getting worse with the massacre of six members of the Royal Military Police in Maysan Province,” he revealed.
Upon his return to Iraq the next year, the young soldier had turned into a critic of British and American politics, suspicious of the war and troubled by the overall effect on the country. The chaos that reigned and the lack of a post-war plan for Iraq was evident and the violence had escalated.
“During our initial training our camp was mortared on numerous occasions and only a week into our tour we came across a roadside bomb which was spotted and did not detonate, luckily. It seemed like the locals were no way as friendly and welcoming as last time, but I could not blame them. There was no power, no security and no real infrastructure,” he said.
After Darren left the country, disillusioned by his role, the British Army began to scale back from the conflict in southern Iraq. “The British Government claimed it was due to the success of the Iraqi Army gaining control, but I feel we pulled out and allowed the Iranian-backed militia to gain control,” he said.
Darren has closely followed the ongoing Chilcot inquiry into the UK's involvement in the Iraq war. The claim, made by former Downing Street Director of Communications, Alastair Campbell, that Britain should be proud of changing Iraq from "what it was to what it is now becoming", is nonsense, in Mr Kewley's view. He said: "That was absurd and, quite frankly, a little bit deluded. I expect a similar performance from Blair.”
EXCLUSIVE by Chris Bradley
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Darren Kewley pictured while serving in Iraq and, third from left, with his Army colleagues
Darren left the Army in 2006