A War of Choice:
The British in Iraq 2003-9

Tony Blair said that history would judge his decision to invade Iraq. In A War of Choice, author Jack Fairweather gives a comprehensive account of this extraordinary, controversial period in British foreign policy. A Baghdad bureau chief for the Daily Telegraph, Fairweather uses on-the-ground reporting and over three hundred interviews to take readers from the besieged British outposts and insurgent hideouts of southern Iraq to the intense debates the war provoked inside 10 Downing Street and the White House, in the first full analysis of the true costs of Blair's decision.

Tony Blair's vision of transforming Saddam's dictatorship into an egalitarian and prosperous society began to unravel almost immediately, undone by the lacking of planning, high-handed American tactics, and a Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia. As an Islamic revolution swept the streets of Basra, and UK military started to retreat, the British found themselves increasingly under fire and isolated in their outposts. Leaving Iraq was to prove far harder than invading. When the military sought a quick exit in order to send troops to southern Afghanistan they found themselves in a war on two fronts, in a desperate battle for survival.

A War of Choice sheds new light on some of the most contentious issues of the war, including the abuse of detainees by British soldiers and Iraqi police, the deteriorating special relationship with American, the decision to deploy troops to Helmand, Afghanistan, and the secret deal with a Shia militia leader that sought to end the fighting in Iraq. In raising these themes, the book explores whether armed intervention can ever work and the urgent lessons that need to be learnt.

Above all, A War of Choice seeks to portray the conflict in Iraq on a human scale, revealing the intimate thoughts of Britain's leaders and the men and women they sent to war. Faced by the challenges of Iraq and later Afghanistan, every Briton lived out their own battle between the call of duty and self-interest, their doubts about the war, and the necessity of finding a solution. This book describes their choices, and their sacrifice.

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