‘My son would still be alive’ says father of Iraq soldier

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The father of a Mansfield soldier who served in Iraq before taking his own life insists his son would still be alive if Britain had not gone to war.

Wayne Clarkson spoke out following the publication of the damning Chilcot report, which criticised the Government’s decision to invade in 2004.

Ashley Clarkson.

Ashley Clarkson.

His son, Ashley, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing horrors on the frontline of Iraq, where he served with the Royal Logistics Corps.

He was just 23 years old when he died in 2012.

“It’s been an eye-opener,” Mr Clarkson said,regarding Chilcot’s report.

“If the Government had gone through the correct channels, Ashley still would have been here, there’s no shadow of a doubt about that.

Ashley's father,  Wayne Clarkson

Ashley's father, Wayne Clarkson

“I know of other ex-soldiers who are still suffering because of what happened out there.

“Some couldn’t understand why they were there in the first place.

“For me, the bitterness from that time has now gone, at the end of the day I have got to move forward, but I’m still angry because we never got to see him get married or have children, that was robbed from us. I still grieve every day.”

Sir John Chilcot’s report has taken seven years to be published, contains more than 2.6 million words and cost more than £9 million.

Released last week, he found the decision to send troops to Iraq was taken using ‘flawed intelligence’.

Sir John said the legal basis for war was not satisfactory, Britain’s involvement in Iraq “ended a very long way from success” and that it went “badly wrong with consequences to this day”.

He also said there had been no immediate threat from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, despite concerns he had weapons of mass destruction.

None were ever found, while tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed in the conflict, along with 179 British military personnel.

Protestors gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London to hear Sir John outline his report – and called for former prime minister Tony Blair to be tried for taking the decision to go to war.

Sir Alan Meale, Labour MP for Mansfield, has welcomed the report, but said it falls short of advising decisions over war in the future.

Sir Alan said: “It’s taken a long time to get to this stage, but it has not come up with any solutions, but we have to learn from the lessons.

“It’s a bit disappointing in that we want to change the situations in which we go to war, but it does not set down any guidelines, it just makes suggestions.”

He refused to blame Mr Blair and pointed out that the majority of Parliament voted to go to war and allowed the invasion to go ahead.

However, Sir Alan did not take part in the vote, because of his role as the War Graves Commissioner at the time.

He said:“I was commissioner for nine years and it would have been quite wrong to oppose or support a war when I was expected to deal with those who died within it, but I was never convinced war was the right way to go.

“The outcome in the end was the correct one, in that Saddam Hussein was overthrown, but you have to be careful because people gave their lives for this.

“Tony was the Prime Minister, but every single party across the board voted for it, because they were all in favour.

“It’s no good saying that it was just a Labour thing,”

Mr Clarkson also refused to single out Mr Blair.

He said: “I can’t just blame him. It has to be the whole Government at the time if you are going to blame anybody.

“He had to take the final decision, but we voted them all in, so they all have to take responsibility.

“It’s like the First World War. They were not prepared 100 years ago and we will probably look back in another 100 years and say we weren’t prepared for this.”

Mr Clarkson’s son, Ashley, was sent to Iraq in 2007 with his mother describing him as “vacant” when he returned in 2008.

He had witnessed a young Iraqi girl die after stepping on a landmine, which affected his mental state.

His family said he feared being sent to Iraq again and would often go absent from his regiment.

After being discharged, he managed to find work, but was still haunted by his experiences.

His girlfriend found him hanged at his Clifford Street home in March 2012.