The Dutch foreign minister said today that, in retrospect, the decision to go to war in Iraq may have been wrong.
The Netherlands’ conservative government supported the US-led coalition’s 2003 invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and until now had not publicly acknowledged any regrets.
In a debate with parliament, Foreign Minister Ben Bot was asked whether the decision was correct.
“That’s a question you could legitimately ask, looking back,” Bot said. “And then the answer could in fact be, that it wasn’t wise, and that maybe with other methods, with diplomatic methods, more could have achieved, and ... maybe that would have been better.”
Around 1,400 Dutch troops served for 18 months in the southern Iraqi province of al-Muthana. The mission ended in March despite requests from Washington for an extension.
Around the same number of Dutch troops are now participating in missions in Afghanistan.
Bot’s comments drew criticism from several members of parliament, including some from parties within the governing coalition, for undermining the Cabinet’s message.
In an interview later with Dutch NOS television, Bot said he was speaking hypothetically and added, “It’s very easy to pass judgment after it’s all over.”
“If the questions that were on the table three days before the invasion ... had been answered at the time by Saddam Hussein, honestly, then we would have had better insight into the situation,” he said. “And then maybe we should have made a different decision.”