Service honours sacrifice of UK troops in Iraq

|PIC1|He was speaking today at a commemorative service at St Paul’s Cathedral in honour of the British servicemen and women who served and died in the six-year war in Iraq.

The service was attended by the Queen and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, as well as veterans and relatives of the 179 servicemen and women who fell while serving in the country.

Tony Blair, who was prime minister when Britain and the US invaded in 2003, was also present.

Dr Rowan Williams said it was a time for reflecting on the human cost of the war and expressed his doubt over its morality.

“In a world as complicated as ours has become, it would be a very rash person who would feel able to say without hesitation, ‘This was absolutely the right or the wrong thing to do, the right or the wrong place to be’,” he said.

The Archbishop went on to criticise policymakers and commentators “who were able to talk about it without really measuring the price, the cost of justice”.

The reading was taken from Ecclesiastes 3, which speaks of a time to kill and a time to heal, and Ephesians 6, in which Paul speaks about the enemy not of flesh and blood.

"Reflecting on the years of the Iraq campaign, we cannot say that no mistakes were ever made - when has that ever been the case?" said the Archbishop. "But we can be grateful for the courage and honesty shown in facing them, grateful too for the care taken to create an atmosphere that helped people to struggle against these invisible enemies, and to keep their eyes on the tasks of healing and building."

Other senior members of the royal family at the service included Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, who was also present, said the service was "an opportunity to remember the enormous contribution" made the 120,000 members of the UK Armed Forces who served in Iraq.

"In particular it will be a time to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by those who died and who contributed to the greater peace and stability that exists in Iraq today."

British military operations officially ended with a ceremony in Basra on 30 April.