Cleaning up in Baghdad

As Britain went to war, The Sun fired its own volley of shock and awe.

The March 20, 2003, story — the day of the invasion — claimed the lives of ordinary people would be protected by a combination of precision bombs, strict rules on targets near civilians and Prime Minister Tony Blair having a final say on strikes.

Pressing for war story here
Rewriting war history story here

Headlined, "The First Clean War", it starts: "The war in Iraq could have almost no civilian casualties, defence chiefs claimed last night".

The accompanying picture is of a serene scene of fatigue-wearing men surveying computer screens in a Qatari command centre.

Deeper in the article, the main message is muddied by Mr Blair’s comments to the Commons that everything would be done to minimise civilian casualties.

It was an admission, The Sun said, "there could still be some innocents killed".

But the thrust is clear.

As an unnamed senior defence force source sums up: "We may be entering an era where it is possible to prosecute a humanitarian war".

Today’s estimates of civilian deaths are between 160,000 and 180,000.

But you don’t need hindsight to realise such a story fails the "sniff" test.

The story is so outrageous it’s surprising Whitehall editor David Wooding and his colleague Charles Rae agreed to put their names to it.

But they did,  I have the clipping to prove it.

Much of my two years in London between 2002 and 2004 (including 13 months working at The Sun Online) was spent devouring newspapers and cutting out eye-catching stories.

When I moved, my papers came with me.

I  spent two long days reading and clipping a pile of newspapers more than a metre high because I was out of my live-in pub job at short notice.

My newspapers also contributed to the £150 excess baggage charge I paid at Heathrow Airport before boarding a plane back to New Zealand.

Until earlier this month, they sat in folders (dated and catalogued) and loose in boxes in a space above the garage.

I wasn’t really sure what use they would be, until the Chilcot report came out.

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