British politics has been transformed by the Iraq war. The so-called dodgy dossier, the death of David Kelly, the debate over Guantánamo Bay and the allegations of torture have changed the political landscape. The perception, whether justified or not, that the British Government went to war under false pretences has seeped into public consciousness, and poisoned politics. Tony Blair's reputation will be judged on the Iraq war. The next election will be fought, in large part, on the issue of political trust, with the war as a backdrop.The lies told about the war did indeed cause a significant further erosion of trust in the government and government in general. But more than half of British voters did not support the war believing that Saddam had wmd. Before the war, there was overwhelming opposition, as this BBC report shows and Blair's evidence convinced very few people. There is a well-known effect that once British troops are involved in a war, many people support them even though they did not support the war itself. That is what happened in 2003. So while it is tempting to argue that people were misled, the majority of people were only misled in that they were lied to, not that they believed it.
More than half of British voters supported the war in 2003, earnestly believing that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. When that turned out to be untrue, the nature of British politics was changed for ever, increasing political mistrust in Britain to a level that may be higher than it has ever been. It is hard to imagine what level of justification will be necessary, in the future, to persuade the British people to back a “just war”.
Monday, 23 March 2009
Meanwhile, the Times has a piece on the troops coming home six years on. It makes some good points but also engages in a shockingly cavalier rewriting of history.