Blair’s war destroyed Iraq and broke young people’s trust in politicians
One legacy of Iraq is a generation’s disengagement with the entire political process
As I watched the BBC footage of the bombing of Baghdad in 2003 I turned and asked my dad: “Are they going to bomb us back?” I was eight, and all I knew of war was the story of the second world war evacuees.
My question was misguided– but, as it turns out, less so than first appeared. Thirteen years later I am a politics graduate and journalist, yet it is only now that we are finally getting answers as to how we ended up watching British bombs light up Baghdad’s skyline and unleash more than a decade of chaos and destruction.
For my generation, the “war on terror” is all we have ever known of world politics. That chaos and destruction has formed the backdrop to our transition into adulthood. As a child, it seemed that every 6pm bulletin brought news of another coalition death in Iraq or Afghanistan. As we have come of age and gained the vote, Iraq has remained, thanks to Islamic State, one of the most pressing issues for all of us.
So this week could mark the end of an era for Britain’s young people. And yet, despite the final publication of the Chilcot inquiry’s findings, the legacy of Iraq permeates our politics. This is no more evident than in my generation’s rejection of the political mainstream.
Long before the 2008 financial crisis upended faith in the business and political elite, the lies and dodgy dealing around Iraq had shown us that politicians – even those supposedly on the left – could not be trusted. Indeed, they could fairly easily lead us into wars under false pretences and through contentious evidence, despite widespread public opposition. Most damagingly, they may never be held truly accountable. This was no small breach of responsibility.
Fast-forward to 2016, and the effects of this are everywhere to be seen. Its most obvious manifestation is in the young left’s complete rejection of, and anger at, the right wing of the Labour party. When they were given a chance to express that opinion in last year’s leadership contest, they voted resoundingly for the candidate furthest to the left.
Yes, economic insecurity played a huge part in this, but so did a deep aversion to anything and anyone labelled Blairite. Too young to remember the “good” Blair years of the late 90s, my generation associate his name only with unfathomable death; voting for his ideological successors is pure anathema.
Jeremy Corbyn himself has recognised the role the Iraq war has played in fomenting the “breakdown in trust in politics” from which he has benefited so greatly.
So whatever Tony Blair is said to be guilty of, this week and further down the line, his decision to go to war in Iraq must also be linked to and partly blamed for the current chaos in his party and politics in general, from the decision to leave the EU to our collective inability to deal with today’s problems in the Middle East.
Along with being held accountable for all the mistakes made in 2003 and during the war itself, he should not be absolved of these wider responsibilities. It is only in acknowledging them and accounting for them that the questions of Iraq will finally, one day, be put to rest. Unfortunately, the Chilcot report is simply not enough.
Source: The Guardian