On Iraq, we were right and they were wrong

“we the people, who took to the streets in unmatched numbers to oppose the war, were wiser and assessed reality with more foresight than our masters”

Anti war protests

This blog is ten years old this month.  I’ve written previously about the impetus for starting to write, and my reasons for persisting with it.

A key factor was the Iraq War of 2003.  The arguments about the decision to invade, the human rights abuses that followed and the obtuse behaviour of our leaders were a staple of the ‘blogosphere’ at that time, and I got stuck in.

Allow me to indulge in a little old-style blogging, i.e. web-logging, by quoting at length from Anthony Barnett’s recent essay on Jeremy Corbyn, where he summarises the meaning of the Iraq War:

The crucial, domestic political fact about the invasion of Iraq is not that it was illegal and therefore a war crime. Nor is it that it was a “dumb war” as the then Senator Obama put it, setting himself on his route to the US presidency; or that it was a “predatory and dishonest war” as John le Carré wrote in openDemocracy. No, it is not that the war was wrong, ill-conceived, inept, greedy, unwise and illegal. The most important consequence of the Iraq War here in Britain in terms of our own politics is that we the people, of all political persuasions, who took to the streets in unmatched numbers to oppose the war, were wiser and assessed reality with more foresight than our masters, the UK’s political class, its so-called ‘intelligence’ services, its supposedly experienced Foreign Office, its Murdoch-inspired press, its Labour government and Tory opposition, never forgetting the majority of their Lordships. We, the unwashed, had demonstrably better judgment than the elite. This turned upside-down the core assumption of the UK’s informal constitution: that the people cannot be trusted with the keys of sovereignty.

To this day, the media and security interests who now regret Iraq say things like, ‘If we had known then what we know now…’. But never do they say that the opposition to the Iraq war was right at the time for the right reasons. In official discourse, the opponents of the war are still anti-American or knee-jerk peaceniks, or, most scurrilous of all, soft on terrorism. But the fact is, we got it right while Blair and his fellow idiots got it wrong. And by ‘we’, I don’t just mean the millions who marched. I mean the democratic intelligence of the majority of British people who pride themselves on knowing how to fight a good war when it is necessary, and knew then that this was not the case with Iraq. And by ‘idiots’ I mean Blair and company who were warned they were playing al-Qaida’s game and shamefully proceeded to do so.

With no one to impeach them, Blair and company held onto power and the result was an attack on our democracy; with dodgy dossiers, purging the BBC, fabrication and spin (still dragged out in the protracted farrago of the Chilcot Inquiry). But the crucial point is that Iraq irreparably holed the legitimacy of Britain’s current political class below the waterline, not because they were mistaken, but because the people warned them they were mistaken. On a matter of war and peace – the highest calling of the state – the people were right and the Westminster political class were wrong. Corbyn’s stand on this makes him the personification of popular wisdom.

Part of me wonders whether my failure to vote for Corbyn, in favour of a more pragmatic choice, marks me out as an elite-wannabe: someone who has bought-in to the flawed mindset of the political class.

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