It’s been nine years since Bush and Blair took to the television and announced that they’d declared war on the Iraqi state. A nine year anniversary is not one that’s generally viewed as being significant – we have some kind of fetish for round numbers – but memories of those days have been especially clear to me of late. I was in Year 7, and took part in a “debate” on whether the invasion should be launched or not – being younger and wiser than I’d turn out to be I was against it – and someone raised a hand, leapt to their feet and roared, “Saddam bombed his own people, so I say we go and bomb him too.” That was, in fact, a nice encapsulation of the militaristic attitudes that have been prevalent since 9/11. On the 20th March 2003 my best friend was ill and off school. I gave him a call and asked how his day had been. “Oh, alright. Not much happened. Except that we went to war.” A kind of morbid fascination had settled on Britain.
In the nine years since that day we’ve witnessed not just the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the fleeing of millions more but the devastation of its national infrastructure; its intellectual life and its minorities. We’ve left it with a government that, while no equal of Saddam and his depraved progeny when it comes to viciousness, tortures, oppresses workers and threatens nonconformists, while the country is stalked by mad, murderous vigilantes. People still fear the explosions that have torn through their cities for year after year and remain an everpresent threat. The psychological damage that’s been inflicted on millions of kids who’ve been deprived of loved ones (and limbs); borne witness to the violence and feared for their own lives must be immense. Would all have been grand if Saddam had been left in power? No. Do I hope that something great is built up from the ruins? Of course. But to even ask if it was “worth it” – to assume to speak for all the dead and damaged people – is obnoxious. And to ignore it – as most important people do these days – is, somehow, even worse. Not just because of the fact of the Iraqis’ suffering but as the staggering carelessness, the monumental arrogance and the brazen dishonesty have never been atoned for, addressed or just admitted to. That’s one reason why our politics creeps me out: because I don’t know what it’s capable of producing. And that’s why the 19th should be another day of remembrance: so we don’t forget what it’s capable of.