This week it emerged that the long awaited Chilcot Review into the Iraq War would finally be published in June or July 2016. The review has taken considerably longer than initially expected and has caused great frustration across the political sphere. The Iraq War remains one of the most hotly contested foreign policy decisions of recent times and its spectre still hangs over Parliament, explaining the frustration with the delay in publishing and the desire for some closure.
When we remember the Iraq War and the build-up to it, we tend to remember the marches on the street in Britain and the widely perceived opposition that existed. In February 2003, a month before the invasion it was believed that nearly 2 million people marched on the streets pleading with the government not to invade Iraq. This would indicate a wide-scale opposition to the War existed and that Blair was firmly in a minority when he decided to take Britain into the War. However this is not what the polls from the time suggest.
Britain first invaded Iraq in March 2003. From this period up until the end of 2003 support for the War continued to rise. During this period YouGov conducted 21 polls and on average found that 54% supported the War. ICM and Populus polls also reported similar findings and for the initial period of the invasion support was on the rise and not on the decline. So although we cannot doubt the strong opposition there was to the War, there was also a clear time period when the majority of the population in this country supported the War.
Support for the War has fallen dramatically ever since. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction and the belief that the country was led into a War based on false intelligence has angered much of the general public. Questions of legality also still hang in the air. Tony Blair has been heavily criticised for his part in this and a high proportion of the general public will never forgive him for his actions and his legacy will forever be tarnished.
As we look back at the Iraq War now and the anger which exists towards Blair and those who made the decisions it would be easy to think it was always like this. This simply wouldn’t be true. For whatever reasons for most of 2003 the public supported the War. It may be easy to airbrush this part out, but in reality it provides an important context to what will remain one of Britain’s most controversial foreign policy decisions in recent times.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – CNN