So (as with the cliché about historic events, good or bad) I remember where I was when – just over five years ago – Baghdad was invaded by US/UK Armed Forces. I was at a friend’s house, Sky News was on, and the coverage was … well, its rather jubilant nature made it feel like we were watching Fox News, just with a Limey voice-over.
“What do you make of all this?” my friend asked. “Blair, Bush – all this?”
“I…” For once, I tried to choose my words carefully. “I question their sincerity,” I said eventually.
And as I did then, I do now; five years on, and I don’t believe they had a plan to liberate Iraq, any more than I believe that they genuinely believed that Saddam had weapons that he was hiding from them. I think the whole damn thing was a lousy lie (or a major error of judgment, but either of those is cause for resignation to my mind), with Bush trying to look butch after the security errors that led terrorists (initially trained by US forces in Afghanistan, remember) to attack the World Trade Centre, and maybe trying to finish off the job Daddy started. And Blair being weaselly and spineless and ignoring wiser heads (not to mention what was, I think, the biggest mass protest march in UK history) and putting UK troops in the line of fire for no good reason at all.
Five years on now, and the people who thought the war was wrong-headed and ill-founded can perhaps take slight consolation in the fact that they were right all along – though those of us who questioned the sincerity of the pro-war argument at the time have now found that pretty much everyone you speak to pretends that they took the same stance at the time; people I know who swallowed the line that ‘anti-war’ equated with ‘Pro-Saddam’ are now, once the true meaning of ‘Mission Accomplished’ has sunk in, claiming that they were against it all along. It’s like the way aged cockneys claim to have been in the Blind Beggar pub that night, or Liverpudlians of a certain age claim to have been at the Cavern the first time a particular band played.
It’s the kind of re-writing of events that I’ve railed against before, and will, I fear, find cause to do so again; just as people are pretending they thought and said one thing about Iraq five years ago when in fact they didn’t, so China’s political leaders pretend that they didn’t invade Tibet in 1950, or that they didn’t order the shooting of hundreds of students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 (I think you can guess where I stand on these issues, but if you can’t, let me state: I’m on the side of the facts). And in the same way, people seem all too willing to forget that Donald Rumsfeld, one of the US politicians so very keen to go to war in Iraq (to the extent that he was thinking about a military strike in Iraq within hours of the 11 September 2001 attacks) met Saddam Hussein in December 1983 as an ally.
Relationships and allegiances change, of course, but I thought I’d post this picture here by way of pointing out that, despite what some people might have us believe, we have not always been at war with Eastasia.