It's only twelve years ago. Twelve years, and it feels like everyone -- the bulk of MPs, at least -- has forgotten about the dodgy dossier; about shock & awe; about Abu Ghraib and everything that followed.
Because here we are again: our elected representatives are banging spears on shields and baying with the desire to follow a weak, shoddy prime minister to war.
Classic political distraction, of course: things are bad at home (to say nothing of in the government’s party), so let’s have a war to distract the populace; the electorate; the “patient millions/Who put them into power,” as Billy Bragg put it.
So far, so unsurprising. But it’s Labour MPs who really bother me. I thought perhaps we had turned a corner with the election of Jeremy Corbyn. That maybe we would return to being a proper opposition, by actually opposing Tory excesses. And by doing so, show the nation that here is a true alternative to the politics of the last couple of decades; to right-wing versus slightly-less-right-wing. Show the potential for a more peace-loving Britain.
But here they all are, the party grandees, howling for bombs alongside the Tories. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course: it was a Labour government that took us into Iraq twelve years ago. In my defence – and theirs, to some extent – we were deceived , then – them by that dossier, us by them. Millions marched against it,1 but many thought that there must be something to all this talk of us being 45-minutes away from an attack. That the government must know something.
Back then my son was nearly six. When we told him – in an age-appropriate way, as they say – that it looked like there was going to be a war – his first response was, “Will I have to go away?” Those tales of World War II evacuated kids burn deep for a Londoner.
We reassured him that no, the war would be far away, and wouldn’t affect us directly. Two years later we were proved wrong, when the war came to his hometown. 2
And just two weeks ago the current war came to Paris. Does anyone doubt, if our leaders go ahead and escalate this war, that we’ll see it come back to British streets? Maybe London again. Maybe Birmingham, Manchester, Belfast, Glasgow.
More blood on British streets. Blood, which – along with that of the innocents who die in Syria under RAF bombs – will be at least partly on the hands of the MPs who go through the division lobbies with the government tomorrow.
I was sadly absent from that through having small kids and a visiting aged parent. I was there in spirit. ↩︎
Looking back I find that I predicted it. I was far from alone, of course. ↩︎