A journalistic acquaintance, Rowenna Davis, is writing something about how people feel about the war on Iraq and subsequent long occupation. For me this is a generationally defining issue, and separated people my age, broadly Blair cynics, from the earlier optimistic Britpop generation.
How do I feel?
It made me a lot more critical of the Labour Party, despite being a member. It made me feel that rather than just going through a phase, its values and existence in the long term were under a dark and permanent threat.
In terms of the rest of it, it was like seeing a Vietnam in my generation, but without the same level of permeation in society. At least in Vietnam they were allowed independent photographers – in Iraq the press relentlessly censored itself and continued to take the line from the people behind it until it was far too late.
This helped to add to the preexisting sense that we were already being deceived about the reasoning behind the whole thing – though of course the non-discovery of non-existent WMD, and the sudden changes of story from the Government hardly helped.
Most of all, the feeling is one of ongoing torture. Robin Cook and those who were more bold in their criticisms were right all along, and given the lead up, you had to be a pretty gullible person not to get that way before it happened.
The initial deaths, the shock and awe, Fallujah, and the countless loss of families to the insurgent battles… the torture and the cover-ups. The partly resulting rampant Islamophobia that still infects our national politics. They were all preventable, and the left said so from the start.
The feeling of having called it right hasn’t changed day since, but has become more and more frustrating to carry given that it has meant people dying.
Whatever he did about school repairs and the minimum wage, in my mind Blair’s treachery on this issue is one that will never leave the way that I think about politics. It is something that has shaped me and my understanding. For those actually affected, living and dead, rest their souls.