There are so many depths and sub-avenues of the way that the government manipulated and lied to us on the subject of Iraq, that it would take all day for me to go through them all. Things like the way that foreigners were demonised as anti-patriotic, the media bias, the powerful sense of nationalism. In particular, the way the French were made out to look like the bad guys, regardless of how true that was. If you remember, the French said they would vote against the war only if it were to proceed before the weapons inspectors were finished their work. Not, as is the perception, that they would have veto-ed the war regardless. Of course, if they had held on for the French in the UN, they wouldn't have got it, because if the weapons inspectors had finished their work, they would have said that Saddam had nothing and we wouldn't have been able to have that lovely war.
I want to focus on two points, not the propaganda on the build up to the war, but the lasting perception in people's minds that it has left.
1. As a message to Middle Eastern governments:
People say it's important to find WMDs, but it isn't. Not finding WMDs wouldn't particularly have harmed the President's support (let's go with Bush, because Blair has no support left to lose*) at home if it wasn't for the lingering war, the occupation and the continuing death toll. In fact, not finding WMDs would send a very clear message to the rest of the Middle East. If America wanted to send the message that they're a dangerous rouge state, attacking for resources and didn't need any reason to do so, then they couldn't have done better. If they wanted to intimidate, let's say, Syria, then a very clear message has been sent.
2. To alter the minds of the country:
This is my main point. Because of this war, governments have somehow used the excuse of a pre-emptive war, based on WMDs as a supposedly justifiable reason to destroy a country and plunge it into chaos. Now Iran, North Korea and a host of other countries could be in our sights, and all our governments have to do for public approval is prove they have weapons. It doesn't matter if they pose no threat to us, or have no intention whatsoever to hurt us... they have weapons. It doesn't matter that this concept is highly illegal and Tony Blair and George Bush would have been hung under Nuremburg law because... they have weapons.
Let's go back to 1945 in Germany. This is what was read out to Nazi soldiers before they were hung:
"To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the acumilated evil of the whole"
To think that we're any different from the Nazis because we're under a mythical pretension of rightousness would be stupid. Hitler and the Germans also proclaimed this. They proclaimed they they were Christians. They manipulated the media to extordinary lengths to convince the nationals that they were on the right side.
And, more importantly and more relivantly, the early invasions of neighbouring countries prepared the psychological landscape for the massacre that was to come.
Famously, George Orwell once wrote:
"Who controls the present controls the past, who controls past controls the future"
We are forgetting the past and allowing ourselves to be decieved again. Educated people like us should be able to to snap out of our willing ignorance. Pre-emptive war isn't a new idea, it's existed for a long time and just because the BBC says that everybody hates us, doesn't mean that everybody is going to attack us. A tense peace is better than an intense war. Our need for resources shouldn't be the cause of the end of the world. Yes, they have weapons, but so do we. And there's only one side being aggressive.
*except Hilary Armstrong