Monday marked the ninth anniversary of the Iraq war. On 19 March 2003, the United States and United Kingdom led an invasion into Iraq claiming that the Iraqi government, headed by Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the national security of their regions.
Nine years later and we all know now there were never any weapons of mass destruction and the invasion was never intended to help the Iraqi people.
While it is difficult to gather precise figures, it is estimated that the invasion has caused the deaths of over one million Iraqis, majority being mothers and children, and 179 British military personnel. There are also millions of other Iraqis who have suffered in some way because of the invasion. Whitehall figures released in June 2010 put the cost of British funding of the Iraq conflict at £9.24bn ($14.32bn), the vast majority of which was for the military but which also included £557m ($861m) in aid.
It is also estimated that more than half of the British population now believe that the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is unwinnable and that invading both countries have done nothing but destroyed Iraq and increased the threat of extremism to Britain.
But who should we point the fingers to be responsible for this? The US government? Tony Blair? Or George W. Bush?
From the soldiers who have agreed to serve in Iraq to the millions of us who sat at home and watched apache helicopters drop bombs onto civilian homes in the middle of the night in Baghdad, we are all to blame for the deaths and destruction caused by this invasion. Everyone is to blame.
Because the truth is, we did nothing. We sat back and let this happen under our names. We allowed the bombs to drop in Iraq, we allowed that Iraqi child to be raised as an orphan, that mother to watch her family murdered, that father to come home and find his family killed by bomb attacks. We let this happen by simply doing nothing.
How many of us wrote to our MPs and demand that they voted against such an invasion? How many of us signed petitions? How many of us attended an anti-war protest? Two million people gathered in London to demand Tony Blair to revoke his decision to enter Iraq. Only 3% of Britons decided to take a stand. The rest of us may have been against the invasion, but sitting at home and watching it unfold on live television makes us agree with it. Ignorance is a form of acceptance in a legal perspective.
What we must realise is that our MPS, prime ministers and those in government work for us. We do not work for them. They can only make decisions with our consent. Can you imagine if 50% of us had occupied Trafalgar Square until the Blair government refused to go to war? Or even if 50% of us had bombarded our MPs office until they demanded that invading Iraq was not to be carried out under Britain's name? Those in government at that time would have certainly thought twice before casting their vote in favour of attacking Iraq.
Nine years on and how many of us re-elected those same politicians who voted for this invasion? Those same politicians whose lack of reliability has caused the death of millions of Iraqi civilians, 179 British personnel and left a country war-torn and savaged for years to come. How many of us have actually pushed for Tony Blair to be indicted for war crimes?
We have destroyed the Iraqi people. We let our government destroy a country that was not a threat to us. The Iraqi people are worse off than before the invasion. Since the invasion, over one million Iraqis have been thrown out of their homes and are now living as refugees. Violence and extremism are prevalent throughout Iraq. A report published by the U.N. Security Council, showed that majority of Iraqi people lack access to basic services such as water, sanitation, health care and education remains limited especially for children.
Traditional systems of physical, social and legal protection have also been severely compromised by the conflict and, as a result, children have become more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Among the threats to children are cluster bomblets and landmines that the U.S. and other combatants have deployed in the country.
We are all partly responsible for this.
I'm in no way excluding myself. I cannot say that I did enough. I don't even remember attending a protest. I sat at home and probably ranted to my friends and family about how I did not agree with war.
We can all learn from this mistake. We can start taking an active role in ensuring that those who made the decision to enter Iraq face the consequences of their action. We can lobby, sign petitions, join anti-war groups and most importantly never let it happen again under our names.
President Obama claimed that America and its allies can now leave Iraq with its head held high. But this is far from the case. How can you leave a country where you created violence and poverty with your head held high?
All I can do now is tell the Iraqi people how sorry I am. Sorry, I wasn't there to help prevent such a catastrophe and make a promise to be active to never allow something like this to happen again under my name.