Leading article: A dangerous legacy, both at home and abroad


On the third anniversary of the day US and British forces began to advance on Baghdad, we can see more clearly than ever that the invasion of Iraq has been an unqualified disaster. We were led to believe by the architects of this invasion that Iraq would, by now, be a stable, representative democracy; a "beacon" of liberty to the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East. The reality could not be more different. Iraq has become a bloodbath, with little prospect of release from the furies of sectarian violence.

Yesterday, the former Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, admitted that his country is in a state of civil war; something that has been obvious to all but the most blinkered of international observers for some weeks now. The Sunni insurgency is unrelenting. Horrific car bombings and assassinations occur almost daily. Meanwhile, Shia death squads are stepping up their campaign of kidnapping, torture and executions against Sunnis. Since the desecration of the Samarra shrine last month, mixed Shia and Sunni neighbourhoods are being torn apart in sectarian cleansing. The death toll since the invasion runs into tens of thousands.

Despite two elections and a referendum in Iraq, the writ of the Iraqi government runs little further than Baghdad's Green Zone. Most units of the army and police force are ineffective and undermanned. Those that are halfway competent have been infiltrated by Shia militants. Three years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein there is still no regular electricity or adequate sewage disposal. Water supplies are still unreliable.

As for the occupying forces, they are no longer in a position to affect events on the ground. The US military manoeuvres against insurgents over the weekend were a display of force rather than a serious attempt to take on the insurgents. As a result of indiscriminately heavy-handed tactics and scandals such as Abu Ghraib, the US army has lost any goodwill they might have enjoyed in the immediate wake of the invasion. British forces, the second largest troop contingent in Iraq, are largely confined to barracks in the south, distrusted by the local population after their own abuse scandals. The battle for hearts and minds was lost long ago. Military commanders are now simply treading water until withdrawal.

The invasion has left a poisonous domestic legacy for the leaders responsible for this folly. There is a profound lack of trust towards the governments that took their nations to war. President Bush's domestic approval ratings are at a new low. Meanwhile, Tony Blair is close to being a political spent force in this country as a result of his role in the Iraq débâcle. The outright lies about Saddam's weapons capability peddled in the run-up to the invasion have not been forgotten. And the arrogance and contempt for international law displayed by Britain and America in the rush to war still rankles.

The legacy of Iraq in the wider world has been equally toxic. Anger towards the US and Britain has been stoked across the Muslim world. The war has been a recruiting sergeant for Islamist terror organisations. A new confrontation with Iran is looming over the intention of Iraq's neighbour to develop a nuclear capability. Yet the US's diplomatic leverage in this dispute is sorely diminished. Thanks to Iraq, America is now confirmed in the eyes of the world as an aggressor power.

And who can now say, in all conscience, that even the most basic objective of this invasion has been achieved? We were told that Saddam represented a grave threat to international security that simply could not be ignored. Yet because of this military adventure, the world is now a much less safe place. This will be the verdict of history, God or any other power those responsible for this calamity care to invoke.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam