8.5.2        British Moral Perspectives on Iraq

(This is an archived extract from the book Patterns of Power: Edition 2)

Saddam Hussein's abuses of human rights in Iraq, including his persecution of the Marsh Arabs for example,[1] had been widely reported by the British media – so there would have been some popular support for overthrowing his regime.  Tony Blair emphasised the “brutality of the repression” in the Parliamentary debate to authorise the invasion of Iraq 18 March 2003.[2]

The people’s support, however, did not extend to agreeing that it was right to invade Iraq.  An opinion poll taken just before the invasion showed that 63% opposed it,[3] partly due to lack of explicit UN approval, and there were major demonstrations.[4]

It could therefore be said that the British population, by demonstrating, attempted to exert ‘people-power’ on its politicians (  The politicians didn’t listen though.

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014

[1] On 3 March 2003 the BBC published a report entitled Iraq's 'devastated' Marsh Arabs, which was available in April 2014 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2807821.stm.

[2] The official Hansard Parliamentary record reported Blair's emotive description of Saddam Hussein's brutality:

“The brutality of the repression—the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty—is well documented. Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, their tongue was cut out, and they were mutilated and left to bleed to death as a warning to others.”

This record was available in April 2014 at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-09.htm.

[3] A MORI poll published on 23 March 2003 gave the figures quoted:

“A quarter of the public (26%) said they would support British troops being used without proof that Iraq is hiding weapons or a new Security Council resolution, while 63% would oppose.”

The report examined people's opinions towards different combinations of circumstances, showing that 74% would support an invasion if there were proof of WMD and the UN approved the action – but 17% of the population would be against it even in those circumstances.

The report was available in April 2014 at http://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/ca/287/Iraq-The-Last-PreWar-Polls.aspx.

[4] As previously noted (, the BBC published a report on 23 February 2003, entitled ‘Million’ march against Iraq war.  This report was available in April 2014 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/2765041.stm