Lies have been used to take men to fight forever and for them to work the lies have to be big—so big that people feel they can’t be untrue. WMD felt like that; it felt like a Big Lie. Big biological and chemical weapons developed in a country that had been crippled by sanctions for years, big dirty bombs that could reach us in forty-five minutes? Wow, it sounded awesome. But the more they said it, the more it chipped away at your disbelief. WMD couldn’t be another Big Lie, could it? If it was, there must have been another reason behind the lie. What that reason is, I’ll never know. I was just a soldier.
When I joined the British Army we were told we’re a force for good. For a Pakistani immigrant overwhelmed by Western freedoms, I believed it. I still believe in the boys and girls who wear that uniform, but I think Iraq tainted it. The Iraq War ate away at our reputation. We can all write nice things about it in the history books, but the truth was it became a bloody mess.
Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade says of soldiers:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die….
That little word “why” is an important one. There has to be a why—even for lowly soldiers.
The Iraq War was one of the most controversial the world has ever seen due to the initial justifications and the subsequent lack of belief. I can’t bring myself to believe Tony Blair was only a madman hell-bent on going to war with the Iraqis. If he sent thousands of soldiers to war for no solid reason, he belongs in an institution—either medical or one with bars. His reasoning was problematic. I was a young willing soldier and have no regrets. The Iraq War changed me for the better in many ways, but did we have to go? I’m still not sure.
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