The Iraq War – was it worth it?


This is a podcast of the debate held at Goldsmiths, University of London to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War.  The debate was organised by the Huffington Post.

The war was highly controversial from the start, with over a million people in the UK marching to try to stay the government’s hand.  And it continues to polarise opinion as this debate demonstrates.

Speakers who felt the war had been worth it were:

The panel who spoke against the war were

Brief summary

Bernard Jenkin was clear that the war had led to the freedom of the Iraqi people, and his co-panellist, Ali Latif from the Iraqi Prospect Organisation  agreed, adding that ‘the chaos after the war cannot be blamed only on the war, Iraqis were coming from a dark place, a place of brutality and violence, the idea that there could be a peaceful transition to democracy is absurd”.  David Aaronovitch, also supporting the war, and a long time campaigner against Saddam said Iraqi leader was  “at the Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin end of the scale of dictators” and had to be deposed.  Many of the Iraqis in the audience – some of whom talked of how they go back and forth to Iraq frequently now – agreed, as did academic Shiraz Maher.

But for former Cabinet Minister Clare Short (who resigned in protest shortly after the invasion) said the Iraq war “wasn’t worth it for the Iraqis, nor for the Americans and nor for the British……  We owe it to learn the lessons.  We could be a much more useful player in the world.  We must make our country stand up for justice and peace and a fair chance for everyone. If we had done that then, we probably could have constrained [George] Bush”.

Owen Jones said the consequences of the war were worse than we could ever have envisaged “when we marched to ‘Stop the War’ on that cold February day in 2003” .  Also opposed was Haifa Zangana, Author of Dreaming of Baghdad  who had been imprisoned by Saddam, and claimed that little has changed in Iraq since the war, that over the last 10 years the current regime has violated with impunity the human rights of its citizens, especially women and children.   Mehdi Hassan, political editor of the Huffington Post rounded off the debate with a passionate denunciation of the war claiming that “It led to millions of young men from the Middle East to the Midlands being radicalised, fanaticalised.”

Note: On the night, the Q&A session was held in the middle of the debate but we have moved it to the end in this podcast.