Some Iraqis have described the Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn’s planned apology on behalf of the party as “too little too late” and have called for renewed British support in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.
Reaction to the mooted apology was largely restrained in Iraq on Friday, the first day of the weekend, with little public discussion on television and radio, or coverage in newspapers.
However, Iraqi people contacted by the Guardian said any such announcement by Corbyn, an opponent of the 2003 invasion, would have next to no effect in the country, which is struggling to hold together as a revitalised Sunni insurgency led by Isis continues to cripple central government control.
Sheikh Aref Mukhaiber, a Sunni from Anbar province, said: “For us, this apology means an international obligation to fix the damage in Iraq. They are responsible for the disaster we are in right now.
“The country is under the control of Isis, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups who are hiding under the umbrella of religion. We want a real solution to the disaster that every Iraqi is living with. We want them to fix what the British machinery and the American policy caused here.
“We don’t want to go for the international courts but we want them to stick to the moral obligation of fixing things. If they hadn’t listened to the Americans, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Before, there was a small group complaining about Saddam and now every [community and sect] complains about the situation.”
Haleem, 41, a businessman from Samara, said: “We have an Iraqi proverb: when someone says I am sorry we ask ‘where can I cash your apology?’ Instead of an apology he should do concrete things to address the misery of the Iraqis, send us experts to help Iraq fix the electricity, rebuild the country or at least help the people of Basra drink clean water.”
Britain played a prominent role in the early weeks of the invasion and was actively involved in fighting around Amarah and Basra in southern Iraq for several years afterwards. By 2006, it had largely retreated to Basra airport while maintaining outposts in the southern city. British forces left the country in April 2009, leaving only a small force of naval trainers in the south.
Tony Blair’s enthusiastic contribution to the war has long been lambasted in the Iraqi capital, with many seeing the former prime minister as uncritically beholden to the worldview of George W Bush, who framed the invasion as part of a global war on terror after the 9/11 attacks.
“It wasn’t a war on terror then,” said Ahmed Mansour, a resident of the Baghdad suburb of Hay al-Jihad. “But it sure is now. This is the best self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Ashour Tarboushi, a local resident from Haditha in western Iraq, said: “The apology is too late for the damage that it caused. The British made two big mistakes – joining the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then leaving without fixing the damage they caused.
“Now, I’m in Haditha fighting Isis and have lost many of my family because of them. The British are the reason we have Isis in Iraq and spreading terror. They left Iraq to the thieves and the gates were wide open to all of the terrorist groups to establish bases here. For me, this apology means nothing. I want them to fix the problem they have caused.”
A third resident, Rasool al-Lami, echoed the sentiment. “I don’t care about any apology,” he said. “What can I do with it after all of the people we lost here in Iraq? We are living in a mess, among thieves.
“Everyone is looting the country and fleeing. Nothing is left – no people, no money and nothing to be happy with. I don’t want an apology. The British will apologise and repeat the same mistake again and it’s our loss. It’s a shame they invaded Iraq. We had a simple life but now we aren’t living anymore.”
Abdulaha al-Sa’idi, a teacher and Taxi driver, said: “Look at the sectarian society we have today. The roots of all of this lie in that war – it’s like building a house on wrong foundations or without foundations. Not only the war was a lie but what followed of state buildings, the constitution, the successive governments – all were based on lies. He can say sorry and feel good but we will be left with this mess.”
Mohamad Abbas, 37, a bookseller from the outskirts of Karbala, said: “The apology won’t change anything. What we have today is a direct result to the war and what the British and the Americans did, the civil war, the killings, all what happened to us was a direct result of these lies. So there is a moral responsibility that an apology can’t undo. They toppled a state and didn’t build another.”
Additional reporting by Mais al-Baya’a