I try and stay away from global politics in this blog, as it’s not what it’s about, except when the fallout from geopolitics blows up in our faces, as happened last summer. But with the third anniversary of the invasion I am reminded of the one time I ever overheard a worthwhile and interesting conversation on a train. (Restaurants, now, that’s another matter…). So bear with me if you will for a story that is barely on-topic and less timely than a Silverlink train.
Three years ago, just days before the invasion, a group of people got on the train one evening at Gunnersbury who obviously all worked at the same office. One of them was Iraqi, the rest English, and the Brits were busy quizzing their colleague about what he thought about the coming war. I don’t remember the exact words, but the gist was this: While he would be happy to see the back of Saddam Hussein, the outcome for Iraq would be a disaster. The minute the dictator was toppled, the country would disintegrate into violent civil war. Sunni against Shia, Muslim against Christian, Kurd against Arab, cousin against cousin. ‘Iraq needs a strong man,’ he said. ‘We all hate each other.’ His colleagues protested that the Coalition troops would bring democracy but he shook his head. Iraq wasn’t ready for that. The country would fall apart. The planned invasion would open the gates of Hell.
His colleagues didn’t believe him. At the time, I didn’t believe him (with my enormous grasp of Middle-Eastern politics and all). But every time I turn on the radio these days, his words come back to me. What a shame he worked selling insurance in a West London industrial estate instead of at Number 10. But maybe having someone who knew what was going on would just have muddied the waters …
Normal service resumes tomorrow.