Iraq War: 20 years later, what do Britons think about the conflict?

Joanna MorrisData Journalist
March 20, 2023, 8:12 PM GMT+0

One in five Britons believe Tony Blair should be tried as a war criminal

It is two decades since Britain and the United States joined forces to go to war with Iraq, a decision then supported by more than half of the British public.

The conflict’s long-lasting legacy is starkly highlighted in a new YouGov poll that shows that at least four in ten British people think the Iraq war left the world a less safe place (41%), increased rather than decreased the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain (54% to 5%) and made the lives of ordinary Iraqis worse (43%) instead of better (8%).

A quarter of Britons think the US and Britain were right to go to war with Iraq

In 2003, YouGov conducted 21 polls between March and December asking people whether the decision to go to war was right or wrong – on average, 54% of Britons thought it was right.

With 20 years of hindsight, the proportion of Britons who now think that the US and Britain were right to take military action against Iraq stands at just 23%, while 47% think it was the wrong thing to do.

Four in ten Britons think Tony Blair deliberately misled the public

At 42% to 25%, British people tend to believe Tony Blair – PM at the time of the Iraq war – deliberately set out to mislead the British public about whether the country possessed so-called chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Analysis of YouGov’s historic polling shows the proportion who think he did mislead Britain has fallen from 52% in January 2010.

Given the passage of time, it is perhaps unsurprising that the proportion of those who don’t know has risen – 33% of Britons now say they don’t know, compared to 16% in 2010.

However, the proportion of the British public who believe Blair should be tried as a war criminal over his involvement in the Iraq war has stayed steady throughout the years, with 21% of Britons now believing he knowingly misled Parliament and the public and should be tried, compared to 23% in 2010.

A similar proportion of Britons – 23% — say Blair was right to warn that Saddam Hussein’s regime was extremely dangerous, even if some of the details were wrong. That’s down from 31% in 2010.

And 15% say he misled Parliament and the public about the scale of the threat from Iraq, but did so unintentionally — while 18% think he knowingly did so, but that no action should be taken against him as a result.

Would Iraq have been better off left under the rule of Saddam Hussein?

A fifth of Britons (19%) say the casualties, deaths and regional instability caused by the invasion of Iraq are so great that the country’s people would have been better off left under the rule of Saddam Hussein.

More, however, believe that despite the horrors of war, casualties, and the difficult years since, Iraqis are still better off today than they were under Hussein – 29% of Britons believe this to be the case.

The proportion of Britons who think the Iraqi people are better off has fallen since the tenth anniversary of the conflict, when 41% of the public said the same.

Levels of uncertainty in this regard have grown considerably over the course of a decade – 32% of Britons now say they don’t know whether or not Iraqis are better or worse off than they were living under Hussein’s rule, compared to 18% in March 2013.

Picture: Getty

See full tables here

Explore more data & articles