The Iraq war's legacy, 10 years on

  • 21 March 2013
  • From the section Home
Students remember Iraq 10 years on

Ten years since US troops went into Baghdad at the start of the allied invasion of Iraq, School Reporters at Ashford School in Kent have been discovering how the lives of people they know have been affected.

The students said they knew nothing about the issues around the conflict when they started their report - and were surprised that there were so many people connected with their school who could tell them so much about what happened.

ROSIE BALL - Head of psychology, Ashford School

Rosie Ball was one of hundreds of thousands of people who marched against sending troops to Iraq in early 2003.

She said: "It was a really inspiring day. I look back on it with great pride that I took part.

"At the time we were in the minority, but later on we felt very vindicated that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction - after we'd been told that there were.

"When we went to London there were [people of] all kinds of ages and different backgrounds, talking with one voice. There were hundreds of thousands of people there."

Ms Ball said she was unhappy with the way the politicians dealt with events.

"Tony Blair, the prime minister, was talking in parliament about how weapons of mass destruction had been found and there was hard evidence.

"I kept thinking where is the evidence? Show us the evidence!

Behind the story: Iraq 10 years on

"I was disappointed by any politician who voted in favour of the Iraq war. I'm very proud in general to be English [and] British but on that day I didn't feel it."

But she said she felt sorry for the troops who were sent there. "It was a terrible place to fight in, you didn't know who the enemy was. I felt very sorry for anyone who was injured. But I feel they were there under false pretences and for reasons I don't agree with.

"And I was absolutely devastated at the number of innocent civilians who were killed.

"Saddam Hussein had committed a lot of human rights abuses but I still don't think England was justified in going to war against him with violence.

"I felt very sad on the day he was killed because I believe no one should be put to death.

"The war was a worse than useless war. I think it's made the world a more dangerous place to live in and intensified anti-Western feelings."

COLIN WILLOWS - Soldier who served in Iraq

Colin Willows served as a transport warrant officer and a support troop commander supporting the Royal Engineers. He now looks after the school minibus service.

Image caption 179 UK personnel died in the Iraq war

"I was part of the same group as Johnson Beharry who won the Victoria Cross. We were supplying defensive positions, making sure the Royal Engineers were safe all the time to carry out their patrols."

He says he did have mixed feelings when he heard he was going to Iraq.

"Like every soldier, I had that 'tumble-drier effect', what's it going to be like?

"At the time I had been in the military for 20 years, I'd joined in 1983. I'd been in Bosnia, Kosovo a couple of times, so I was aware of what tight situations were like.

"I was apprehensive. But as a support troop commander it was more about looking after my younger soldiers, and [it is] good leadership not to show any signs of weakness that will reflect on your troops."

He also said he had support from back home.

"My wife and my children, who weren't quite teenagers, were used to Dad going away for several months at a time. My wife was very supportive.

"There's a good network behind the military to support families."

Mr Willows said, like most soldiers, he did not get involved in the politics of the conflict.

"My view is that as a soldier and warrant officer, you're fighting for Queen and country - I wasn't interested in politicians really.

"We were there to do a job on behalf of the British people. The judgement made by the government to go to Iraq, I didn't get that bogged down in. It was all about what I had to do."

But he added: "We were doing tangibly good things. We brought pipes from Kuwait to Basra. We provided sanitation to Iraqi people. The British Army, the Royal Engineers, were putting in sanitation for people.

Image caption Thousands of people took part in a protest march against the Iraq war

"That was a tangible good thing we were doing."

Mr Willows said: "It was a bit exciting to go there if I'm honest - a band of brothers. But now I'm 48, out of the army for 14 months now, and I've taken redundancy.

"When I look at things like Iraq, we all know what the real reasons were behind it. I'm a little bit disappointed and hence why I came out. There were some good men that were lost out there and injured for life and really, should we have gone? That's an open debate.

"But I've got no regrets about me personally going to that war or the actions I took - or my 28 years in the military. There were a lot of good things."

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