THIS coming Monday marks 20 years since Tony Blair and George W Bush began their disastrous intervention in Iraq.

It was meant to be “mission accomplished”. That’s what it said on the giant garish banner when the then-US president flew out to an aircraft carrier to celebrate only six weeks after it began.

The Pentagon had called it “shock and awe”. It was a horrible and dehumanising term for an aerial bombardment that rained some of the world’s most expensive bombs and missiles down on a civilian population that had already been punished by 10 years of brutal sanctions.

A lot of it was broadcast live on 24-hour news and, in some cases, packaged and presented like entertainment.

A whole generation of us will never forget the burning rage we felt as we watched helplessly from our living rooms, knowing that the bombs lighting up our screens were the last thing that far too many Iraqis would ever see or experience.

We will never know the true death toll. But even the most conservative estimates put it in the hundreds of thousands. It is one of the many grave injustices of war that the people who are killed are not even given the respect of having their names or their stories recorded.

Despite all of the carnage, the invasion is often described as a “mistake” or a “blunder”. Even the most senior journalists and politicians will speak of it as if it was a mere error of judgement, like forgetting to set an alarm before bed or hitting the kerb when parking your car.

In reality, it was one of the most immoral and disgraceful decisions ever made by a UK prime minister or US president.

It is easy to forget the scale of the opposition and the huge social movements that it created. More than 80,000 of us marched in Glasgow, with more than one million in London and many more around the world.

I had been a campaigner and activist for many causes before, but this illegal war motivated me to join the Scottish Greens – the first party I joined since moving to Scotland.

The Scottish Greens were (and still are) the only party committed to peace, to dismantling the military-industrial complex, and to working actively for peace.

Those demonstrations didn’t stop the war, but I was determined to use my political activism to be a peacemaker and help to build the kind of society where human lives are prioritised over arms company profits, where war would be redundant.

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War is, after all, the most naked and crude form of capitalism. Very wealthy people send working-class people to commit atrocities and fight for the interests of their corporate friends. That is what happened in Iraq and it is what has happened time and again in so many different killing fields.

The victims don’t matter. If the UK Government truly cared about Iraqi lives then Tony Blair and his Cabinet colleagues would be in prison for war crimes. Neither Bush nor Blair, nor any of the oil men they lined up with, have ever had to experience the horrors they were inflicting from behind powerful desks.

No-one has ever been held accountable for the civilian lives taken before they could even come close to reaching their potential or living their dreams.

And this illegal war was predicated on a lie – despite the US and UK telling us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, none actually existed. Truth was the first casualty of this war. And trust in politics followed soon after.

We talk now of post-truth politics, but the Iraq war destroyed the global order that had settled after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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Because of the lies and spurious stories we were fed, the idea that politicians would tell the truth – or that they would necessarily act with integrity for the common good – was destroyed.

In a moment of establishment hand-wringing, the Chilcot Inquiry eventually confirmed what had been so apparent to those of us who had marched, shouted and cried so many years prior. It was a forensic evisceration of the lies that were told at the time.

It is utterly sickening that those who launched this war are still swanning around the world stage. But they will never be free of the consequences of what they did.

Every time Tony Blair appears on TV he is asked about it. And he looks haunted. Not out of any concern for the lives he took or the pain he spread but because of the impact it has had on his legacy.

He clearly dreams of grander things than a life of glad-handing bloodstained dictators while turning up on our screens every few months like a discredited warmongering blight on our politics.

Bush’s name has become so toxic and discredited that even Republicans want nothing to do with him. There are few sights as tragic as the video of his brother Jeb begging a room full of disinterested onlookers to “please clap” as part of his exceptionally expensive failed presidential campaign.

Yet the militarism that they stood for is still with us.

Even this week, while benefits are being cut for many of the most vulnerable, we have seen a further swelling of military budgets, with the Treasury finding an extra £11 billion for weapons of mass killing.

Every one of the Iraqi people who lost so much deserves justice. One of our best contributions can be finally breaking up the UK and its military structures that have fuelled so much destruction.