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It's Not Our Fight Say British Public
3 September 2002
A massive 71 per cent of Britons are against the nation joining a war on Iraq without UN approval, a Mirror poll reveals today.
The figure is almost 20 per cent higher than a week ago - when 52 per cent said Britain should NOT support US policy on Iraq - showing how swiftly the public is turning against involvement.
More than half the people in this country also believe President Bush to be the third biggest threat to world peace after Osama bin Laden and Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein.
The poll findings will make unpleasant reading for Tony Blair as he prepares to defy public hostility and argue for Britain joining a US attack on Iraq.
Last night, amid growing calls for the Premier to end his talk of war, senior Labour MP and Father of the House Tam Dalyell declared: "This is a spectacular comment on the British people's feelings.
"The more they think and learn about the prospect of war with Iraq, the less they like it. Blair is being damaged. If you ask me if I think his own position is in jeopardy, I'd say yes."
The survey was carried out for the Daily Mirror and GMTV by ICM Research to mark the forthcoming anniversary of the murderous September 11 skyjack attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Only 12 per cent thought an invasion of Iraq was justified under any circumstances. Forty one per cent thought it would be acceptable with UN agreement while 35 per cent said it could not be justified at all.
Worryingly for Mr Blair almost two out of five people believe he is Mr Bush's poodle, while 26 per cent have a lower opinion of him since September 11.
As the Premier's stock falls, there are increasingly gloomy fears for the future.
Thirty one per cent believe another major terrorist attack is "very likely" and seven per cent say an attack is "inevitable".
More than 60 per cent believe war is more likely since September 11, almost one in 10 say there will be nuclear war in the next five years and fewer than half think nuclear weapons will never be used.
The pessimistic outlook is partly caused by what is seen as a failed war on terror.
Only 16 per cent say it has been a success while 31 per cent say it has been a failure or a big failure.
Britons were split on whether the deaths of innocent civilians in Afghanistan were justified in the drive to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
There is a clear difference in the opinions of the sexes in the aftermath of September 11.
Women feel less safe since then (36 per cent compared to 26 per cent of men), are more nervous about traveling by air (40 to 24 per cent) and feel closer to their families (18 to 14 per cent).
But the poll shows the biggest impact of September 11 is not how we live but what we think about our leaders.
In the first weeks after the outrage there was enormous support for Mr Bush and Mr Blair, and their determination to wage war on terrorism.
A year later, more and more people are critical of what has been done. They are deeply unhappy about the chance of being plunged into conflict, possibly without UN backing, with Iraq.
Mr Blair will fly back to Britain from the Earth Summit in Africa tomorrow to insist action must be taken against Saddam. He is expected to use his monthly press briefing to send a strong message of support to Mr Bush. But he will again refuse to provide any evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, or to publish a dossier outlining Iraqi treachery.
Appearing to confirm suspicions that the West is struggling to provide conclusive proof against Saddam, a senior No 10 source said: "We will not publish the dossier until we are ready.
"The Premier will tackle head-on the reasons why doing nothing to stop Saddam Hussein is not an option. He believes there is a strong case for dealing with the issue of weapons of mass destruction."
Anti-war Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "I'm not surprised by the Mirror poll. Britain has a unique opportunity to avert this looming war. Tony should say 'no' now."
Labour MP Diane Abbott, one of about 100 Labour MPs who have backed a Commons motion against war on Iraq, said: "This shows why Tony Blair should not be so determined to play Robin to George Bush's Batman."
Lib Dem spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "I'm not surprised by these results. It's what people are saying and writing to me.
"The British public have seen the debate raging between the hawks and the realists in the US - and have obviously opted for realism."
Iraq said yesterday the US was spreading lies about weapons of mass destruction - "without providing any evidence which can be verified" - to soften up world opinion for a strike.
David Seymour And Oonagh Blackman