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How the Iraq war battered our trust in “experts”



The Iraq war’s damage to public trust in experts has consequences right up to today

Twenty years after the invasion of Iraq, politicians continue to repeat the errors of the past by taking information from security briefings that they want to hear.

Ahead of the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation, US and UK politicians used some of the intelligence gathered by western security agencies to suggest that the local population would predominantly welcome external military powers as liberators. But it quickly became apparent this was a mistake and that the fighting capability of those who would resist had been underestimated. A long and bloody insurgency followed.

Fast forward to 2022 and we saw Russian president Vladimir Putin acting under the apparent belief that his conquest of Ukraine would also be simple, and meet with little resistance from a weak defence force. Western intelligence reports have since highlighted how Putin and his advisers significantly underestimated Ukraine and made poor judgements about their own intelligence information.

The public, however, at least in western countries, appears to have become much more sceptical of politicians armed with intelligence from experts. As well as the thousands of deaths, trillions of dollars of expense and irreversible changes to national and international politics, this arguably remains one of the legacies of the Iraq war.

Intelligent lessons

The conflict taught the public valuable lessons about intelligence. A review by Lord Butler and the Chilcot inquiry that followed the war showed that intelligence is never certain. Intelligence agencies provide “best truths” to politicians, who then take decisions.

The Iraq war made secret intelligence a topic for discussion in homes across the world. A publicly accessible version of the intelligence picture was presented to the public by UK prime minister Tony Blair. This was a groundbreaking decision and one that defined Blair’s career.

The weaknesses in the intelligence dossiers, once exposed, also appeared to undermine public support for the conflict. In contrast, the public continued to strongly support the armed forces and particularly those injured and killed in action.

In parallel a public narrative developed that experts were often wrong, and politicians could not be trusted. The idea that experts are not to be trusted has become ever more repeated in recent years, through the Brexit debates and governmental responses to the pandemic.

However, the failings in the communication and use of intelligence data does not mean security services were to blame for the war.

True, some of the vulnerabilities in western intelligence reporting seemed farcical when exposed to public scrutiny. The information from an informant known as Curveball – an Iraqi expatriate – was used by the US in making the case for war in the UK, despite German and British reservations. Curveball’s information later emerged to be inaccurate.

Terrorist warning

But in other areas it appears intelligence services provided nuanced information and accurate warnings. For example, UK intelligence chiefs warned ministers that the conflict would increase the terrorist threat.

Others within defence intelligence warned that once the first phase of the conflict against regular Iraqi armed forces were complete that a long-running insurgency would follow. Commanders in the British army warned that without direct investment into the Iraqi city of Basra and surroundings that this area would become radicalised.

Some key assumptions around Iraq’s chemical weapons programme were clearly unhelpful. But the agencies were arguably also right to feel bruised that the blame for the war landed with them, when they had no way of changing government policy.

The leaks and publication of intelligence related to Iraq brought with them the era of the armchair expert and the conspiracy theorist. Many academics argued that this openness in intelligence would produce a mature public debate. But the weaknesses in the intelligence undermined the idea that governments are a source of truth.

Deep dive investigations and conspiracies have surrounded the death of biological weapons expert and UK government advisor David Kelly in 2003. Kelly’s untimely death has been the subject of official and unofficial investigations and spurred a cottage industry in speculation.

Kelly died after he was publicly revealed to be a confidential source for BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan’s assertion that part of the government’s intelligence dossier on “weapons of mass destruction” was fabricated. His death was officially ruled a suicide.

This was confirmed by the Hutton inquiry and again by a later inquiry by the attorney general. But public suspicion about Kelly’s death persist with books and a TV drama .

More broadly, Iraq resulted in a loss in public support for British involvement in war, which was seemingly conditional on how people viewed the purpose of the conflict and prospects of victory.

This view will in part be shaped by their trust in the initial intelligence and in whether they believe governments tell the truth. As debates around the pandemic have shown, once trust has gone it is hard to get back.

Intelligence agencies did change the way they operate in response to criticisms over Iraq. Agencies spent more time and resource on ensuring they had more evidence for their claims and were more careful with wording claims. This was a necessary change for the intelligence community, but did not address how politicians use intelligence. Without that change, the world is still vulnerable to misread and misunderstood intelligence assessments.

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Is a long commute a reason to quit?



Workers reconsider roles due to lengthy travel times

A surge in resignations is hitting the job market as employees reevaluate the impact of long commutes on their work-life balance. The trend, intensified by the rise of remote work during the pandemic, sees a growing number of professionals opting to quit rather than endure extended travel times.

A recent survey conducted among commuters revealed that 68% of participants identified their daily journeys as a major source of stress. The findings suggest a paradigm shift in the traditional understanding of commuting as an inherent aspect of employment.

Employers are now grappling with the challenge of retaining talent as dissatisfaction with lengthy commutes becomes a catalyst for resignations. The implications extend beyond individual decisions, impacting productivity and overall workforce dynamics.

The phenomenon underscores the need for businesses to reassess their remote work policies and invest in solutions that alleviate the burden of commuting. As the job market adapts to evolving expectations, companies that fail to address the commute conundrum risk losing valuable contributors.

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Napoleon film fails to impress



Odd accents and unintentional laughter overshadow history

The cinematic portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte has fallen short of expectations, with the movie drawing more attention for its peculiar accents and unintended comedic moments than its intended grandeur. Despite attempts to capture the historical magnificence of the French emperor, the film has left audiences perplexed and, in some instances, amused.

Critics point to the unconventional choice of accents employed by the actors, creating an unintentional distraction that detracts from the seriousness of the historical narrative. Viewers find themselves unintentionally laughing at scenes that were meant to evoke awe, turning what was envisioned as an epic retelling into an unintended comedy.

The film’s directors and producers are now facing scrutiny for their creative choices, with debates emerging on whether historical accuracy should be sacrificed for entertainment value. The unexpected laughter sparked by the film has prompted discussions on the fine line between historical representation and artistic interpretation in the world of cinema.

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Majority back ban on Trump 2024 bid if convicted



More than half of surveyed voters express support for preventing Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 ballot if he is convicted of a crime, according to a recent poll.


The findings highlight the political ramifications of potential legal actions against the former president. The NewsNation and Decision Desk HQ survey, reveals a significant sentiment among voters favouring disqualification in the event of a criminal conviction.

The data indicates that 57% of respondents believe Trump should be barred from running in the next presidential election if found guilty of a crime. This sentiment is notably divided along party lines, with a majority of Democrats supporting disqualification, while Republicans are more split on the matter. The potential impact on Trump’s political future is a subject of intense speculation, with legal proceedings and public opinion closely intertwined.

As legal challenges and investigations continue to surround Trump, the poll underscores the importance of public perception in shaping the trajectory of his political career. The survey, which sampled [number] voters across [regions], serves as a barometer for the prevailing attitudes towards accountability and eligibility for public office. The results suggest that Trump’s legal standing could have far-reaching consequences beyond the courtroom, influencing his political standing in the eyes of the electorate.

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