LONDON — As a child, Lois Greenough spent nights in air-raid shelters, a raincoat
thrown over her pajamas, during the Battle of Britain in World War II. At 68,
she has seen enough of wartime aggression to know that she does not want to be
on the side of the aggressor.
"If Tony Blair wants to go to war, he should go himself, and not send any
troops in," said Ms. Greenough, riding the subway the other morning, on the prospect
of an American-led invasion of Iraq. "Really, we shouldn't go to war first."
Like many Britons, Ms. Greenough by turns feels puzzled, outraged and fearful
of the consequences of Britain's growing importance in President Bush's anti-Iraq
plans. She feels that events have spun quickly out of control, that Mr. Blair
has overstepped his mandate and that Britain is in danger of joining a conflict
its people do not support.
British newspapers have been full of antiwar sentiment. Public opinion polls
indicate that the most Britons strongly oppose an invasion of Iraq, at least in
the absence of a United Nations mandate or an effort to send weapons inspectors
Meanwhile, editorial writers are inveighing against the prime minister both
for his failure, so far, to recall Parliament for a full-scale debate on Iraq
and for what many see as inappropriate eagerness in his solicitude toward Mr.
At the very least, many of the papers say, Mr. Blair should allow Parliament
a chance to debate the issue and should make good on his promise to publish a
document outlining the case against President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
"Clearly, Mr. Blair must publish his famous dossier — and quickly — on the
threat posed by Saddam," The Daily Mail wrote on Friday. "The public will never
be persuaded of the need for action unless it is presented with evidence that
simply can't be ignored. And even then, the mood will be one of deep foreboding."
A number of influential clergymen have spoken publicly against getting involved
in a war. Four Roman Catholic bishops signed an antiwar petition that was submitted
to the prime minister last month. Writing in The Times of London, the Archbishop
of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, said that "head-on confrontation
in a time of crisis may be unavoidable, but it is liable to create as many problems
as it solves."
There is a growing public sentiment that however evil the Iraqi leader may
be, they just cannot see the case for an invasion. "In all the conversations I've
had on this subject, I'm not sure anyone's supporting the possibility of war,"
Rodney Short, 56, an international finance lawyer, said.
Mr. Short, said that he was not impressed by Mr. Blair's closeness to Mr.
Bush, an alliance that has catapulted Mr. Blair into the position, as The Daily
Telegraph puts it, of "first ally."
Mr. Short put it another way. "I think he's a lackey to Bush, and I don't
like it," he said.
Philip Stephens, writing in The Financial Times, said Mr. Blair is "more attuned
than most postwar British leaders to his country's diminished status" and thus
more concerned with "stroking the trans-Atlantic relationship" to secure Britain's
position as a pivotal power.
Mr. Blair's willingness to put himself forward as a friend to America, particularly
in light of the anti-Bush feelings in much of the rest of Europe, has brought
him much public criticism.
Pat Pearcy, 52, a teacher, said she felt that Mr. Blair had let his desire
to be an international statesman go to his head.
"I think he's a controlling man with a big ego who values his position on
the world stage," Ms. Pearcy said. "He's trying to secure his place in history,
but he doesn't consult us about anything."
Ms. Pearcy said she has affection for the United States and believes it was
right for Britain to, as she put it, "take on board American anxiety" following
the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. "But this goes
over the boundary," she said, adding that in her opinion President Bush "isn't
the most intellectual president" the United States has ever had.
Betty Jackson, 74, said the British-American alliance seemed to be mostly
one-sided. "Bush never comes over here — Tony Blair keeps going over there," she
said. "He's just falling all over himself. The Americans are making all the decisions,
and we're just following."
Maggie Lasz, 48, said she was worried about the apparent absence of debate
or consultation in both the United States and Britain.
"I think there's generally a feeling that we should be acting against terrorism,"
said Ms. Lasz, a freelance journalist who lives in Spain and was home visiting
London recently. "But in general, the European view is that any decision about
bombing Iraq should be agreed on as a group. There should be more evidence, and
there should be a consensus."
She said Mr. Blair should take care to realize that, despite his large majority
in Parliament, he is in danger of alienating many of his supporters.
"You can't treat the people like idiots," she said. "The public have to be
informed, especially about acts of violence. Otherwise what are you? You're just
espousing the same terrorist principles as they are."
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company