There were important differences in the origins and justification of these two wars. In 1991 Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and in the new atmosphere of detente the Soviet Union did not block a vote in the UN Security Council. So the western war had UN backing, and after defeating Saddam Hussein’s army, the victorious forces limited themselves to liberating Kuwait. Views of the justification for the war in leftist and liberal circles varied, although there was quite significant opposition.
In 2003 the US-led invasion of Iraq was justified by the dictatorial and dangerous nature of the regime and, in Britain in particular, was presented as necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein potentially using his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (although their presence was not proven at the time of going to war, and subsequent attempts by weapons inspectors to find them indicated the stockpiles did not exist). British troops participated in the invasion and subsequent occupation, along with other more symbolic contingents from the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ forged by the US Administration. Many governments opposed the invasion, it was not supported by the UN , and there were very large demonstrations reflecting unusually widespread opposition in Britain, Europe and elsewhere. There was also growing resistance inside the US. Individual soldiers conscientiously refused to fight in both Iraq wars, and bereaved families became prominent in protest in both the US and Britain. Although the movement against the war in 2003 and against the continuing occupation of Iraq was the more politically significant, so far the literature is fairly limited.