Mark Steel: We don't need an inquiry to tell us Blair lied

And ministers still tell us to concentrate on the 'good news' in Iraq
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The Independent Online

The Government is right to say we don't need an inquiry into whether they misled the nation when they took us to war in Iraq. As they argue, this would be a waste of public money. Because it's obvious without an inquiry they were a bunch of conniving, cheating, deceitful, filthy liars.

And the project is so magnificently disastrous that even the head of the British Army says they should leave. So if there was a military coup in this country, it would mean the Government had gone to the left. The scale of disarray this represents is astonishing. The Army loves wars. Traditionally, if there isn't a war, the Army will hassle the Government to give it one, grumbling "Come on, what about Kenya, we haven't been there for a while." But even they think this one's barking mad. It's like being out with Pete Doherty and being so wild he says, "I'm going home mate, you're just being crazy now."

The whole thing was sold on one issue - Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Every day for six months we were told this was the reason for war. A typical Blair statement went ,"I have absolutely no doubt that the weapons of mass destruction will be found - no doubt at all."

But he must have had doubt. Because all the intelligence and all the weapons inspectors were saying they had doubt. Whereas the Government's dossier was a collection of every spurious sliver of prose that backed their case. When Blair was on Blue Peter, his introduction should have been, "Here's Tony, and with just an old student thesis and some rubbish from the internet he's going to make a case for setting fire to the Middle East."

He declared these weapons could be launched in 45 minutes, when he knew the intelligence meant Saddam could deploy his normal army in this time. So Blair knew he was lying, just as he knew he was lying when he said the army chief's statement agreed with his own views, when they clearly said the opposite.

This one was so ridiculous, you wonder whether Blair has become one of these compulsive liars, the way some 10-year-old boys are. Soon Blair's press conferences will begin, "Thank you for coming. Here, guess what, my Dad invented marmalade. I live in an igloo. I've snogged Gwen Stefani. You see that mark on my arm, that's where I was shot by Puff Daddy."

And the Government still tells us to concentrate on the "good news" in Iraq. So there may be a plausible estimate of 650,000 deaths, reports stating there's more torture now than under Saddam, and the transformation of a region with no al-Qa'ida to a vast training ground for them, but never mind, there's a new bus shelter on the ring road in Tikrit. If Blair had been in charge 150 years ago, he could have reassured us by saying, "Let's look at the positive things to come out of the Charge of the Light Brigade."

Yesterday a New Labour MP was on the Today programme, on Radio 4, answering the call for an inquiry into this débâcle. The issue shouldn't be raised, she said, because "you are playing into the hands of the insurgents." Is that the level of argument they're reduced to?

And in any case, do the insurgents listen to Radio 4 all day? Maybe that's the latest plan to find out where they are. We're hoping they write in to Gardeners' Question Time. Then one week the presenter will say "We've got a letter here from a Mr Bin Laden who says he couldn't get his wisteria to bloom this summer, and wonders whether this was down to the lack of light as he lives underground in a cave in Pakistan. Well, what do the panel think?"

The one other excuse is that most people believed Saddam had these weapons. In other words, "Lots of people believed the lies we made up so we can't be blamed for believing them as well."

It's all been so catastrophic that anything else Blair does seems almost irrelevant. If someone says the problem with New Labour is their attitude to pension reform or regional development, it seems like complaining that the problem with Ian Huntley is he was a really useless caretaker.

So who needs an inquiry? The only inquiry should be into why so many Labour MPs were so idiotic and spineless as to fall for it. And while it would be unfair to prejudice the outcome of such an inquiry, the result should be that not only do they all have to resign, but they then have to get their jobs back and resign again - and again - every day for the rest of their lives - naked - on live television, in a bucket of ice, broadcast in conjunction with al-Jazeera, with children representing every nation of the world looking on and laughing and spraying them with weedkiller and the greasy stuff at the top of a tin of tuna and - ah, I've run out of room.

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