Please listen to the totality of Tony's excuses

To work out if Blair has lied we'll need a Chinese priest who has spent a lifetime studying Kung Fu
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The Independent Online

This is an unexpected twist, for Blair to get philosophical on us, by introducing concepts such as "you can only judge whether I've told the truth by viewing the totality". The Hutton inquiry can make any accusation it likes and Blair will say "ah, but what IS truth? Do not all propositions, when viewed from infinite points in the cosmos, find their own truth, in the totality?" To work out whether Blair has lied or not, we'll need one of these old priests from China who've spent their lives studying Kung Fu. Then he could interview Blair on Newsnight with questions such as "But as the devious man travels across many deserts, he will tell companions the names of those he wishes to be struck down."

Or does Blair mean we should add up the number of things he lied about and the number of things he didn't lie about, then if, say, 54 of the things he said were true and only 31 were lies, viewed in the totality he's in the clear.

Maybe this was the tactic Harold Shipman was preparing for his appeal. He was going to point out that if you add up all the patients he cured over the years without injecting them with poison, then viewed in the totality he was a bloody marvel. Then his solicitor suggested this probably wouldn't work, and look what happened.

Some people might be surprised that Blair has chosen to be judged not just on the question of who named David Kelly but on the "totality". Because, to recap, Blair stated on countless occasions that according to his intelligence, Saddam could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. Now he admits his intelligence never said that. But that doesn't count as a lie because Saddam could launch his normal battlefield weapons in 45 minutes. As excuses go, this is of a similar quality to the nine-year-old who yells "No I didn't say, 'I promise to tidy my room', I said, 'I promise to tidy my broom'. And I haven't got a broom so it must be tidy, so I didn't lie so there."

One of the other major pieces of evidence Blair presented was the report Saddam had bought uranium from Niger. This dossier was so flawed that even the CIA told the White House not to use it. When you're telling lies that even the CIA, with its vast army devoted to creating stories, are telling you to leave alone, you're not just lying, you're a lying legend. You're like someone who goes drinking with George Best and carries on when George says "I'm going home, I can't keep up with you, mate."

And we've now been looking for these weapons, the existence of which was the whole reason for the war, for 16 months, including nine months since the fall of Saddam. We can get Iraqis to betray the whereabouts of their ex-leader, but we can't get any of them to tell us where the weapons are.

How long can you look for something before it becomes a "fact" that it isn't there? I wonder about this when I recall meeting the journalist Anne Mcelvoy, a fervent supporter of the war, a few months ago. I asked where she thought these weapons might be, so she wagged her finger in my face, the way you might try to warn a kitten not to scratch the settee and shouted: "They'll find them, don't you worry," over and over again.

She was so confident I wondered whether she had them at home. But as they haven't turned up, maybe it's people with that sort of enthusiasm needed to find them. They could all go out there like gold prospectors, muttering, "There's anthrax in them there hills."

Perhaps these weapons will become a traditional legend, like the Loch Ness monster. Once every couple of years, a tourist will take a grainy photo of something that could be a nuclear processing plant but turns out to be a line of rocks.

Any rational approach would have to conclude they don't exist. To suspect they were there wasn't a lie, just a misjudgement. But to state categorically with evidence you've selected and doctored that they must be there is a lie. And Blair didn't just say they were there somewhere, he backed Colin Powell's claim that we knew exactly where 29 of these weapons-producing facilities were. Only one of these was found, containing 16 missiles that were empty.

It could be argued that none of this matters, because the main thing is to win the war on terror. And what a huge success that's been. Two countries have been invaded to great jubilation, and there's now more talk of terror than ever before. It's as if everyone had got home after VE day and discovered the Nazis were still in power and still controlled Poland. The "war on terror" is proving to be like a useless plumber. After each invasion, Bush and Blair stand back proudly and boast, "There you are, that should sort it out", but each time they make the problem even worse than before. So to cover up, they have to tell another piles of lies, adding to the totality on which Tony Blair would like to judged.