The Sketch: It's OK, Blair didn't know he was telling lies

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair didn't lie to us over Iraq. The Sketch says the thing that others daren't think. The Prime Minister told us the truth, you gasp? Steady, I didn't say that. There are many ways of not lying just as there are many ways of not telling the truth. The defence that people have previously suggested is "he believed it at the time" (less than satisfactory as it translates into a legal verdict of "guilty but insane"). But now another more fundamental rationale has become apparent.

Tony Blair didn't lie to us over Iraq. The Sketch says the thing that others daren't think. The Prime Minister told us the truth, you gasp? Steady, I didn't say that. There are many ways of not lying just as there are many ways of not telling the truth. The defence that people have previously suggested is "he believed it at the time" (less than satisfactory as it translates into a legal verdict of "guilty but insane"). But now another more fundamental rationale has become apparent.

We had a statement on Iraq yesterday, presenting the findings of the Iraq Survey Group. This report stated that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, no systems for weapons of mass destruction and neither plans nor strategies to produce a system that might produce weapons of mass destruction.

However, in the Foreign Secretary's ringing phrase: "The intelligence was wrong but our actions were right."

He told us that although there was no documentation to prove the point, Saddam certainly intended to produce a strategy for a plan for a system for WMD, and that, if nothing else, demanded the invasion of Iraq, regime change, 15,000 Iraqi dead (two-thirds of whom are civilians killed by allied bombing, as Robin Cook told us) and massive regional disruption.

The less the evidence, Mr Straw's argument suggested, the greater the threat and thus the more atrocious the force the Allies could use.

I have to tell Mr Straw that I have a strategy for a plan for a weapons system. And if he plans to use this argumentation to assemble an international coalition and use some half-pie UN resolution to invade my house in Kingston Road he will be crushed like a cockroach! We have mustard! We have gas! We have mains electricity too!

Gary Streeter for the Tories pointed out that there was a case for going to war against Saddam but it wasn't the case the Prime Minister presented to us. The weaponry wasn't "beyond doubt", the threat wasn't "serious and current", nor was evidence for active weapons "detailed and grave". Professional caveats and cautions had been stripped away, Mr Streeter went on, and the intelligence described as solid and comprehensive was later revealed to have been "sporadic, patchy and limited".

But, I say, Mr Blair has taken great care not to lie to us. He didn't tell the truth but he didn't lie. How? He arranged matters in such a way that he would never hear anything that contradicted the case for war. He is a lawyer, remember, but more than that, a barrister. Mr Blair used his ministers, civil servants, special advisers as barristers use solicitors, to give him the brief, to tell him the things he needed to justify war.

That's why he didn't know that the 45-minute weapons were pop-guns and not ballistic missiles. He didn't ask. He didn't want to know. His colleagues knew he didn't want to know. They all collaborated in the Prime Minister's vast, willed ignorance.

I hope you are reassured.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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