THE GREAT Deciever; Exactly Two Years Ago, Mr Blair Took Us to War on a Lie. the More We Learn about It the More We Realise We Can Never Again Trust the Honesty or Judgment of This Dangerously Plausible Conman . . .Saturady Essay

Daily Mail (London), March 12, 2005 | Go to article overview

THE GREAT Deciever; Exactly Two Years Ago, Mr Blair Took Us to War on a Lie. the More We Learn about It the More We Realise We Can Never Again Trust the Honesty or Judgment of This Dangerously Plausible Conman . . .Saturady Essay


Byline: CORRELLI BARNETT

NEXT week will mark the second anniversary of the most momentous House of Commons debate of modern times, when Tony Blair won a vote by 412 to 149 in support of his decision to aid and abet George W. Bush in attacking Iraq.

Two days later, the war began with a 'shock and awe' aerial onslaught.

Baghdad and other Iraqi cities were hit by 3,000 bombs and cruise missiles in the first 48 hours.

Within a month, America's hi-tech forces had won a complete victory in the field over Saddam Hussein's Third World army, and had taken Baghdad.

As Saddam's statues were toppled, it seemed as if events had now vindicated the war policy which Tony Blair had successfully sold to Parliament.

It seemed, indeed, as if the slogan 'Mission Accomplished' applied as much to Blair as to a triumphant George W. Bush on board an American aircraft carrier.

But today, two years on, the mission remains very far from being accomplished.

The deceptively short war has been followed by a prolonged and messy aftermath.

Bush and Blair's Iraq adventure has so far cost the lives of more than 1,500 American servicemen, nearly 90 British servicemen, and anything between 15,000 and 100,000 Iraqi men, women and children.

Given this grim record, we can understand why the recent Iraqi elections have been hailed by Bush and Blair as a triumph for democracy and a justification for the war.

But those elections have still to produce a government agreed by all the rival ethnic, clan, and religious groups - let alone produce a government that will be stable and effective.

And because the new Iraqi police and army are ill-trained, illequipped and infiltrated by insurgents, the American and British occupation forces will have to stay until the end of next year at least. Repeat: 'at least'.

Meanwhile, every week brings its fresh toll of bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, American body-bags, and the sabotage of oil pipelines.

Who can be surprised, therefore, that Iraq does not figure as a favourite topic with Tony Blair as he prepares to fire the starting gun for the General Election campaign? In fact, Iraq hardly gets a mention from him. It is the topic that dares not speak its name.

For the truth is that Blair wants us to regard his decision to join in George Bush's war as now being a dead and buried issue. He wants us to 'draw a line' and 'move on'.

HE WANTS us to focus on all the humdrum domestic topics - education, the NHS, immigration, council tax - which he, the supreme photoopportunist, neglected while he was posturing before the cameras as a world leader and the privileged best buddy of George W. Bush.

But the Iraq war, and Blair's part in leading Britain into it, are not dead issues at all: they are very much live issues. They demonstrate in the starkest fashion that neither Blair's truthfulness nor his judgment can be trusted.

And there can be no more important a question in a General Election campaign than the truthfulness and judgment of a Prime Minister who is asking us to return him to power.

The fact that Tony Blair is a dangerously plausible conman, adept at selling a false prospectus, is demonstrated beyond all doubt by that eve- of-war debate in the Commons on March 18, 2003.

Take, first, his sheer actorly performance. With body language conveying desperate urgency and his voice hardedged and strident, he punched out a rapid-fire barrage of alarmist certainties about the threat posed by Saddam's vast armoury of weapons of mass destruction.

On that day of high drama and high emotion, the Commons jam-packed with anxious MPs, this hellfire preacher's style proved stunningly successful, even winning over some of his own backbench waverers (though by no means all).

The Conservative Opposition voted with him. Only the Liberal Democrats voted as a party against him, and therefore they alone spoke for the large antiwar majority of the British nation as measured by the opinion polls. …

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