Put down The Da Vinci Code. Jack in the Grisham. Let Jilly Cooper turn yellow and wilt by the pool. I have before me a beach read more shocking than the schlockiest bonkbuster (PDF). It is only 80 pages, so you ought to be able to knock it off after even the most vinous siesta. Like all the best holiday reads, the idea is simple. A couple of academics have taken the words of Tony Blair on the subject of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. They have culled each top-spun, souped-up, over-egged quotation, and set it side by side with what the Prime Minister was actually being told about those WMD. You are left at the end feeling angry and bewildered that Blair should take us all for such mugs.
It is not so much that he lied (though many of his statements were at odds with reality): it is rather that he used all his lawyerly arts, and all the trust that is naturally reposed in his office, to communicate to the public a vast untruth. He told us that Saddam Hussein was a present and growing threat to British interests, when this was not the case. He told us that his information was based on reports that were “extensive, detailed and authoritative”, when the intelligence services – for all their failings – had inserted crucial saving clauses. The charge against Blair is that he wilfully misrepresented the facts to the Commons and to the country when we voted to go to war.
What makes me angry is that he concentrated on this casus belli – WMD – when some of us argued for ages that it was nonsense. I said in this space almost two years ago (Saddam must go, but don’t lie about the reasons) that there was a good case for getting rid of the Iraqi leader, but that Blair was not making it. Many of us felt that the public deserved to be told the real reasons for the war: that the Americans had decided that the world would be a safer place for regime change in Iraq, and that it might be possible to sow the seeds of democracy there and (incidentally) to end the appalling abuses of the Saddam regime.
Related link: ImpeachBlair.org