LIES AND THE IRAQ WAR

By: David Edmonds

The
current British inquiry into the Iraq war – led by Sir John Chilcot – is a
cathartic exercise.  No issue since New
Labour was elected in 1997 has been so divisive.   The war split friends, families and
political parties.   While the
catastrophic impact of the war is still being felt in Iraq, in Britain the
inquiry – it is hoped – will bring some closure.

Many
critics of the war are looking for one finding. 
They don’t want to hear that the former Prime Minister Tony Blair
miscalculated.  They want to have
confirmed their belief that he intentionally misled – even that he lied.   Oddly, a verdict of ‘lie’ would be regarded
as incomparably more serious than a verdict of ‘miscalculation’.   The ‘Liar’ headline would curdle the
nation’s blood.

Politicians
only admit to lying when they can’t deny it. 
For the charge of lying carries unique emotional and moral potency.   Tony Blair understands this.  He wants everyone to believe in his
conviction – his fervent conviction.  He
carried on believing that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq long
after almost everyone else had recognized that there were none.  And yet this is forgivable, he thinks, since
his belief was sincere.

Which
perhaps it was.   But in the past few
years British politics has become overly preoccupied with the sibling values of
sincerity and honesty, and the conceptual cousins of double-dealing and
deceitfulness.

You
surely don’t have to be Machiavelli to believe that in a politician ‘judgement’
is at least as high a virtue as integrity.

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