On the WMD ‘lie’

By andrewsimon - Last updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - Save & Share - 5 Comments

by Andrew Mason

Kevin Marsh, formerly the editor of the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme at the time when Andrew Gilligan made his now most infamous comment that Tony Blair’s government probably knew that the 45 minute claim was wrong (even before it was written into the September 2002 Iraq WMD dossier), has now entered the debate about whether this and other untrue WMD claims were actual ‘lies’ in the true sense of the word.

No sensible analysis has ever shown Tony Blair “lied”. Nor was that the allegation levelled by Dr David Kelly and reported by Andrew Gilligan, in spite of Alastair Campbell’s efforts to persuade us all that it was.

However, substitute for the word “lied” the phrase “created the truth” or “misled the British public about the certainty of the intelligence and the conclusions that could be drawn from it” and most people might well take the view he and those around him are guilty as charged.

His comments come in the wake of Desmond Tutu’s recent refusal to appear on the same stage as Blair at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg on the basis that he believes Blair should be tried as a potential war criminal at the Hague and his subsequent piece in last Sunday’s Observer where he goes on to explain the reasoning for his action, wherein he states:

Leadership and morality are indivisible. Good leaders are the custodians of morality. The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.

If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?

Kevin Marsh’s new book – Stumbling Over Truth: The Inside Story of ‘Sexed-up’ Dossier, Hutton and the BBC – is due to be published on 19/20 September.

Update:

The publication of the book has now been scheduled for 24 September.

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5 Responses to “On the WMD ‘lie’”

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Time September 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm

[...] Inquiry Digest On the WMD ‘lie’ 16 hours [...]

Comment from John Bone
Time September 6, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I have always said that the lie was about the certainty of the intelligence. By early 2003 Blair, and many others, were saying “We know Iraq has WMD”, which was a lie. Up to the end of 2002 it was possible to get away with spin and meaningless statements (like “We judge that it is an established fact that Iraq has WMD”) but with inspections in progress and the USA about to invade Iraq, the only way to square the circle was to tell a lie about the certainty of the intelligence.

Comment from andrewsimon
Time September 7, 2012 at 12:15 am

JB -

By early 2003 Blair, and many others, were saying “We know Iraq has WMD”, which was a lie.

The TB forward of the dossier reads “beyond doubt” in the line: “What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons…”

I believe that there is a significant untruth contained therein.

I would contend that this statement was known to be untrue at the time it was made.

Comment from Bobm
Time September 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm

“What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons…”

The standout feature of this statement is the extraordinary elaboration of the opening twelve words. By framing the point in terms of personal conviction Blair, as is his practice I think, converts what is properly an issue of fact and evidence, into one of personal integrity. Remember “a pretty straight sort of guy”…and similar.

Among the defining characteristics of the psychopath, per Hare, are

Facet 1 Interpersonal
▪ Glibness/superficial charm
▪ Grandiose sense of self-worth
▪ Pathological lying
▪ Cunning/manipulative
Facet 2 Affective
▪ Lack of remorse or guilt
▪ Emotionally shallow
▪ Callous/lack of empathy
▪ Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Sound familiar?

Comment from John Bone
Time September 9, 2012 at 12:06 am

It is indeed an extraordinary statement to include in a document of this kind. “Belief” and “establishing something beyond doubt” are two very different things. It is possible to say “I believe Saddam has ……. ” or it is possible to say “The intelligence has established beyond doubt that Saddam has …. “. It is unclear what exactly is meant by a phrase that mixes “belief” and “establishing something beyond doubt”. Either the assessors of intelligence said to Blair that it was beyond doubt or that it wasn’t.

I have always seen this phrase as a warning sign that the intelligence services did not consider that things had been established beyond doubt; they ensured that this statement was a personal one by Blair. Unfortunately few people noticed that, and the Dossier kicked off a period of hyperbole by some sections of the media and the political class in which they appeared to have lost sight of what was reality and what was fantasy.

Blair did indeed manage to smuggle into the debate the idea that WMD in Iraq was an established fact, beyond doubt, though he said it was his belief. He later dropped the part about it being his belief.