Norman Geras (click here) takes Geoffrey Wheatcroft to task for his piece in the Guardian today (click here – the headline “Blair still took us to war on a lie” sums up Wheatcroft perfectly) and argues, with reason, that Blair’s veracity is less important in the grand scheme of things than the effects of his actions.
But Norm concedes too much. Unlike him, I didn’t support the war – not because I thought regime change a bad idea but on the grounds that the risk of massive casualties was too great and that the US had not thought through what would happen after it got rid of Saddam.
I don’t regret those judgments – but I can’t accept that it’s obvious that Blair lied in 2002-03. I have read all the reports and loads of books and articles on governmental decision-making before the war, and there is nothing that suggests other than that Blair believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, the intelligence on which that belief was based was wrong – but Blair did not know that. And if in these circumstances he seized upon WMD as a legal pretext for military action after deciding for other reasons to back Bush in getting rid of Saddam – which I suspect was the case – he wasn’t lying: he was simply using the nearest thing he thought he had to a watertight and publicly sustainable argument for the course of action he thought he ought to take.
I didn’t like it. But he was being a whole lot more honest than all those opponents of war who really just wanted to see capitalist pig Amerika given a bloody nose but actually banged on in public about the illegality of the intervention.