As the hundredth British army employee has just died in Iraq, I think this might be an appropriate point to state my feelings on this subject – or, more specifically, on the issue of what the Prime Minister knew, and how he came to decide that yes, a war in Iraq was a good idea.
I feel there are a number of possible ways it can be interpreted:
1. Blair knew there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq all along
2. Blair genuinely believed that there were Ws of MD, and that the evidence was sufficient to prove it.
3. Blair wasn’t sure there were Ws of MD in Iraq, but thought that either
a) the evidence would be found as a result of troops going in
b) the premise of there being Ws of MD was just a cover, effectively justifying sending in the troops, and once the military action had started or was completed, then the original reason would be as good as forgotten.
Now, Option 1 is very popular, because it’s nice and straightforward: Blair lied. And it’s a very real possibility, suggesting he didn’t really care about the reason that was given, and that sending in the troops was pretty much a fait accompli once the idea had been suggested. But Option 1 kind of makes Blair not only a liar, but something of a fool as well – a man whose concern for public perception and PR is minimal, and that doesn’t seem to be true of him or his administration; they seem to be pathologically obsessed with the way things look, even at the cost of their substance. So this seems less likely to me, on balance.
Options 2 and 3, however, suggest less malevolence and intent to mislead, but instead spectacularly poor judgment, and to me, they seem more probable. Since the topic of war in Iraq has a history of tenting american trousers, I think it’s fair to assume that there was a a lot of transatlantic pressure to go to war, and that Blair either sincerely believed (or simply hoped) that it would pan out in the long term, especially with the USA involved.
This combination of pressure, questionable belief, and hope appears to have been enough for Blair, which is why he felt justified in ignoring the holes in the evidence, the protests within Parliament and elsewhere (the largest co-ordinated protest march in record, wasn’t it?), and decided to send in the troops. Which I think I can say without fear of contradiction – as it’s what’s technically known as a ‘fact’ – was a very bad decision indeed.
So, basically it boils down to one of two possibilities: either Blair’s a liar, or his judgment is so poor that large numbers of people have died needlessly as a result.
Either of which, in most jobs, would almost certainly be grounds for dismissal.