- WMDs and the Deficit: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
When a British prime minister tells a big lie, it can linger within the body politic for decades as fact, and have disastrous consequences for the citizenry, and those overseas who have fallen under his depraved eye. In certain circumstances such a lie can even become part of the 'common sense' of the age.
Over the last 15 years we have had two prime examples of how such wicked lies can have detrimental consequences which can last for decades.
On the 10th of April 2002, 11 months before the war proper began, Tony Blair told the first of his many lies to justify the Iraq war:
Saddam Hussein's regime is despicable, he is developing weapons of mass destruction, and we cannot leave him doing so unchecked. He is a threat to his own people and to the region and, if allowed to develop these weapons, a threat to us also.
Later that year on the 24th September Blair told the British parliament:
It [the UK intelligence service] concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes.
On the 25th February 2003, in the House of Commons Blair continued in this vein, although he upped the anti to include chemical weapons:
The intelligence is clear: (Saddam) continues to believe his WMD programme is essential both for internal repression and for external aggression.
"The biological agents we believe Iraq can produce include anthrax, botulinum, toxin, aflatoxin and ricin. All eventually result in excruciatingly painful death.
11 March 2003, MTV debate:
If we don't act now, then we will go back to what has happened before and then of course the whole thing begins again and he carries on developing these weapons and these are dangerous weapons, particularly if they fall into the hands of terrorists who we know want to use these weapons if they can get them.
18 March 2003, House of Commons:
We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years-contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence-Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd.
On the following day, 19th March 2003, a date which will go down in infamy, Bush with Blair as his point-man, rained down death and destruction on the Iraqi people having justified their criminal behaviour on a wicked lie. *
William Ehrman, director of international security at the British Foreign Office from 2000 to 2003, all but told the told the Chilcott inquiry Blair must have know the above statements were lies:
We were getting in the very final days before military action some (intelligence) on chemical and biological weapons that they were dismantled and (Saddam) might not have the munitions to deliver it.
On March 10 we got a report saying that the chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and that Saddam hadn’t yet ordered their re-assembly and he might lack warheads capable of effective dispersal of agents.
The inquiry also heard that senior government ministers were warned there were “huge” gaps in the UK's intelligence about Iraq's WMD programmes. Yet if you look at Blair's statement above he reports Saddam's possession of WMDs as fact.
The consequences of Bush and Blair's illegal invasion of Iraq was disastrous, not only for the Iraqi people and the families of the British military who were injured or lost their lives, but the political earthquake it caused in the Arab world which is still unresolved to this day. Only a fool or supporters of Daesh would claim the situation in Iraq, Syria, and Libya is better today than prior to 19th March 2003.
There is absolutely no doubt: Blair's lies, for a short period became the common sense of the age, especialy within the Westminster political and media bubble. How else can you explain why otherwise rational people supported a military adventure which was bound to end in disaster. I well remember a conversation I had with my own MP on the night of the vote in parliament to support the war. Thurrock's MP Andy Mackinlay, a decent left of centre LP MP told me:
If the leader of his party and prime minister to boot, tells him Saddam had WMD's which can be activated in 45 minutes he had no choice but to believe him and vote to support the war. For if it wasn't true he would not only be lying to parliament but the whole of the Nation. Such a thought is unthinkable.
As Winston Churchill once said: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."
The best con men/women and political chancers are those who tailor their tall tales at those who wish to believe them. They mainly do this by playing on peoples greed, prejudices and ambitions. No where is this better demonstrated than David Cameron and George Osborne's continuous lies about the reckless spending on welfare by the last Labour government caused the UK's current deficit problems. Five minutes of Googling this monstrous lie would have revealed it to be unfounded and politically motivated, yet amongst many it became common currency.
Its purpose was two fold, to discredit Gordon Brown and Ed Balls his main adviser to ensure they got no kudos for keeping afloat the British banking system in 2008, thus enabling Cameron to use the deficit to justify his main aim which is to dismantle the welfare state by claiming it's unaffordable in this day and age due to the size of, and vital need to reduce the UK deficit.
According to Osborne the last LP government left the UK with the biggest government deficit in the developed world, equal to if not worse than Greece. When The Treasury Select Committee pointed out to him the UK had the lowest debt in the G7, he replied he didn't know that. Didn't care would have been a more correct reply for within a week he was repeating the same lie and has continued to right up until today.
There is little doubt the old adage is at work here, the bigger the lie the more people will believe it.
As the distinguished columnist William Keegan pointed out in the International Business Times:
Labour did not cause the financial meltdown, something that was world wide and began in the US sub-prime market. Until the onset of the financial crisis, public spending and the budget deficit as proportions of gross domestic product were no higher than they were under the previous Tory governments.
But it was a huge propaganda achievement on the part of Cameron and his team to convince large sections of the British electorate that Labour had caused the banking crisis and that, before its onset, public spending was out of control. Everywhere I went I encountered deep public misunderstanding of the true economic background.
Thus today it's not only cabinet ministers, Tory MPs and Orange Book Lib Dems who spout this dangerous nonsense about the deficit. Senior LP politicians whose job it is to hold the government of the day to account, now act as echo chambers for Tory lies.
Most sane economists now understand by using the deficit as an excuse to cut the welfare state has put the UK's economic recovery back at least a decade and possible longer. Yet still the Tory government persists with it failed policy of deficit reduction first. Although we shouldn't be surprised about this as the exploitation of the poor by the rich is the virus that runs through every policy of David Cameron's government.
What lessons can we draw from the two examples of prime ministerial lies? The first is pretty obvious prime ministers can lie to parliament with impunity and without sanction. Secondly, when they tell a big lie it must be countered immediately and forcefully, if not it will gain traction as the truth, and become the common sense of the age.
The reason this did not happen with Blair's and WMDs was because while most MP's either believed him or acquiesced to his reasoning. A large section of the population did not, and over a million of them felt so strongly they marched through the streets of London in protest. This made more and more people question the veracity of Saddam's WMDs
When Cameron and Osborne lied through their teeth when claiming the previous Labour government were responsible for the deficit it hardly caused a ripple on the opposition benches in Parliament, unlike in the vote to invade Iraq. Not one Tory MP spoke up and said it was a lie. As to the LP MPs, most of them might as well have not been there for what good they did. This was a British PM and Chancellor lying to parliament and they new it, but said very little. If any group is responsible for this lie gaining traction with the population it's the parliamentary LP, bar a few honourable exceptions.
When they refused to challenge it at every turn it was hardly surprising some folk began to believe there must be some truth in it.
Why these Labour MPs acted in such a craven way, it's hard to say, but one cannot help feeling a sizable section of the parliamentary party preferred a neo liberal Tory led government in power rather than a future Labour government led by Ed Miliband.
As Bill Keegan noted after hearing one of the current candidates for Labour leader supporting Cameron's lies on the deficit: "I don't know why she doesn't own up and join the Tories.
Info from various sources and publications.
* If we need examples as to why Blair should be in the Dock, indicted for initiating a war of aggression then the content of these speeches are it.