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Editorial: Lie like lions

There is one detail in Tony Blair’s A Journey that seems to have been missed. One of the few times that Blair was forced to withdraw an untruth was in a forceful interview by Jeremy Paxman on BBC Newsnight on 6 February 2003.

Blair claimed that UN weapons inspectors had been “put out of Iraq” in December 1998. Under pressure from Paxman, Blair admitted that, in fact: “They were withdrawn”. Chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler revealed in his memoirs that he withdrew his inspection team on 15 December 1998 after receiving a warning to be “prudent” from the US ambassador to the UN Peter Burleigh. In his best-selling memoirs, A Journey, Tony Blair gives not one, but three different accounts of the December 1998 withdrawal.

Version 1: “Saddam had thrown out the weapons inspectors” before the US/UK strikes (p222). Version 2: “In 1998, the inspection team had left in protest” (p382). Version 3: Iraqi president Saddam Hussein “effectively threw inspectors out of Iraq” in 1998 (p422).

At least one of these statements has to be wrong. In our universe, anyway.

Topics: Iraq