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Deception and Britain’s road to war in Iraq

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Ever since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there has been a widely shared public perception in the United Kingdom and beyond that the British government lied in making the case for war. One major theme has been the view that the Blair government lied about the strength of the intelligence about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the extent of the WMD capabilities claimed by that intelligence. A second theme that has received less attention has been the view that the Blair government lied in claiming that its actions at the United Nations (UN) were aimed at securing peaceful Iraqi compliance with its disarmament obligations. Instead, most think that the United Kingdom was actually committed to a policy of regime change by force and did not want the ‘UN route’ to produce a peaceful outcome. The article argues that the conceptual focus of the discussion needs to be broadened from lying to also considering deception by omission and deception by distortion as part of a campaign of organized political persuasion. It argues that, on the WMD intelligence, it is now apparent that a campaign of deceptive organized political persuasion was conducted by UK officials. With respect to the UN route, there is mounting evidence that the Blair government ran a campaign of deception on this issue as well in order to pave Britain’s road to war in Iraq.
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Keywords: Chilcot Inquiry; United Nations; deception; invasion of Iraq; organized political persuasion; weapons of mass destruction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Bristol 2: University of Manchester

Publication date: September 1, 2014

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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