Truth twisters

Broadsides from the pirate captain of the Jet Set

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New York

I remember well a conversation I had with Gianni Agnelli in the winter of 1963 about John Profumo and lying: 'Poor man,' said the charismatic Fiat chairman- to-be, 'such disgrace for so ugly a tart.' Both of us at the time took it for granted that British politicians did not lie, something unheard of in our respective countries, which made Profumo's falling on his sword only natural. Britain, back then, was a place that did not tolerate lies from public servants. Needless to say, no longer.

Forty years on, Mr Tony Blair can stand up in Parliament and, without blinking an eye, tell a whopper about weapons of mass destruction worthy of his mentor, Bill Clinton, and then some. In Washington things are no better, but at least Bush has an excuse. The greatest liar ever to inhabit the White House lied under oath and swore that he had never had sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky, and got away with it. Poor John Profumo. It must have crossed his mind while watching these lying clowns that he, too, could have stretched it a bit. 'It all depends what you mean by the word misled.'

And speaking of lies, my spies tell me that this chap Ahmad Chalabi would not be ideal to be in a foxhole with. Here is a man who made hundreds of millions by fraudulently milking the investors of a bank he owned in Jordan, as well as in a subsidiary in Switzerland, a banker convicted in Jordan of criminal fraud and sentenced to a long prison term, and we – the glorious, victorious allies – are trying to install him as leader of Iraq. Backing unscrupulous Iraqi exiles may be the factor that causes us to 'lose' Iraq in the end, but his Pentagon pals are whistling Dixie. (Chalabi baby once threatened a prominent Iraqi exile, Nemir Kirdar, during a business conference, probably because the latter, a very rich but honest businessman, knew too much).

In my humble opinion, Iraq does not need another strongman, only an honest one, but that's like looking for the proverbial needle you-know-where. Liars like Blair and Rumsfeld are much too caught up in their spin and in cooking intelligence reports to actually think straight. Chalabi was the one who fed One Thousand and One Nights reports to the Pentagon – sweet music to Rumsfeld's ears – and we know the rest. We have recreated 1945 Germany in Mesopotamia, have twinned Baghdad 2003 with Berlin 1945, and will most likely split the place in three, and then go home declaring a famous victory.

Hyping intelligence reports is nothing new, but this time we have reached new lows. The allies – Bush and Blair – twisted them to suit their ends, pretended to have evidence they never had and managed to pull off a colossal hoax on a par with Hitler's claim that Poland was about to attack the Third Reich.

The New York Times columnist William Safire – calls the cry of hoax a hoax in itself. One is reminded of the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies – for you youngsters out there, when Lord Astor denied having slept with Mandy during the Profumo scandal, she answered, 'He would, wouldn't he?' Safire was very gung-ho for the war, and is now furious that some of us are questioning the honesty of those who led us to destroy Iraq while saving it from Saddam. And the lies will continue unabated. Here's John Laughland writing in the American Conservative about post-war Iraq:

In keeping with its new revolutionary ideology, the West encourages chaos and criminality, in order to tear down the old order and in order to keep the population too preoccupied with daily cares to organise any effective political resistance. Social chaos forces the population of an occupied country like Iraq to make a Hobbesian pact with its invaders and to look to the coalition soldiers for protection, thus lending them an apparent legitimacy they would otherwise lack.

I remember a time when the Anglo-Saxon countries were the only ones whose governments their citizens trusted. Greek politicians were among the most corrupt and the biggest liars. The present bunch have even managed to lie and steal more than Ali Papandreou did, a Herculean achievement. Ditto the Wops, although Berlusconi and Fini are as honest as Italian life is sweet. The Frogs lie, but not stupidly, despite the fact that their president might go straight to jail the moment he leaves the Elysée. The Germans are an enigma: they lie but get caught rather quickly. The Belgians do not tell the truth even if it's to their advantage. The Dutch are too dull to dream of lying, while the Spaniards want to lie but forget to because of non-stop siestas. (Incidentally, how can a Spectator contributor call a matador a coward? [17 May, 2003] Compared to whom? Joselito, Belmonte, Manolete, Dominguin, Ordonez? Bullshit!)

Poor John Profumo. He should be sent to the Lords as the last honest man, but then perhaps not. The place is now full of liars.