ONE THING became starkly clear as the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly got under way on Monday. The claims used by Blair to justify war on Iraq were so flimsy that his government lied and bullied at every turn to get its way. On Tuesday the inquiry heard from BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, who had met with Kelly.
He insisted Kelly believed the government was deliberately exaggerating claims about Iraqi weapons. Gilligan says Kelly told him that Saddam Hussein's weapons 'programme was small. He couldn't have killed very many people even if everything had gone right for him.'
Kelly also told Gilligan that Iraq did not have weapons capable of causing mass destruction 'in the true meaning of the word'. These views, from the man who was the government's expert on Iraqi weapons, expose as lies all the arguments pumped out by Blair to justify war.
More BBC journalists, defence secretary Geoff Hoon, Tony Blair himself and Blair's lieutenant Alastair Campbell were all to appear before the Hutton inquiry. The inquiry is set up so it will not directly address the lies behind the war.
It will not, for example, even discuss the fact that NO weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq months after the war officially ended. Yet, despite its narrow focus, the session on Monday revealed a damning picture of the build-up to war.
Top officials in the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Intelligence Services spying agency gave evidence. They revealed that government claims in recent weeks that Dr Kelly was a minor figure were nonsense.
Kelly was 'the expert' on Iraqi weapons and had 'full clearance' to the highest level. He had access to documents and officials throughout the process leading to the production last September of the first pro-war government dossier.
The witnesses revealed that, despite government claims, the so called '45 minute' claim was inserted into the dossier at the last moment. Most importantly, the witnesses revealed the huge disquiet among 'intelligence' officials over the way the government was pushing that case for war. Two senior Ministry of Defence officials were so concerned that they took the step of formally writing to their superiors in protest.
This is an enormous step to take in that murky world of whispers, hushed mutterings and public school codes that lies within the heart of the establishment and 'intelligence community'.
Blair was so determined to have his war alongside the US that he and his henchmen were ready to brush aside all objections and worries. Blair stood in parliament presenting his dossier last September with its blood-chilling talk of biological weapons of mass destruction being a threat to Britain that could be unleashed within 45 minutes.
He did so knowing that even many of those within the state charged with drawing up the dossier didn't believe a word he was saying.
BEHIND ALL the worries inside the establishment and the rows now emerging at the inquiry lay the scale of the anti-war movement. The more people marched and protested at Blair's war plans, the more significant sections of the establishment worried the case for war was weak. Few of them objected to war on principled or moral grounds.
They worried the war would bring chaos, not stability, to Iraq and the Middle East. Everything that has happened since proves that to be true. Above all, they worried that the lies being pushed to persuade people to back war would come back to haunt the government and the establishment.
The arguments within the Whitehall corridors and inside the spy agencies over the war turned on nuances of wording, over how to present evidence in the government's dossier.
But let there be no doubt. These seemingly small differences of emphasis were the surface reflection of a deep unease, one driven by the anti-war movement but reaching to the core of the establishment.
That is what is emerging from the Hutton inquiry, and it matters. It matters because Blair believed he could bully and lie his way to war, and that once the war was over he could bask in the glory of victory and everyone would forget.
Instead his and Bush's victory looks more tarnished by the day. The lies and bullying are coming back to haunt Blair, and his government is unravelling as fast as the lies.