IT is still one of the biggest acts of political deceit, distortion, and deception of modern times. Some, understandably, would simply prefer to call it an outright lie, one the style of which seems today to have become the playbook from which so much of politics is enacted.

Hoodwink the electorate, feed them spurious information, spin stories until people are too dizzy to think clearly or perceptively. Does all this sound familiar?

Think of Brexit, Stop the Boats, Rwanda deportations, NHS, striking workers, culture wars, and other issues on which the current Tory government indulges in Orwellian doublespeak and you will see where I’m coming from.

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But back 20 years ago when this original malign political conjuring act to which I refer was performed, it was a Labour government then in power. I’m talking here about Tony Blair’s government and the selling of the Iraq War to the British public.

As we sit on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the start of that disastrous conflict, which began on March 20, 2003, it’s well worth pausing to reflect not only on the events this colossal blunder set in train but how it was brought about and the dangers of blithely accepting what politicians and governments tell us.

That some people, even with the passing of two decades, still buy into the myth that the Iraq War was “justified, “legal” and “winnable”, only underscores the failure to take on board the lessons learned – other than by those keen to refashion them for nefarious or downright malevolent contemporary political ends.

Some people simply refuse to face the facts from the past. Former Scottish Labour MP and armed forces minister Adam Ingram who served during the period of the Iraq War is one such person. That much became clear on Tuesday night when he and I engaged in a fairly robust discussion on STV’s Scotland Tonight programme looking back on the conflict.

“The intelligence coming through was solid,” Ingram insisted, talking about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime and the existence of the so-called weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s). That later the Chilcot Report into the handling of the 2003 Iraq War by the British Government concluded that there was “no imminent threat from Iraq,” that British intelligence produced “flawed information” and Blair “deliberately exaggerated” the threat posed by Saddam, seems still to evade the likes of Mr Ingram.

These conclusions were just a fraction of the damning findings that the Chilcot Report detailed after its enquiry. Politicians by their very nature rarely admit mistakes, but not to face up today to what the Iraq War meant on so many levels verges on the delusional.

More significantly and worrying is the way it continues to give succour and support to those who now look back and think, well if a UK Government got away with it back then why shouldn’t we do the same now and deploy similar subterfuge over a whole raft of current issues?

It’s hard to overestimate the disastrously damaging impact the decision to go to war alongside the United States has had.

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To begin with, it alienated our European neighbours who saw through the madness of such military adventurism almost from the outset.

It undermined, too, the process by which we try to avoid entering into such reckless campaigns by riding roughshod over any possible peace process which in the case of Iraq was never explored fully before US and UK boots were on the ground and the bloodletting got underway.

It also undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council. It wasn’t as if Blair’s government didn’t know the risks, given that countless experts and specialists on the Middle East and Arab world warned them what they were getting into with no easy way out. This in a nutshell was a war of choice.

And then there was that other fallout from the decision, how it created an insurgency out of which Islamist terror groups like al-Qaeda thrived, ultimately morphing into the Islamic State (IS) group whose barbaric reign traumatised swathes of Iraq, Syria and beyond.

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Our thoughtless warmongering too exacerbated sectarian violence between Iraq’s Sunni and Shia communities resulting in appalling bloodshed and reinforcing neighbouring Iran’s influence over Iraqi affairs.

Latterly, another outcome has been that the finger-burning experienced by the US and UK in Iraq has given rise to a wariness to take a firmer stand in the region when at times it might arguably have been justified such as in the use of chemical weapons by the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

And speaking of Assad, it was he that let his Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin gain a foothold in Syria and allow Russia the justification for such actions, both there and more recently in Ukraine, being what was good enough for the US and UK in Iraq is good enough for Moscow. Subsequent underreaction to Russia’s actions in Georgia, Crimea and Syria have only served to embolden the Kremlin.

At every turn, that fateful decision to go to war in Iraq has rebounded – not least on Iraqis themselves, hundreds of thousands of whom died and countless others were maimed. We might see the war now as distant but every day Iraqis have to live with its real legacy.

Here in the UK, meanwhile, the aftermath of the decision helped not only rightfully sully the political record of Blair and Gordon Brown but damaged the Labour Party to this day.

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If, as some polls suggest, Labour will be forming a new UK Government after the next General Election, the Iraq War will loom large over any foreign policy decisions they make. Looking back now this too was a moment that set in store the conditions by which erosion of public trust in government began to bite.

The peddling of the Iraq fiasco to the public was an exploitation of mass gullibility, but one that quickly changed into a sharp but brief realisation, as was evident during the early days of the war when up to one million people took to the streets to protest against it.

Twenty years on, I, like many, am in no doubt that this was the biggest foreign policy blunder and controversial war fought by a western state in the past half-century and to that end, it still haunts the UK’s national subconsciousness.

That the Tory government still boasts about “Global Britain” and how the UK is “admired” or “respected” on the world stage should be warning of the dangers in getting carried away by our own political hype. Above all – just as with Blair’s decision two decades ago – it should serve as a sobering reminder never to take at face value what governments tell us.