Daniel Finkelstein in The Times comments:
The critics believe that Mr Blair should have defied the request from our closest ally and chosen to stand aside and do nothing about Saddam.
They reach this point with two sleights of hand that make the decision to go to war seem impossibly stupid. The first is to criticise the known outcome of the course taken without reference to the unknown outcome of the course not taken. Not prosecuting the war would have meant leaving Saddam in power, followed in due course by his mad, murderous sons. If you ignore the possible result of allowing this then, of course, the war becomes difficult to explain.
The second thing the critics do is to consider the Iraq war as an isolated decision, rather than one in a long series. It can’t be looked at like that.
Even if you consider the history of policy towards Saddam alone, the decision to remove him is simply one among many. But the Iraq invasion also has to be seen as one decision among many in the War on Terror, in the recent history of liberal interventionism and in the long course of the special relationship.
On the whole, I believe that robust partnership with the United States, and a strong military approach to dangerous, aggressive dictators with nuclear ambitions is a better foreign policy than the alternatives. And on the whole, I think that believing intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction is a more sensible thing to do than ignoring them.
That’s why I supported the war in Iraq. And why I still believe that decision was the right one.
Exactly. Even if I were not a supporter of the Iraq War, I would see no case for a parliamentary inquiry into the reasons for our participating in it. Those reasons were rehearsed and voted on in Parliament, and two inquiries have since reported on different aspects of that pre-war controversy - the arguments, the flawed intelligence, and the death of David Kelly. All of the arguments cited at the time in support of overthrowing Saddam Hussein were defensible (and in my view right, but that's not the point in this discussion), bar specific claims made about WMD. An inquiry at this stage and on this subject is in effect a quasi-judicial means of second-guessing the political process. In short, it's undemocratic.
An inquiry into other aspects of the Iraq War is necessary. There are demonstrable and severe failures in the occupation. We overthrew Saddam and killed his appalling sons, and these are great gains to civilisation; but, among other blunders, we failed to establish security for Iraqis, and left them vulnerable to attack by theocratic thugs and Baathist barbarians. The Government has not argued skilfully. It ought to have accepted the case for an inquiry, rather than allowing that call to be made by unknown MPs from fringe parties. It would have won the vote overwhelmingly and deflected the charge of defensiveness.
I went on Sky News last night prepared to argue this case, but found that my opponent in the discussion was John Rees, National Secretary of the Respect 'Coalition'. So I pointed out that Rees was misdescribed as an anti-war campaigner, because - as a member of the Politbureau of the Socialist Workers' Party, for which the Respect 'Coalition' is an electoral front - he of course campaigned for military victory for Saddam Hussein. ("The best response to war would be protests across the globe which make it impossible for Bush and Blair to continue. But while war lasts by far the lesser evil would be reverses, or defeat, for the US and British forces," Socialist Worker, 23 March 2003. This article appears to have been removed from the paper's online archive.) The SWP ideologue Alex Callinicos has made it clear he regards "road-side bombs that kill American soldiers and attacks on Iraqi recruits to the puppet regime’s army and police and on its officials" as "legitimate attacks" - like this one last year, presumably:
At least 114 people have been killed by a massive car bomb in the worst single such incident since the US-led invasion nearly two years ago. At least 130 others were wounded in the blast in Hilla, 100km (60 miles) south of the capital, Baghdad. The car, reportedly driven by a suicide bomber, exploded near a queue of people applying for government jobs....
Footage showed pools of blood at the scene, with dozens of people helping to put body parts into blankets. Shoes and tattered clothes were piled up in a corner. "I was lined up near the medical centre, waiting for my turn for the medical exam in order to apply for work in the police," Abdullah Salih, 22, told the Associated Press. "Suddenly I heard a very big explosion. I was thrown several metres away and I had burns in my legs and hands, then I was taken to the hospital," he said.
Muhsin Hadi, 29, broke his leg in the blast. "I was lucky because I was the last person in line when the explosion took place," he told AP. The director of the Hilla teaching hospital, Mohammed Dia, told the BBC the explosion was far worse than anything the town had experienced before. He said the number of dead was likely to rise, partly because some of the injured were in a serious condition, and partly because some of the victims had been blown to pieces.
I'm not picky, and will gladly debate people from the sewage wing of British politics; but I do insist their views be represented accurately.