Former UK PM: Saddam's Removal Correct Regardless of Lack of WMDs

Interviewed on British television just weeks before he faces intense questioning before a high-powered inquiry into why Britain went to war in Iraq, former Prime Minister Tony Blair says it was right to oust Saddam Hussein regardless of whether there were any weapons of mass destruction or not.

Tony Blair, representing The Quartet on the Middle East enters the room for a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York City,  9 Dec 2009
Tony Blair, representing The Quartet on the Middle East enters the room for a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York City, 9 Dec 2009


Tom Rivers

The actions of Tony Blair have again come under scrutiny in Britain as he admits in a BBC interview that he was behind regime change in Iraq.

The war was sold to his cabinet, to parliament and to the British people on the basis that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man holding weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that could be unleashed within 45 minutes.

Speaking on the program Fern Britton Meets Tony Blair, that will be screened in its entirety on Sunday, the former prime minister was asked directly that if he had known back in 2003 that there were no WMDS, would he have gone on with the invasion of Iraq?

"I would still have thought it right to remove him," he said.  "I mean obviously you would have had to use, deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat."

Blair's very vocal critics are lining up.  Opposition Conservative politician and member of the Intelligence and Security committee Richard Ottaway says it appears that the most significant foreign affairs initiative Britain has dealt with since the WWII was argued and debated on a false premise and that he says that raises profound constitutional questions.

"It has become increasingly clear that Tony Blair misled parliament on more than one occasion and I think that MPs were invited to make their own judgment on the merits of the case for war and they were entitled to do so on the truth and it looks very much as though that the truth was withheld from parliament and many MPs may well have made a different decision if they had had the full unvarnished truth," he said.

Tom Keys was one of the British soldiers killed in the war. His father Reg says Blair's disclosure may have serious implications for the former leader.

"This man actually said in February 2003, Tony Blair addressed the house [House of Commons] and said that Saddam can stay in power if he hands over his weapons of mass destruction," he said.  "And now he is saying now that I would have chosen a different argument had he not had WMDs. Well, as we all know, going to war for regime change is against international law."

The Blair criticism has only begun. It also raises questions of whether his role as a special Middle East envoy is now untenable.

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