Throughout the debate Blair returned to a small series of bullet points, all of which can be refuted with the minimum of fuss. Let's go through them.
-It was a difficult decision but it had to be made and he believes it was the right thing to do.-
Irrelevant. Heads of governments make difficult decisions. Making those decisions and thinking that you're making them correctly hardly constitutes an achievement. Not only is this irrelevant, its so irrelevant that its almost akin to time-wasting. The more time spent mouthing these superfluous words, the less time spent answering the substantial points.
-He was faced with a situation where France had stated that it would not sign any resolution authorising the use of force.-
This is a deliberate misrepresentation. France had not rendered any talk of diplomatic progress obsolete by saying that it would never authorise the use of force under any circumstances, which is what Blair and Straw have spent the last two years pretending was the case. In an interview on 10 March 2003 French President Jacques Chirac said that war was unjustifiable at that moment in time; not never, come what may. This was hardly an unreasonable veto, especially since Chirac's view represented the majority of world opinion and the UN - whose authority Blair claimed he wanted to uphold - is a global, multilateral institution. In fact it was Blair and Bush who unreasonably vetoed the clear wishes of the international community by starting a war with Iraq.
-We are better off with Saddam in prison than in power. The region, therefore the world, therefore Britain is safer.-
Saddam was already substantively disarmed, as was well known at the time. He was not even a threat to his neighbours (as he was when the US and the UK were backing his murderous regime). By contrast, an aggressively militaristic global superpower which holds international law in contempt has now lowered the bar for waging war, provoking weapons proliferation on the part of its enemies and thus destabilising the region and the world. Blair's complicity in this has increased the risk of terrorist attack on this country.
-Had he remained in power Saddam would have been strengthened and Iraqis would still have been dying. If you dispute the point, speak to Iraqis about it.-
Children under the age of five were already dying at the rate of 4,000 every month under the US/UK sanctions regime before the war. Saddam was empowered internally by these very measures, which Blair had been complicit in from 1997 til 2003. Since the invasion child malnutrition has doubled and over 100,000 more people have died than would have had the war never taken place. As for speaking to Iraqis, poll after poll has shown Iraqi hostility to the occupying powers. Over 300,000 marched only two weeks ago, demanding the expulsion of British and American troops and condemning Bush and Blair as war criminals.
-Iraq now has a democratic government.-
Creating a democracy was never a matter of urgency for the United States. Former governor Paul Bremner had intended to drag out American rule indefinitely, but the Shia leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani brought mass demonstrations onto the streets in favour of elections, forcing the hand of the occupier. When they came turnout was high and voters jubilant in the largely peaceful Shia-dominated south, but almost nobody voted in the war ravaged, predominantly Sunni centre, leaving a government completely unrepresentative of Iraq’s cultural make-up. A serious election campaign was practically impossible, with candidates subject to death threats and unable to reveal their identity to voters as a result. Unlike in elections in East Timor and Palestine for example, international observation to guarantee a free and fair vote was nowhere to be seen. If any countries other than the US and the UK had presided over these elections they would have been held up to international ridicule.
Now, behind the newly elected government, lurks the might of the US military. It’s something of a stretch to describe a country with tens of thousands of foreign troops on its soil, bombing its towns and cities and killing its people, as free, sovereign and democratic
No audience member questioned Blair on the catastrophic state Iraq is now in. Oil, the principle reason Iraq was invaded, also went unmentioned. Once again the central issues relating to the invasion of Iraq stayed outside the public discussion. Blair’s critics may think they have him on the back foot, but in truth his greatest crimes remain completely unchallenged.