Tony Blair ended an epic six-hour inquisition by the Chilcot inquiry last night by insisting he had "no regrets" over toppling Saddam Hussein, arguing that the world was more secure and that Iraq has replaced "the certainty of suppression" with "the uncertainty of democratic politics".
The former prime minister blamed "the very near failure of the Iraqi occupation" on Iranian interference, misplaced assumptions and a lack of US troops.
During the long-awaited cross-examination, he gave no substantial ground over why he sent 40,000 UK troops to war to disarm Saddam of weapons he did not possess, arguing that if the west had backed off Saddam would have reassembled them, as he had the intent and ability to do so. "I had to take this decision as prime minister. It was a huge responsibility then and there is not a single day that passes by that I do not think about that responsibility, and so I should," Blair said.
Faced with the charge that 100,000 Iraqi civilians had lost their lives owing to cavalier planning, he said: "I genuinely believe that if we had left Saddam in power, even with what we know now, we would still have had to deal with him in circumstances when the threat was worse, and possibly when it was hard to mobilise any support for dealing with that threat.
"In the end, it was divisive, and I am sorry about that, and I did my level best to try to bring people back together again."
Asked in the final minute if he had regrets, he replied without reference to the families of dead British soldiers present: "Responsibility – but not a regret for removing Saddam Hussein. I think he was a monster." He left the room to shouts of "you are a liar and a murderer".
In short, he did it because the right thing to do. A good time to recall a tribute to him that I penned a while back:
Lines Written While Visiting London in February 2004, Where the Protests Took Place
These smug streets spurn you and they spit with scorn.
They throb with intelligent and genial hate.
Sons of privilege, to secure freedom born,
Content to leave lesser men in servile state,
They breathe your name as a byword and a curse!
What comfort then that you were in the right?
Though you your case a thousand times rehearse
And put your enemies arguments to flight--
They serve not conscience, nor reason, but fashion,
A haughty and a heartless mistress she.
The freedom of others and all such generous passions
They praise only with callow hypocrisy.
But I have looked on you as gratefully,
As on daffodils that bloom in February.
To see chivalry reborn in a Clinton-style spin master contemporary politician was wonderful to behold.