Discussing David Miliband's Oxford speech, Conor Foley says that supporters of the Iraq invasion...
... never claimed that it was either a "humanitarian intervention" or a "war for democracy" until long after all the other supposed justifications had run out.It has become part of the received wisdom to say this, but it is not true. Not only is it not true of supporters at large, as I know from my own case and the case of friends of mine. It is also not true of people who were closer to the centres of actual decision-making about the war. I have previously documented this, citing statements by Ann Clwyd, Tony Blair and George Bush, and a congressional resolution from 1998, the Iraq Liberation Act. An indirect sign of the same thing appears in the Guardian's obituary today for Congressman Tom Lantos:
[A]s the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Lantos often allied himself with Republicans in his belief in the efficacy of US intervention on behalf of democracy. It was his advocacy, both in committee and on the floor of the House, which helped give President George Bush the authorisation he needed to pursue his Iraq invasion in 2003...One might make the case that these were not the principal arguments for the Iraq war put forth by Bush and Blair in the immediate run-up to it - though for many who supported the war, they always were the principal arguments - but the idea that they formed a purely post hoc justification doesn't stand up to examination.
This being so, why is the idea so widely believed? Well, I don't know why Conor believes it, but perhaps more generally it is believed because it allows opponents of the war the satisfaction of thinking, not only that they have been vindicated by the way things have gone in Iraq, but also that there was just never a meaningful case on the other side. Morally this is also not true. But the appeal of simplification is ever with us.