There's an assumption about Tony Blair and his appearance before the Chilcot enquiry that you cannot hold any possible opinion other than the one that says he was a liar and a war criminal and Bush's poodle.
I don't hold that view, indeed any of those views. In 2003, for what it's worth, I supported the invasion of Iraq for the purpose of removing an evil tyrant from power. Saddam Hussein was a beast who ruled his country through fear and who had used weapons of mass destruction against the Kurds and had invaded Kuwait. The great tragedy of the first Gulf intervention was the failure to finish the job.
Like most supporters of the invasion I hoped the removal of Saddam would not have been followed by such bloodshed, obviously, naively, perhaps. Recall too that it was not the British and Americans who were planting bombs in markets or cutting heads off and broadcasting it on the internet. It was the work of blood thirsty death cults that took their butchery to Iraq. It was also the Shia militias of Najaf, Basra and Sadr City who caused such mayhem thanks to their sponsorship by the Iranian government.
That there was unsufficient preparation for the aftermath is without question now. But the basis for the invasion remains. I'm less clear on the real purpose of the Chilcot enquiry. As Martin Kettle says here there are places where a show trial is what is really wanted: "Just as during the Hutton inquiry, there is a demand, often media-led, for a simplistic version of events that is simply not supported by the evidence as a whole."
And forget not the bravery of Iraqis who voted in greater proportions than we did in their election of 2005, and this in the teeth of intimidation, not just the apathy and cynicism we have to overcome. Think too of those who want a better future of peace and security.
But some core thoughts remain about the conventional wisdom that has come to pass for a consensus on Iraq.
Firstly, more people than care to admit it held that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Even Saddam Hussein believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Who would dare tell him the infrastructure of his rag bag regime was crumbling around him?
Secondly, due to the rotten state of the crumbling and corrupt state, was it not inevitable that the time would have been up for the regime anyway? And such was the depth of fear and violence that the Ba'athists, the Islamists of Fallujah, the Shia militias and the tribal chiefs would have been in a state of civil war whatever the trigger for the change. Put another way, heartbreaking though Iraq's situation was from 2005 to 2008, was the suffering of Iraq inevitable?
Thirdly, this was not a war for oil. Iraq could and should be a wealthy country because it has such reserves of oil, but the contracts have been auctioned off and the winners have been French, Russian, Malaysian and Angolan. There's more on this here from Christopher Hitchens.
Fourthly, Fraser Nelson in the Spectator this week says the real failure was to "look the other way" in Basra and concede control to the Shiite thugs.
And finally, there's a lot of sophistry and mock indignation about all of this, as Denis McShane says here. The lack of support and running for cover by senior civil servants and cabinet members is woeful and cowardly. At least Robin Cook had the courage to resign. And through all of the conflict Gordon Brown was nowhere to be seen. What will he say when he appears before the enquiry? At least Blair has been consistent.