This is from a note written by Tony Blair to Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, in April 2002, immediately before his visit to George Bush's ranch in Texas.
"Saddam's regime is a brutal, oppressive military dictatorship. He kills his opponents, has wrecked his country's economy and is a source of instability and danger in the region," he wrote.
"I can understand a right-wing Tory opposed to 'nation-building' being opposed to it on grounds it hasn't any direct bearing on our national interest.
"But in fact a political philosophy that does care about other nations - eg Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone - and is prepared to change regimes on the merits, should be gung-ho on Saddam."
Paraphrase: the reasons for dealing with Saddam are that he is nasty to his people and a danger to the region. Right-wing Tories would be opposed to an invasion because it wouldn't benefit the UK. We care about other nations (unlike those nasty Tories) and are prepared to change their governments if we think it would be beneficial.
The comment about the 'right-wing Tories' is revealing. He is trying to argue that the invasion was purely to help those poor Iraqis under Saddam's regime, even though there was no benefit to Britain's national interest.
That's not what he said at the time.
Answer to Parliamentary question, Sept 2002:
Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…Radio interview (on No 10 website, page deleted):
So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not regime change - that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change.There's a clear implication in all of this, that while Saddam was a brutal dictator, the reason for toppling him was that he had weapons of mass destruction, i.e. that he posed a threat to our national security. Bush always said that the purpose of invading Iraq was regime change. Blair consistently said that the UK's reason was not regime change. Now it seems it was regime change after all, and that Iraq was never a threat to the UK. It had "no bearing on our national interest", in his own words.
An interesting line from the New Labour Book of Disingenuous Political Phrases:
"A political philosophy that does care about other nations" = helping people by bombing them back to the Stone Age.
Incidentally, an excellent summary of the questions, Blair's answers and the evidence around it in the Independent today. According to Subrosa, Blair had to consult lawyers before returning to the UK, to be sure he was not about to be arrested. A little discomfort, then. It's a start.