And still they talk of going on because he has "weapons of mass destruction".
Even if he does, they’re useless if he can’t deliver them.
Economic sanctions have driven the population into misery. Before 1990 the country had a per capita GNP of over $3,000. Today it is under $500, making Iraq one of the poorest nations.
What justification is offered for this?
THAT Saddam’s regime is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Thus the civilized world – read Israel – can never rest until Saddam is killed.
The argument is hollow.
The deadly threat from Iraqi weapons was never a problem as long as the regime in Baghdad was regarded as a friend in Washington and London.
As Iraq crushed Communists at home and fought Iranian mullahs abroad, few apprehensions about its weapons were expressed.
Once the Iraqi regime had turned against Western interests in the Gulf, of course, the possibility of it acquiring nuclear weapons suddenly became an apocalyptic danger.
But this is no longer a valid view. Today the nuclear monopoly of the big powers has collapsed with India and Pakistan getting the weapons.
And Iraq’s own nuclear programme has been thoroughly eradicated.
Even the super-hawk Scott Ritter, the UNSCOM inspector now says there is no chance of its reconstitution. He says the blockade should stop and a new war would be a disaster.
That the Ba’ath regime is a tyranny no one could doubt. That it is unique in its cruelties is an abject fiction.
Turkey, where the Kurdish language is not permitted in schools, has displaced 2 million Kurds from their homelands.
This is much worse than Iraq, where – whatever Saddam’s other crimes – there has never been any attempt at this kind of annihilation. Yet, as a valued member of NATO and candidate for the EU, Turkey suffers not the slightest measure against it.
And the Saudi kingdom makes not even a pretence of keeping human rights. Yet no state in the Arab world is more toasted in Washington.
In killing and torture, Saddam was never a match for President Suharto, whose massacres in Indonesia far exceeded Iraq’s.
But no Third World regime was more prized by the West.
Not a single part of the argument for war stands up.
So what? I’ve heard it said. Blair’s favourite foreign policy man, ex-diplomat Robert Cooper, has said: "We need to get used to double standards."
The maxim underlying this view is that we will punish the crimes of our enemies and reward the crimes of our friends.
This moral blank cheque will increase terrorism.
If Iraq is attacked, the instability in the region will be accompanied by a desire to punish the US and its allies.
The worst-case scenario of a nuclear explosion in the US might well come true.
That’s why a political solution is needed. A war could end badly for all sides.
Tariq Ali is a frequent contributor to CounterPunch. His most recent book is The Clash of Fundamentalism, published by Verso.