The first thing to do, is to identify the reasons for an invasion of iraq. As i see it there are three, firstly an attack on iraq could be motivated by the percieved threat caused by iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, secondly an attack motivated for the purpose of defending another country from attack by iraq, and lastly an attack for humanitarian reasons, i.e. to help the civilian population of iraq.
The first is easily refuted, the President himself went from this "[there is] no doubt the Iraqi regimecontinues to possess the most lethal weapons ever devised" to this "White House officials are no longer asserting that stockpiles of banned weapons would eventually be found."
As there is now no doubt that Saddam did not possess WMDs and it easy to deduce that this was known well before the invasion. Simply by looking to those charged with overseeing the disarmament of iraq gives ample evidence that there was no threat to the US or any other coaltion country, "On Iraq’s WMD, Scott Ritter, the former top weapons inspector, claimed that when he left in 1998, 90 to 95 percent of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons (CBW) had been destroyed and any remaining anthrax or sarin would be useless sludge." It is useful to note that Scott Ritter says here, that, he "left." The US government line is that weapons inspectors were thrown out, this however is false, they were ordered to leave by the UN, to use an "uncontroversial" (if, however, true in this case) source "The U.N. orders its weapons inspectors to leave Iraq after the chief inspector reports Baghdad is not fully cooperating with them" [Sheila MacVicar, ABC World News].
Some however are not totally convinced by this, but the list of reports confirming this goes on, "A report from U.N. weapons inspectors to be released today says they now believe there were no weapons of mass destruction of any significance in Iraq after 1994" [USA Today]. And this is continually backed up by Iraqi dissidents. It is beyond doubt now that there is and never was a WMD program in operation. Accepted by everyone, save those who still hang on to the belief he transported them across borders just before the invasion, for what benefit, is unknown and probably unfounded.
Secondly, that the war was neceessary to defend other innocent civilians in bordering countries. There is no real need to go in to detail, but it would be useful in the context of noting the US reponse to this kind of action in the past. For instance the Iraqi invasion of Iran (aided by the US) and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (used as the reason for the first gulf war).
Thirdly, the humanitarian option. "Saddam is a vengeful despot, who has already used chemical weapons on his own people, which is the ultimate horror." This roughly sums up, the thrust of ones arguments for the invasion. And at face value this seems a "fair" (for the purpose of continuing the article, I will leave the choice of war as the first/best option till later) reason for attacking in the hope of regime change. But, although this may be the conclusion you arrived at (a US led invasion of a soverign country for the purpose of 'taking out' an evil dictator) this may greatly differ from what was planned by the invading force (i.e. the US and the UK).
To understand what motivates them it is useful to ask what was the US and UK reaction to Saddam's use of chemical weapons aganist his own people (kurds in the north and south, and Iranian people), the reaction was to increase support. This is easily discovered by consulting the governmental records. Support was in the shape of agricultural export, including "dual usage" (could be used for both agricultural and military purpose) machinary and materials that could be used to create chemical weapons. This was for the purpose of apparently "increasing US exports and helping the US deal with iraqi human rights." This was reversed soon after, by imposing sanctions, known to have killed over 500,000 children.
At this time a reporter for ABC news, using French satallite technology discovered Saddam was in the process of creating chemical weapons. This however was dissmissed by the Pentagon, but however has resurfaced recently as evidence for the new war on Iraq, even though, as I have already mentioned, weapons inspectors reported that Saddam was almost fully disarmed. Therefore it is reasonable to assume, that the evidence was not used at the time, (and almostly likely already known by the Pentagon due to their far more advanced satallite systems and their "defense" network) because Saddam was considered useful.
The height of Saddam's threat, during the late 80's, also coincided with the height of US funding. And was best shown by the fact that even with US/Russian/European help, he was unable to defeat the inferior Iranian army, not exactly the major threat now shown by western media. Then followed the invasion of Kuwait, a major crime, but not according to US leaders, and when seen from the perspective of his previous atrocities, not all that serious.
Following the first gulf war, Saddam committed more of his, now repetitive attrocites, the savage crushing of the Iraqi uprising, who were given no assistance (all that was asked, was access to captured Iraqi weapons). These rebels were then obviously left helpless as Saddam took his revenge on their insubordination. The US obviously did not want the uprising to prevail, they did not want Saddam uprooted. This scenario was repeated in the north soon after.
Therefore "stability" prevailed. The state department's line at the time was that "the best of all worlds would be an iron fisted military junta who would rule Iraq the same way as Saddam has done, but without Saddam's name" [New York Times]. Brent Scowcroft said in 1996 "it would not have...been to our interests to have Saddam overthrown, because any replacement might have been worse." So the deaths of thousands of rebels was acceptable.
Now almost ten years on, the coalition of the willing have taken it apon themselves to invade a starving country with a huge military force, killing thousands of civilians, allowing their already wrecked country to be infested by terrorist forces (this was well predicted by many terrorist experts before the invasion) and the polution of their land by depleted uranium.
"Today, nearly 12 years after the use of the super-tough weapons was credited with bringing the war to a swift conclusion, the battlefield remains a radioactive toxic wasteland" (remember this battlefield is someones home), "contamination will make food and water unsafe for consumption," "There were photos of infants born without brains, with their internal organs outside their bodies, without sexual organs, without spines, and the list of deformities went on and on. There also were photos of cancer patients. Cancer has increased dramatically in southern Iraq. In 1988, 34 people died of cancer; in 1998, 450 died of cancer; in 2001 there were 603 cancer deaths."
The simple fact is the thousands of people who have died in this war have died not for the sake of bringing democracy to their country, but because Western governments want control of their resources. The list of people that would be alive today if it wasn't for this war includes not only Iraqi civilians, but US soliders, aid workers, the contractors executed and those hundreds of people kidnapped by terrorist gangs.
What should have been done? The first and most easily accomplished would have been to stop the support for this "despotic monster." In the case of the early 90's, an uprising should at least, have not been hindered, a UN presence would have been called for in the event of a successful uprising to try and produce democratic procedures. More recently, weapons inspectors should have been increased, sanctions should have been lifted and given the fact that Saddam had little or no support, his regime would have failed ratherly quickly. A starving population cannot organise an uprising (This, however would never have been tolerated by the US, considering their reaction to rebel uprisings following Gulf war I. The reality is, the US never wanted the Iraqis to dispose of Saddam, as it may have led them to elect a government that represented THEM). For those who can't wait, and given the US gift for organising coups, Saddam could have removed from power without the level of bloodshed seen now.
To understand this fully, try to put yourself in the position of an Iraqi before the war. You are starving, you hate your "leader," you have no outside support. What do you want? Would you prefer firstly food, then assistance in overthrowing your dictator (this was never an impossibility and has been replayed time and time again throughout history) or would lyou prefer a huge invading army to firstly bomb you (this negates the fact that bombing had been continual throughout the 90's) and then to invade you, killing between 15 and 100+ thousand of your family and friends, leaving your land radioactive and your government a puppet of a foreign state.
"We don't do body counts" [General Tommy Franks, US Central Command].
Considering that the forces of "freedom and democracy" have seemingly not bothered to keep a record of civillian deaths, and who have failed to provide a conclusive account of coalition troops dead (including those dying off the battle field due to injuries, suicide etc). Therefore those who were sent to fight a "war" for the purpose of defending their country from an imminent threat (known at the time to be false and since then admitted to be false by the US president) are not even given the respect of being counted and instead flown home in secrecy. Today in Britain (presumably another centre of "freedom and democracy") 11 representatives of "Military Families Against the War" a group made up of families who have either lost relatives serving in Iraq or are presently serving in the Black Watch have been refused permission to hold a minutes silence outside Downing Street as a protest aganist the war. If this is your "freedom and democracy" you can keep it. But it is not your right to force it on other people and other countries.
The simple fact is that President Bush used the 9/11 attacks to attack Iraq, by continually linking Iraq with terrorist organistions. None of these links ever existed. The problem is, now they do, Iraq has been flooded by terrorists, using the terrorised (by the coaltion forces) population's anger to forward their own aims.
The war in Afganistan, launched for purpose of finding Bin Laden, managed to ravage an already destroyed country, leaving thousnads dead, and millions on the brink of starvation, but, apparently just, as there is a chance that democracy may now be in the future. The history of this country is long and brutal, and also includes the C.I.A. training of Bin Laden and his subsequent funding (Billions).
The removal of Saddam is without doubt a good thing, but just because the result (Actually just one result. Others include deaths, injuries, the breaking of International Law etc) is acceptable, does this infer that the war was just. This is a moral question and therefore restricted to individual bias.
The main thrust of the US/UK Government line is that even given the fact that there are no credible war aims, we (as the people of the US/UK) must support the war, because its intention is to remove Saddam. Your choice I guess.
As an after thought: (From official US documents)
Terrorism: "the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in the furtherance of political or social objectives."
Low Intensity Warfare (Official US Policy): "... a political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states. It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies. Low-intensity conflict ranges from subversion to the use of the armed forces. It is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments. Low-intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global security implications."