I finally caught up with Hans Blix's appearance on Hardtalk last night, and it brought home to me the most surreal (and that's quite an accolade) aspect of Britain's after-the-fact rationalisation for why an unprovoked invasion was justified without the presence of WMDs. The interviewer Jonathan Charles put this proposition to Blix - "the problem for Britain surely was that Saddam was never going to admit to having disarmed, because it would have made him look weak in the eyes of his enemies". Blix gave a rather bemused smile, and pointed out "but Saddam told us that he didn't have WMDs".
Charles seemed momentarily confused by this, but of course on that point there is no doubt at all. The most memorable of the many occasions when Saddam told the world he didn't have WMDs was in his interview with Tony Benn, who simply asked him "does Iraq possess weapons of mass destruction?" At the subsequent PMQs, Tony Blair was sneeringly dismissive of Benn's interrogation technique - "I don't think Jeremy Paxman will be fearing for his job". But it seems in retrospect this was one of those instances where a simple, direct question elicits the most honest reply. It's what you might call the 'Fern Britton principle'.
So all this begs the question - what precisely is the difference between Saddam saying something on the one hand, and 'admitting' it on the other? Would it have helped if he had looked slightly more guilty when he said it? On such distinctions, we are expected to believe, hinged Britain's decision to launch an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country.