The justification for [the Iraq] war under international law, and as made by those who led it, did not centre on regime change for humanitarian reasons. But the moral case for getting rid of Saddam depended on this from day one. To suggest otherwise is an act of deliberate self-blinding.I've concurred with Geras about this before.
Still, Geras understates the extent to which the moral rationale formed part of the justification under international law. See the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, Sec. 3 ("It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.") and the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 ("Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region, and that Congress, supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688"). And such moral reasons are not undercut by the unfortunate fact of civilian casualties, especially given that coalition-caused deaths have declined dramatically.