No matter how many times O'Sensei would say how it's not to do with fighting still they hunt for somewhere where he must have said it was or could be...frantically scraping the bottom of the barrel for justification.
The problem with using Ueshiba as a source is that one can find quotes attributed to him that express diametrically opposing viewpoints. The Art of Peace is full of references to opponents and enemies and contains advice as to how to approach them from a martial combat reference point. It also contains quotes that illustrate how training in Aikido will lead to enlightenment if one's practice is devoted and sincere and how it's not about fighting and competing.
I think, Graham, that you are trying to repeatedly shave the face of a coin in an attempt to eliminate one of the faces so that what you have left amounts to (metaphorically speaking) an Aikido monopole. You are, of course, free to differentiate between Aikido as a system of martial combat and Aikido as a system primarily concerned with spiritual development; but I don't believe you can ever fully separate them without losing the essence of what Aikido is. It is the juxtaposition of these opposing viewpoints that via devoted training in Aikido we seek to reconcile within ourselves.