Desmond tutu | George W. Bush | Iraq | Tony Blair

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Put Blair And Bush On Trial


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the anti-apartheid warrior, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and general mensch, this weekend published an editorial in The Observer explaining his decision to pull out of a scheduled appearance at last week's Discovery Invest Leadership Summit, in Johannesburg. His reason: Tony Blair would be there. Tony Blair, according to Tutu, shouldn't be onstage in Johannesburg. He should be on trial at The Hague. George W. Bush, too. Probably some others.

Archbishop Tutu's editorial begins with a sentence that is neither grammatical nor historical:

The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Surely Archbishop Tutu means to say it was the conflict itself, and not its immorality, that did the "destabilising"? (And didn't the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia in July, 1914, cause at least as much trouble?) Archbishop Tutu calms down a few paragraphs later, writing:

On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its by-all-accounts despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.

There are no satisfactory answers to Archbishop Tutu's questions, as a tired-sounding Tony Blair seems to acknowledge in his rebuttal:

I have a great respect for Archbishop Tutu's fight against apartheid – where we were on the same side of the argument – but to repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.

And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre ... his slaughter of his political opponents, the treatment of the Marsh Arabs and the systematic torture of his people make the case for removing him morally strong. But the basis of action was as stated at the time.

In short, this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say. But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree.

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  1. He was clearly saying that both the USA's immorality and the decision to invade have destabilized the country. Delete this smear piece, or learn how to parse language and attempt this post again.

    Posted by: garbage | Sep 2, 2012 5:37:10 PM

  2. The only reason the USA and Britain invaded Iraq was to remove Sadam and get their hands on vast oil reserves. Iraqi troops were not landing on the beaches of Long Island. Cheney boasted that captured Iraqi oil production would finance the US military effort. When hundreds of thousands of people were being slaughtered in Uganda the USA blocked a UN resolution to provide more UN troops. After Noriega fell in Nicaragua and the newly elected president went to Washington she could not get an appointment with Bush Sr. It's not about spreading freedom and democracy. If you don't have oil or gold or resources like Zimbabwe, Sudan or Somalia you're probably safe from invasions that "liberate" you.

    Posted by: shanestud | Sep 2, 2012 5:49:16 PM

  3. It WAS a lie, and the war was to get oil, kill Hussein and re-elect Bush, so his mission was accomplished.

    Posted by: trees | Sep 2, 2012 5:57:58 PM

  4. They not only need to put Bush and Blair on trial but also the covert government groups who also has parts in the wars like the people in the CIA and MI5 who are responsible for the deaths of countless women and children as a result of their involvements.

    Posted by: Mike | Sep 2, 2012 6:11:42 PM

  5. He is acting as a judge, jury and policeman at the same time. His kind of arguments won't stand if he is to stand trial in an international court.

    Posted by: simon | Sep 2, 2012 6:44:45 PM

  6. Blair, in a healthy democracy, war criminals are imprisoned.

    Posted by: Randy | Sep 2, 2012 7:15:34 PM

  7. What a terribly written article.

    Posted by: Amy | Sep 2, 2012 7:18:23 PM

  8. Why is this horribly written article bashing on Tutu?

    Posted by: Kyle | Sep 2, 2012 8:09:24 PM

  9. Why is this horribly written article bashing on Tutu?

    Posted by: Kyle | Sep 2, 2012 8:09:28 PM

  10. Tony Blair is a vile, disgusting creature who goes around the world making a lot of money from himself. His wife, Cherie, obviously benefits from this.

    Posted by: jason | Sep 2, 2012 8:54:50 PM

  11. What the hell?

    First, the linguistic structure of Tutu's sentence is correct. The fact that you appear to disagree (foolishly, I think) with his conclusion means that you find his statement either "inaccurate" or "poorly-phrased."

    Second, I am perfectly comfortable assuming that Tutu, a man of great political and philosophical experience, meant precisely what he said. It seems a more likely possibility than the idea that he has been "caught out" by some 20-something bloggerboy whose grasp of English is too poor to understand that actual meaning of the word "ungrammatical."

    Posted by: Buster | Sep 2, 2012 8:55:22 PM

  12. The problem with Tony Blair's rebuttal is that it proves he lacked the courage of his convictions to state these reasons back then. Instead, he and Bush used some phony notion of WMD's as a pretext to invade Iraq. As such, Blair is a fail.

    Posted by: jason | Sep 2, 2012 8:57:17 PM

  13. This is really unfortunate, but Brandon K. Thorp has single-handedly ruined Towleroad.

    Posted by: Rob | Sep 2, 2012 9:34:14 PM

  14. Not sure where BTK was coming from with his initial criticism of Tutu. I welcome an explanation.

    Posted by: Cinesnatch | Sep 2, 2012 10:14:48 PM

  15. Buster:

    I'm fine on grammar, thanks. The problem with the sentence is that it begins treating the word "immorality" as its subject, and ends as though its subject is "decision [to invade]." I don't see how that's ambiguous.

    The more important point, I think, is that Archbishop Tutu said the war in Iraq was the most destabilizing war *ever*, which suggests he's writing in the heat of passion. I mentioned the Austro-Hungarian war against Serbia -- a war that led, very quickly, to World War I and the Russian Revolution, and more distantly to World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and all the rest. Archbishop Tutu knows this. Which means he's being hyperbolic. Which, given the sensitive nature of his essay, is probably a bad idea. Feel free to disagree.

    Anyway -- what's with the sacred cows? I'm a great fan of Archbishop Tutu's, but that doesn't mean I think he's immune from criticism. Nobody is. And I do think his questions about the slippery scales of justice are good ones, as I hope I made clear. To criticize is not to pan.

    - BKT

    Posted by: Brandon K. Thorp | Sep 2, 2012 10:32:13 PM

  16. Tutu needs to die already he's clearly Los his mind Saddame had to go he massacred tens of thousands useing death squads, nerve gas, and bombs he was a monster and the only way to deal with monsters like him is to show no mercy. I am no bush fan but I supported both wars 100% evil must be hunted down and destroyed wherever it is

    Posted by: Lee | Sep 2, 2012 10:39:34 PM

  17. Lame-ass editorializing again, Brandon.

    Posted by: charlie maguro | Sep 2, 2012 10:39:58 PM

  18. Brandon's more smart-ass than smart.

    Posted by: Bingo | Sep 2, 2012 10:48:09 PM

  19. You can't say that Tutu meant to say something other than what he said and then say that he is wrong for saying it.

    Posted by: Marc | Sep 2, 2012 10:50:41 PM

  20. A lot of Tutu's particulars are exaggerated. However, if I have to choose to be on team Tutu or team Blair/Bush, I am on team Tutu.

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 2, 2012 11:02:20 PM

  21. Here come the trolls with their childish comments! Bashing the messenger (Towleroad) and Bishop Tutu in an effort to turn the focus away from the real culprits, George & Company. These are the same people who refuse to acknowledge the huge DEBT accumulated for this war which was an excercise in STUPIDITY. They won't admit that it was not needed and was a huge burden on this country, economically and morally. But, they will go back to their Tea Party rallies and say the debt is so huge and it's all Obama's fault.

    Btw who ended the war? Obama. Who gets the blame for the trillions in debt because of it? Well, they blame Obama of course. In their minds did their St. George do anything wrong? Nope.

    They are hypocrites.

    Posted by: LOSERS | Sep 2, 2012 11:05:38 PM

  22. How and why the war started is, I think, still debatable. It's long-term effects are still unknown, and only history can judge them. But then there's the hard fact of widespread, officially sanctioned (by both Bush and Blair), and proudly admitted (by Bush at least) torture.

    Tutu is right about one thing: there is really no doubt that these men are war criminals, according to the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, and U.S. and British law.

    Posted by: BABH | Sep 2, 2012 11:31:16 PM

  23. 'Surely Archbishop Tutu means to say it was the conflict itself, and not its immorality, that did the "destabilising"?'

    Who are you to question what Tutu meant? the immorality of the war was just as bad as the conflict, lots of nations either did not follow USA or redrew earlier because they felt America lied to get in there in the first place.

    And if Blair and Bush's excuse for going into iraq was that Saddam killed people, then why should Bush and Blair not be arrested and tried for the deaths of the Iraqi citizens?

    Maybe, the USA should have been invaded by Canada, and Europe for the treatments of blacks in the 60s.

    Posted by: johnosahon | Sep 2, 2012 11:40:55 PM

  24. I loathe this site on the weekends. Loathe. Fire this idiot already.

    Posted by: Pt | Sep 2, 2012 11:53:07 PM

  25. Since when did Towleroad start using interns to write editorials for them?

    Posted by: Nick Name | Sep 3, 2012 12:05:57 AM

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