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. "But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree." As those democracies commit atrocities on non-democracies. Blair and Bush are the butchers of Baghdad.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Sep 3, 2012 1:17:53 AM

  2. "Archbishop Tutu said the war in Iraq was the most destabilizing war *ever*, which suggests he's writing in the heat of passion."

    Or, perhaps, that he looks into the future and sees the consequences tumbling on, decade after decade, as they most certainly will.

    As for prosecution, I'd gladly have Tutu face the grammar police and suffer the scolding he might get. I'm sure the penalties would be quite small compared to what Blair and Bush deserve.

    Posted by: BobN | Sep 3, 2012 1:36:17 AM

  3. Wow you queens need to get a live bush was an ahole for sure but getting rid of saddame was a good thing or do y'all enjoy watching tens of thousands of Kurds, and Shias being gassed, shot, and killed in any other number of horrific fashions?

    Posted by: Lee | Sep 3, 2012 2:43:10 AM

  4. @Lee: Saddam was an ally of ours when he was gasing those Kurds and we did nothing about it.

    Posted by: andrew | Sep 3, 2012 2:50:06 AM

  5. Nice try at generalized political snarkiness, Mr. Thorpe, but, as usual, things just whiz right over the top of your head.

    Yes, dear Brandon, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 WAS immoral. It was based on a complete sack of lies.

    Nowhere in that introductory paragraph does Archbishop Tutu state that the immorality of the premise for instigating the illegal invasion of Iraq had anything to do with "destablising" the region.

    Further, you completely slice off a HUGE piece of historical reckoning as to WHY WWI started. The "Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia" was about 1/5th of the total equation of why Europe began what was essentially a long and bloody European civil war.

    Bone up on history and get your facts straight, son, well before you try third-rate "analysis", a part of which essentially was a put-down of what Desmond Tutu was attempting to say.

    And, yes, the Archbishop is correct. George W. Bush and Tony Blair are as criminal as the white European holier-than-thou racists claim Robert Mugabe is.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Sep 3, 2012 3:19:20 AM

  6. Of all the people to criticize, for such a non-issue.

    Tutu is practically a saint.

    And I believe "destabilize" is spelled with an "s" outside the US.

    Some supervision please.

    Posted by: rick scatorum | Sep 3, 2012 5:36:25 AM

  7. It's a pity Blair finds the accusation so wearisome.

    Posted by: Mikemike | Sep 3, 2012 9:43:17 AM

  8. Brandon, your own prose is deeply flawed on many occasions and the thinking behind it seems very muddled. The fact that you would criticize Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the finest thinkers of our generation, would be crazy even if you were right on the grammar. But you are not. You don't even understand what he is saying. Time for you to get some book larnin', amigo. You are not up to the caliber of this site.

    Posted by: Rob | Sep 3, 2012 10:10:37 AM

  9. It's beyond ridiculous to ask how one dares question Tutu's views when the criticism was aimed at his sentence structure and not the substance of his argument. Hell, even St. Paul said that "the wages of sin IS death," which would have got my ass kicked by Ms. Jackson in eighth grade English. What's funny is that if the good Archbishop had had a chance to hear Thorp's feedback before he published, he probably would have said, "Quite right, thanks, I was a little unclear there. But we DO spell stabilise with an "s" in the rest of the world, dear boy." It's unlikely he would have given himself an aneurysm over the edit Thorp got wrong or the one he got right.

    Posted by: Steve Scarborough | Sep 3, 2012 11:12:20 AM

  10. Tutu's default animus towards the Western first world nations, blaming them for all the problems of the 3rd world and Apartheid and AIDS in particular is well known. Sometimes his AIDS conspiracy theories are a bit over the top, such as the classic "spread by the CIA" trope. We do know that Apartheid fell because at the end of the Cold War western nations no longer feared Soviet expansion in Africa, which was one of the major reasons for post-colonial wars there. This pulled the rug out from under the National Party, which had long used the trope that they held back communism in sub-equatorial Africa to gain western support.

    However, Tutu's big problem is that he was part of a group that called for armed civil conflict in SA to end apartheid and for other sub-equatorial post-colonial countries to invade SA and liberate it from apartheid, and he even hinted that Soviet (or UN) forces could be used. However, over the years his rhetoric was entirely inconsistent on whether to use force or not. Thankfully, Nelson Mandela was a better man than he.

    Posted by: anon | Sep 3, 2012 12:14:56 PM

  11. Finished with Towleroad. Brandon K is a divisive little moron.

    Posted by: djork | Sep 3, 2012 2:45:49 PM

  12. I don't think that Blair and Bush can be tried for simply being uninformed and incompetent. Thousands of innocent people are dead because of their incompetence, but I think that the responsibility is on the voters and media to make sure that something like the Iraq war never happens again.

    Posted by: cadence | Sep 3, 2012 6:09:33 PM

  13. Brandon,

    Tutu said that this war destabilized *and* polarized greater than other conflicts. He hasn't said this was the most destabilizing war *ever*. Improve your parsing, your 'grammatical' interpretation is weak tea.

    The great war did not polarize the world save for the timing of states' involvement. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, you will recall, was much less explicable and with a legal footing that was starkly less established than that of previous conflicts.

    Posted by: JK | Sep 3, 2012 6:27:06 PM

  14. @LEE: all well and good, but that was NOT the reason or the justification the Bush administration used to invade Iraq. Good effort to deflect though but we see right through it! Do you think it was a good thing to rack up nearly a trillion in DEBT to fund the Iraq war?

    Posted by: OKRELAX | Sep 3, 2012 10:07:10 PM

  15. @Cadence: been a long time since i reviewed the history of the iraq war but i do believe maps and other documentation "showing" the presence of WMD were later proven to be BLATANTLY falsified. fabricated.

    that's not "incompetence," dear. that's lying.

    but you are right about one thing: thousands died, were maimed, and otherwise suffered intensely because of these and other war crimes.

    Posted by: redball | Sep 4, 2012 4:23:40 PM

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