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Retired South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has cancelled his plans to speak at a Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg because former British Premier Tony Blair will be there. Blair’s “morally indefensible” alliance with the U.S. in overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein made him unacceptable to Tutu.
“Morality and leadership are indivisible,” Tutu’s spokesman explained. “In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair.” Meanwhile, a South African Isalmist party plans to demonstrate against Blair, advocating his arrest for “war crimes.”
Tutu, now age 81, is best known for commendably resisting Apartheid in old white-controlled South Africa. But his human rights antennae are not always finely tuned. He was mostly silent about the horrendous crimes of Saddam Hussein’s brutal rule and offered no reasonable alternatives to his forcible overthrow.
“We should be careful who we condemn. Saddam Hussein is God’s child—as Bush is God’s child,” Tutu explained in 2005, after Saddam was imprisoned and awaiting trial. The archbishop had urged Saddam be tried before the International Criminal Court at the Hague rather than in Iraq, where he was ultimately executed. “An immoral war was thus waged and the world is a great deal less safe place than before,” Tutu pronounced about Iraq in 2004, demanding an apology from Blair and President George W. Bush. “There are many more who resent the powerful who can throw their weight about so callously and with so much impunity.” He linked U.S. aggression under Bush to capital punishment in Texas during his governorship, saying “it may not be fanciful” to tie Texas executions and America’s “belligerent militarist policies.”
Tutu has also harshly condemned the U.S. War on Terror overall. In 2005 he came to New York to perform in a play denouncing the detention policies at Guantanamo. “People used to be contained without trials during the apartheid years, and when you asked why, the standard reply was ‘the security of the state,’ ” he said, likening U.S. policies to the old Apartheid regime. In a 2005 interview, he denounced the U.S. presence in Iraq, faulting the U.S., but not sectarian insurgents, for 100,000 dead. “But you see, you experienced a little bit on September 11, the kind of thing that is meted out on a regular basis,” he suggested, comparing “collateral damage” in Iraq to al Qaeda’s attacks.
On 9/11’s ten-year anniversary, Tutu suggested the “U.S. owes the world an apology — at the very least — for lying about the existence of so-called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” He had hoped after 9/11 that the U.S. would have chosen “self-examination” and asked of itself: “What have we done wrong in terms of our relationships, and what should we do to bridge the divides that exist between us?” The Nobel laureate also complained that post-9/11, thanks to Western security procedures, “adherents of the Muslim faith were harassed and humiliated across the world” in a “computer-age equivalent of the Nazis daubing yellow Stars of David on the doors of Jewish homes.”
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