(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/08/Picture-11.gif)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.”
Further pondering 9⁄11, Tutu regretted: “When we looked at the terrorists we did not see ourselves, we did not consider how our actions and posturing in the world may have contributed to the crime. No. We saw ‘others,’ and we demonized them.”
Tutu serves in a group called “The Elders,” comprised largely of left-leaning retired statesmen and activists who advocate international peace and human rights. Among them is former President Jimmy Carter, whose comparisons of Israel to Apartheid South Africa echo Tutu’s own views. Another “elder” is Graca Machel, now wife to Nelson Mandela, and formerly wife to the late Mozambican Marxist dictator Samora Machel, for whom she served as Minister of Education and Culture during their FRELIMO regime’s bloodiest and most repressive years. Evidently Tutu has had sufficient time to overlook the crimes and repressions with which she was complicit but is not able to forgive Tony Blair for helping to liberate Iraq from Saddam.
In 2004, Tutu declared God’s “shocking” and “radical” love, saying: “People are shocked when I say that George Bush and Saddam Hussein are brothers, that Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon are brothers, but God says, ‘All are my children.’” In 2008, Tutu proclaimed: “No one is an outsider in God’s family.” After all, “We are all interconnected – and that includes, black, white, red, yellow, gay, lesbian, the so-called straight, Bush and Bin Laden. We cannot be human in insolation.” After bin Laden was killed, Tutu noted he was a “child of God.” But is Tony Blair excluded from Tutu’s circle of divine love?
A spokesman for Blair responded to Tutu’s shunning: “As far as Iraq is concerned they have always disagreed about removing Saddam by force – such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy.” Noting “these decisions are never easy morally and politically,” the spokesman added: “As for the morality of that decision we have recently had both the memorial of the Halabja massacre where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam’s use of chemical weapons; and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million including many killed by chemical weapons.”
In Tutu’s grey world, all are equally God’s children, although seemingly homicidal terrorists and mass murdering dictators are the recipients of more grace than the lawful presidents and prime ministers who try to neutralize their evil.
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