frgavin on September 3rd, 2012

Thanks to Cranmer’s Blog

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is revered by many as a living saint, some way above Jimmy Carter, but way beneath the Dalai Lama. He has apparently pulled out of a conference in Johannesburg in protest at the presence of Tony Blair who took the ‘morally indefensible’ decision to lead British forces into war against Iraq in 2003. The Archbishop’s Office issued a statement, declaring:

“Ultimately, the Archbishop is of the view that Mr Blair’s decision to support the United States’ military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible.

“The Discovery Invest Leadership Summit has leadership as its theme. Morality and leadership are indivisible. In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the Archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair.”

A spokesman told the New Statesman that Archbishop Tutu was ‘a very prayerful man’ who will have ‘spent hours on his knees considering this decision’.

Maybe so. But that doesn’t make him right. Not least because Tony Blair is also reportedly a very prayerful man who spends hours on his knees considering his decisions. Mr Blair’s Office has issued a response to the Tutu boycott:

“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. We have just had the memorials both 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 addition 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. I would also point out that, despite the problems, Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size with child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places like Basra.”

What Archbishop Tutu appears to overlook is that Tony Blair did not make the decision to lead the country into war with Iraq: Parliament did. For the first time in our history, the Royal Prerogative to go to war was subject to the will of the people’s representatives. You may argue about the manipulative effects of the alleged untruths, exaggerations, distortions and ‘dodgy dossiers’, but such is the daily political diet by which policy is formulated and Parliament is made fat.

The world has moved on in the mechanics of warfare since Augustine (of Hippo) and Aquinas developed the ethical reasoning by which pacifism in the face of a grave wrong might be considered a sin. But the essential morality remains the same. If Archbishop Tutu believes that Saddam might have been reasoned with and that some form of non-violent action might have resolved the problem, he is apparently ignorant of the nature of the beast.

His Grace is neither pacifist nor consequentialist: if physical violence is necessary to eradicate a grave evil, it is the duty of a righteous government to act. The sadness is that a sainted cleric like Archbishop Desmond Tutu is deemed to be right because he is a ‘very prayerful man’ who has ‘spent hours on his knees considering this decision’. Yet few will consider that Tony Blair is also a ‘very believing man‘, with an overwhelming preference to talk theology while the clerics only want to talk policy. One may not agree with everything he did, does, said or says. But please don’t rush to judgment on the basis of a dog collar. Especially when the wearer believes its holy aura might somehow affirm or dignify the Blairite evil.

Was not the Son of God willing to consort with tax collectors and prostitutes?

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