Desmond Tutu is out of his depth on Iraq and Tony Blair

Tutu can't handle the serious moral issues about Iraq, and he should stop pontificating to Tony Blair

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Tutu's right at home at the UN
Robin_shepherd
Robin Shepherd, Owner / Publisher
On 2 September 2012 11:25

One of the most bizarre aspects of the kerfuffle over Desmond Tutu's recent refusal to share a platform with Tony Blair is, as far as I can see, that anyone would think it worthwhile inviting Tutu onto a public platform in the first place. In all honesty, I haven't heard the man say anything remotely intelligent or insightful since the end of Apartheid.

Indeed, he rarely ever pops up on my radar unless he's making some asinine comment about Israel, either comparing it to Apartheid  -- something which raises awkward issues about his comprehension of the regime he helped to defeat -- or ranting on about the "Jewish lobby" in the United States.

But this time he's got himself into the headlines by snubbing Tony Blair over his participation in the invasion of Iraq. And where else but the Guardian to explain his "thinking".

You will understand why I put that word in inverted commas as soon as you read this, the very first paragraph of his article:

"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."

Now, in my book, anyone who can write that the Iraq war was more destabilising than, say, World War II, has effectively offered up their credibility for unconditional surrender.

Which is why my opening remarks expressing surprise that anyone would invite Tutu onto a public platform (at least on any subject other than his own personal life story under Apartheid) were meant to be taken seriously. What are you expecting to get out of him beyond the utterly predictable and dreary, UN-approved narrative of the international Left? 

Judging from the quotation above, Tutu doesn't even seem capable of dealing with basic moral distinctions.

The notion that Bush and Blair invaded Iraq on the basis of deliberate falsehoods about the status of Saddam's WMD programme is admittedly quite widespread in Leftist circles. That, of course, does not make it any the less swivel-eyed. All the available evidence suggests that the two leaders were absolutely convinced that Iraq still had WMD at the time of the invasion, something they had in common with most other leaders around the world, including those who opposed them.

Bush and Blair may have been wrong, but this does not mean they were lying. It's a pretty poor statement about your moral intellect if you can't understand the difference, especially if you've been an Archbishop!

And if Tutu can't cope with something as simple as that, imagine how he's going to manage when the questions get a little tougher. Consider, for instance, the following two paragraphs about the death toll in Iraq and who should be held responsible:

"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.

"On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague."

Analytically speaking, this is a mess. What he appears to be saying is that Blair and Bush should be up before an international tribunal because they're responsible for the post-invasion death toll in Iraq. But since he's already identified suicide and vehicle bombers as among the prime culprits, in what sense are the former British and American leaders responsible for the killings perpetrated by others?

Are Bush and Blair responsible for every single killing in Iraq since the invasion on the grounds that if Saddam's despotism had been allowed to continue there wouldn't have been any suicide bombers?

That's not a straightforward, let alone self-evidently valid, proposition and one really wonders whether Tutu hasn't strayed out of his depth even in raising it.

But it gets worse. What, for example, is this supposed to mean?

"The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level," says Tutu.

What is he talking about? When did Bush or Blair ever stoop to Saddam's level? Does Tutu even know what Saddam's level was? Or is he just posturing and posing?

As a final flourish explaining why he just couldn't, in all conscience you understand, share that platform, we are then treated to this:

"As the date drew nearer, I felt an increasingly profound sense of discomfort about attending a summit on "leadership" with Mr Blair. I extend my humblest and sincerest apologies to Discovery, the summit organisers, the speakers and delegates for the lateness of my decision not to attend."

As I have said, I think they should regard his absence as a blessing in disguise. And here's another thought: Who precisely does Desmond Tutu think he is?

Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @RobinShepherd1

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