South African Archbishop Tutu Withdraws from Conference, Suggests Blair and Bush should be Prosecuted for Invasion of Iraq
Former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the renowned anti-apartheid leader and recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, has written an op-ed piece in The Observer explaining why he withdrew from attending the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last week, a conference attended by Tony Blair.
“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.”
–Desmond Tutu, “Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair; “I couldn’t sit with someeone who justified the invasion of Iraq with a lie,” The Observer, September 1, 2012 (opinion).
See also Tony Helm (Political Editor) “Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond TutuAnti-apartheid hero attacks former prime minister over ‘double standards on war crimes'”, The Guardian, September 1, 2012.
In his op-ed piece, Archbishop Tutu wrote:
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.
Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.
Explaining that he had called Condolezza Rice on the eve of the invasion asking for more time for the U.N. weapons insprectors to complete their tasks, and that she had responded that there wasn’t enough time, the former Archbiship of Cape Town asked, “If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth?”
The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate continued:
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.
Returning to the theme of why he had withdrawn from the conference, Archbishop Tutu argued,
Leadership and morality are indivisible. Good leaders are the custodians of morality. 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.
If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?
My appeal to Mr Blair is not to talk about leadership, but to demonstrate it….
U.S. Attorney Gerneral Announces End of Last Torture Investigations
Ironically, just days earlier, on August 30, 2012, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the last torture investigations had been concluded, and that the last few individuals under investigation would not be prosecuted.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A.
–Scott Shane, ” No Charges Filed on Harsh Tactics Used by the C.I.A., New York Times, August 30, 2012.
“Justice Department Ends Investigation on Alleged Use of Torture by CIA,” PBS Newshour, August 31, 2012.
“ACLU Comment on Closure of Justice Department’s CIA Torture Investigation,” ACLU.org, August 30, 2012.
The Trenchant Observer, previous articles on torture (find using the SEARCH box in the upper right-hand corner of the home page).
As a result of Holder’s decision, domestic investigations into the Bush torture policy and those responsible for torture as it is defined in the U.N. Convention Against Torture have now concluded, opening the way for other countries to apprehend and try U.S. officials responsible for torture when they are found within their jurisdiction.
The outrageous irony here is that Holder has concluded that not even these lower-level officials can be prosecuted due to the lack of sufficient “admissible evidence” to secure a conviction. In the United States justice system, evidence obtained through the use of torture is not admissible, and evidence relating to the administration of such torture may not be admissible because it is “classified”. If this phalanx of legal defenses is not sufficient to bar prosecution, the government can always invoke the relatively new state secrets doctrine in order to secure the dismissal of the case.
So, this U.S. administration is not going to prosecute those responsible for the Bush torture policy or for carrying it out. As the Attorney General previously announced, the Justice Department excluded from its investigations all cases where the acts using so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture under the terms of the U.N. Convention on Torture) were carried out pursuant to legal guidance by the Department of Justice.
Until reversed, these decisions stand for the acceptance by the United States of the “due obedience” defense to international crimes.
This defense was explicitly rejected at Nuremberg, in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and in numerous prosecutions against those responsible for international crimes in a number of countries and before a number of international tribunals.
It is a shameful policy for the United States to uphold.
Now, over the coming years and decades, it will fall upon the initiative of other countries which are parties to the U.N. Convention Against Torture to bring to justice those responsible for the torture policy of the Bush years.
Bush administration officials involved in those policies and their execution desiring to avoid accountability under international law would be well-advised to carefully consider their foreign travel plans in the future.
The Trenchant Observer