Issue 281, Friday 28 September 2012 - 11 Dhu al-Qa'dah 1433
Tutu explains why he refused to share a platform with Blair
By Elham Asaad Buaras
The former Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Mpilo Tutu, 80, said he couldn’t share a platform with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Retired Anglican Bishop, Desmond Tutu, has explained why he withdrew from participating in a leadership summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, to protest the presence of the former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Days before the start of the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit on August 30 Tutu’s representatives wrote to the organisers explaining that his decision forms a protest against Blair’s decision to back the US war in Iraq.
“The Archbishop has spent considerable time over the past few days wrestling with his conscience and taking counsel from trusted advisers with respect to his attendance at the event.
“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.
“The Archbishop greatly regrets inconveniencing and disappointing the organisers and participants of the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit.”
Blair’s office then issued a statement countering Tutu’s stance in which they insisted he and Tutu were “never actually going to share a platform” and that “the Archbishop has decided to pull out now from an event that has been fixed for months.”
“As far as Iraq is concerned they have always disagreed about removing Saddam by force - such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy.
“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. So these decisions are never easy morally or politically.”
That explanation was inadequate for Tutu. Writing for UK’s Observer on September 9, Tutu insisted: “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.”
He also highlighted the current cost of the war and asked what it has accomplished in terms of global security and unity.
“But even greater costs have been exacted beyond the killing fields, in the hardened hearts and minds of members of the human family across the world.
“Has the potential for terrorist attacks decreased? To what extent have we succeeded in bringing the so-called Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds closer together, in sowing the seeds of understanding and hope?
“On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers’ circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush’s chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?”
The Nobel Peace Prize winner also accused the former leaders of driving “us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.”
Head of Discovery Life and Discovery Invest Marketing, Iona Maclean, said the event was “not intended to reflect a political view or cause offence. Discovery Invest selected the speakers based on their experience as leaders from various spheres of society.”