by Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent / The Independent –
LONDON (16 February 2004) — Archbishop Desmond Tutu will challenge Tony Blair and George Bush today to apologise for their pursuit of a counter-productive and “immoral” war in Iraq.
In a scathing analysis of the background to the invasion, he will ridicule the “dangerously flawed” intelligence that Britain and the US used to justify a military action which has made the world a “great deal less safe”.
The intervention of the Nobel peace prize winner in the controversy over Iraq follows a series of deadly terrorist attacks in the country over the past week, including an armed raid on a police station on Saturday in which 22 people died.
Delivering the Longford Lecture, sponsored by The Independent, the emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town will argue that the turmoil after the war proved it is an illusion to believe that “force and brutality” leads to greater security.
“How wonderful if politicians could bring themselves to admit they are only fallible human creatures and not God and thus by definition can make mistakes. Unfortunately, they seem to think that such an admission is a sign of weakness. Weak and insecure people hardly ever say ‘sorry’.
“It is large-hearted and courageous people who are not diminished by saying: ‘I made a mistake’. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair would recover considerable credibility and respect if they were able to say: ‘Yes, we made a mistake’.”
The archbishop will link Mr Bush’s support, when he was Governor of Texas, for capital punishment with a new philosophy behind the invasion of Iraq.
He will say: “It may not be fanciful to see a connection between this and the belligerent militarist policies that have produced a novel and dangerous principle, that of pre-emption on the basis of intelligence reports that in one particular instance have been shown can be dangerously flawed and yet were the basis for the United States going to war, dragging a Britain that declared that intelligence reports showed Iraq to have the capacity to launch its weapons of mass destruction in a matter of minutes.
“An immoral war was thus waged and the world is a great deal less safe place than before. There are many more who resent the powerful who can throw their weight about so callously and with so much impunity.”
The archbishop, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1984, will suggest that the two leaders have operated a policy of “might is right – and to hell with the rule of international law”.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said yesterday: “These comments from such a widely respected figure of independent mind emphasises the extent to which Britain’s reputation and possibly influence have been affected by the military action against Iraq.
“I doubt if President Bush or Mr Blair are going to apologise, but they should certainly reflect seriously upon the alienation of figures such as Desmond Tutu.”
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Government’s position on Iraq has been made clear. We will wait to see what the archbishop says and respond in due course.”
In his lecture the archbishop will draw on his experience in South Africa after the downfall of apartheid to argue that “retributive justice” ignores victims’ needs and can be “cold and impersonal”.
He will instead champion the concept of “restorative justice” – in which offenders and victims are brought together – and point to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he headed, as an illustration of the idea being put into practice.
Now 72, the archbishop is spending several weeks in Britain in his role as visiting professor in post-conflict studies at King’s College, London.
He will also take a swipe in his speech at the steady increase in the British prison population in recent years, arguing that harsher sentencing does not “stem the tide of recidivism”. He will warn that sending first-time offenders to prison increases the prospect of them becoming repeat offenders, making harsh sentences “quite costly”.