08 September 2012

Tutu's Challenge


The challenge that Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Laureate, has raised by insisting that George Bush and Tony Blair be tried for war crimes, is a politically complex one.  You can find news reports on the fracas here and here and here.

Why is Tutu's challenge complex? On the one hand, it is not simply the invasion of Iraq for which the two 'leaders' (and their various minions) ought to answer, but the sordid conduct of the 'war on terror' more generally. In that sense I think Tutu lets Bush and Blair off too lightly. On the other hand, I have regularly insisted that engagement - political and legal - is considerably more appropriate than moralism in instances like this. And so, Tutu's refusal to attend the conference at which Blair was due to appear is analogous to calls to boycott Israel in support of justice for Palestine and Palestinians. Where better than at a conclave addressing "leadership" to raise the sorts of issues Tutu is pressing on us? And so, I think this piece in The Guardian is close to the mark.

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