Why I Snubbed Tony Blair in South Africa

Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains in the Observer why he refused to sit alongside Tony Blair, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, at last week’s Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in South Africa.

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Tony Blair and George W. Bush (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Desmond Tutu, who was slated to participate in last week's Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, refused to attend. The South African activist explains in the Observer why he couldn't bring himself to sit beside former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, who led his country into war with Iraq based on the false premise that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

... If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth? Days before George W Bush and Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, I called the White House and spoke to Condoleezza Rice, who was then national security adviser, to urge that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to confirm or deny the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Should they be able to confirm finding such weapons, I argued, dismantling the threat would have the support of virtually the entire world. Ms Rice demurred, saying there was too much risk and the president would not postpone any longer.

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? ...

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?

Read the rest of Desmond Tutu's piece at the Observer.

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