Former U.S. President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair should be tried as war criminals, Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa, wrote Sunday.
"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 destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history," Tutu wrote in an editorial for The Observer, which is a division of The Guardian newspaper.
Bush and Blair should be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Tutu argued. He compared the leaders to Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean leader who led his nation's decline while accumulating personal wealth, and Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"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?" Tutu argued.
Bush led an invasion of Iraq in 2003 after Sadam Hussein, Iraq's dictator, refused to allow United Nations weapons inspectors back into his country, as he was obligated to do under a U.N. resolution passed in 1991 at the end of the First Gulf War. While many other nations aided the effort, only the U.K. and Australia committed combat forces.
Bush and Blair argued in favor of invading Iraq based, in part, on CIA intelligence that Iraq was attempting to obtain the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, and Iraq had shown no evidence that it had destroyed the chemical weapons discovered by U.N. weapons inspectors. After the invasion, though, no evidence was found of a nuclear weapons program or chemical weapons.
Bush and Blair should be tried, Tutu argued, because of the loss of life that resulted from the conflict.
"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," he wrote.
In a response, Blair wrote that, while he has "great respect for Archbishop Tutu's fight against apartheid," the notion that he lied about the available intelligence "is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown."
Blair also pointed out that "Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size with child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was" under Hussein.
Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa.