Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tutu vs Blair and Bush

It was in the news recently that Desmond Tutu wrote an op-ed on The Observer calling for Blair and Bush to be tried at the International Criminal Court for the 2003 Iraq War.  Many print and online reports cited a story by AP (  The news is nothing original, as Tutu’s position has been well-known for 9 years, and many people, including millions in the US, have called for and demonstrated for similar actions.  But it is worthy to analyze the story’s background and how AP wrote the story, which tells us a lot about human beings and societies.

Whenever Tutu is mentioned, a title is invariably Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  The Nobel Peace Prize has no such thing in peace until it is rewarded to Noam Chomsky and renounces at least 50% of its previous winners (see blog “The Overhyped Nobel Prizes”).  Until then, it is just a willful exercise by a handful of people in Norway.  What qualifies these people to monopolize and define peace?  For comparison, the scientific community would agree that probably 80-90% of Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine Prize winners are well deserved.

Tutu’s should be better than 50% of the Peace Prizes.  A long standing problem with him, however, is that he likes to join other winners for their causes, as no petition is complete until his name is on it, no matter how little Tutu knows the subjects or how ridiculous the positions.  A reason is that his current social status, i.e., why should anybody listen to him now when he did his last, real work so many years ago, rests almost entirely on the Nobel Prize halo.  If it falls, so will he.  So it is more a defense of the Prize than a defense of the people/petitions.  This speculation means a selfish intention, but it is the only reasonable explanation.

Unlike many Prize winners, though, Tutu has been relatively independent, at least from Western influences when compared to others.  This is why he has been or can be critical to Western governments’ numerous wars over the years.  In contrast, Dalai Lama has always punted on the subject of Iraq War, annoying his swamp of Hollywood admirers.  Worse, many Eastern European winners and Liu Xiaobo vehemently support the War.  Thus, other Peace Prizes do not feel the need to reciprocate the support by Tutu.  Who can blame them if they can’t bite the hand that feeds them and won them the Nobel in the first place? 

When scientists publish a paper, they need to reveal financial conflict of interest, like whether they have a relationship with any company or own its stock.  I think when prominent political activists publish something or are mentioned in any story, their funding sources from government agencies and major private foundations should be reported, at least online.

Now back to the AP story.  It was mostly a matter of fact writing, but the writer added a few paragraphs that are telling.  Regarding Tutu’s call for trial at ICC, AP said:

“While the International Criminal Court can handle cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, it does not currently have the jurisdiction to prosecute crimes of aggression. Any potential prosecution over the Iraq war would likely come under the aggression category.

The U.S. is among nations which do not recognize the International Criminal Court.”

Nobody thinks that Blair or Bush would ever be tried, ICC or not.  So AP’s words about ICC ring hollow, and seemed to imply that the trial has not taken place because of ICC’s technicality.  The words may be true, but they are also irrelevant or even misleading.

AP then got a response from Blair: "To repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown," Blair said.

“In Britain, a two-year long inquiry examining the buildup to the Iraq war and its conduct is yet to publish its final report. The panel took evidence from political leaders including Blair, military chiefs and intelligence officers. Two previous British studies into aspects of the war cleared Blair's government of wrongdoing.”

To convict Blair or his government of the most serious crime ever possible (war), especially by British’s own investigations, is mission impossible, not least because it would undermine the legitimacy of the whole political system. 

Besides, a common excuse by Blair and Bush and the governing elites now is that the intelligence was wrong. This has been uncritically swallowed by the mainstream media.  But it defies history.

During 2001-2003 as Bush pushed for war, there was Western intelligence repots, Iraqis declaration to the UN, UN inspections, and statements from the US and UK government officials up to the President and PM.  On the scale of 0-9 about the existence of WMD:

Saddam Hussein said 0.  Nothing can be any louder, clearer, or more official than the Iraqis’ report to the UN.  Later on, Western governments and the "independent" media like to imply that Saddam made this on himself because he faked WMD in order to scare away his regional enemies.  Which is silly: there was never hard evidence shown, and even if there was, was it more official than Iraqis report to the UN, seen by everybody?

Western intelligences said 3.  They had had this mindset for many years, so every lead, no matter how weak and who gave it, confirmed the bias.  Like the yellow cake, aluminum tubes, mobile labs.  However, as more leads turned out wrong, and dissent formed among or within government agencies, e.g., CIA and the DOS, only suspicion left but never any real proof for WMD.  CIA can’t say 0 because it would invalidate all these years’ work or even call into question its existence.  No matter what, Saddam must be always hiding something!

The UN inspections said 1.  Obviously months' goose chase came up empty, despite all the advanced "intelligence" from the US and UK.  In fact, UN debunked most if not all of their intelligence and found Iraq's report much more trustworthy than Western intelligence or Bush's words.  They had to settle on 1 instead of 0 because they could not account for everything or all the old bombs.  This is expected: if you audit the Pentagon, do you expect to account for every gun it purchases over the past 20 years? 

Bush and Blair said 9.  This was the real deal, as unequivocal as unequivocal can be, with government officials parading and vouching for it in front of TV, or the UN.  No need to rehearsing old news in 2012.  Bush and Blair likely knew they were exaggerating, because their intelligence could never pinpoint where WMD or programs were (an astute observer would know this by reading between the lines of the official statements and reports of NYT, WashPost, WSJ, etc), but they rested their hope on finding just a hint of the WMD/program, perhaps only a single WMD bomb, to declare victory or vindication.  Instead, nobody found any.  

The Iraq story is not unique in a sense that similar events happens over and over, even as of today.  It is unique in a sense that Bush and Blair doubled down on something (WMD) that can be verified but failed utterly.  But if you count on something more nebulous, like ethnic cleansing, human rights, etc, then you are safer, although the devastation is no less.  


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