Should Tony Blair & George W. Bush account to the ICC over Iraq invasion?

Writing in The Observer today, September 2 – the Guardian’s Sunday publication – South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said both former US President George W. Bush and Britain Prime minister Tony Blair had lied to the world in 2003 when they invaded Iraq, claiming it had weapons of mass destruction.

Equalling their action (or lack thereof) to “immorality”, Tutu said the pair had “destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.” “Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together”, said Tutu, “the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart”. Tutu accused the pair of having “driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us”, asking who should tell the truth if leaders like them (Blair and Bush) lie.

He asked: “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?”

The archbishop said his efforts to stop the Iraq invasion by Britain and the US were not considered. This, he said, after he made a call to the White House and spoke to then national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who The Observer also reported is “tipped” to be the first woman to become US president. Days before the pair ordered the invasion of Iraq, said Tutu, he asked Rice – as national security adviser at the time – that United Nations weapons inspectors be given more time to confirm such weapons as had been alleged by the two leaders but this was rejected, with Rice telling him that Bush would not postpone the invasion any longer. This then led to thousands of innocent people killed while millions were displaced, said the archbishop, quoting the Iraqi Body Count project estimates. By the end of 1022, said Tutu, about 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.

Tutu said those who are responsible for these losses of lives should be held responsible just as some of their African peers are and that they must answer for their actions – human rights abuse against humanity that is (emphasis). “On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.”

Tutu is correct to accuse Bush – who was invited and allegedly paid about millions of rands to speak at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg, South African this week – of lacking leadership especially when he failed to demonstrate it during Iraq invasion almost 10 years ago. “Leadership and morality are indivisible,” wrote Tutu on The Observer today (September 2), and that “Good leaders are the custodians of morality” – something both Bush and Blair seemingly failed at and therefore could not be seen to have the right and given the platform to talk about it.

As a result, said the archbishop, we need to ask ourselves whether the two leaders should have allowed themselves to “stoop [that low] to [Saddam Hussein’s] moral level” of allegedly massacring his people. “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?” he said. Much as leadership is expected from many African leaders, many of whom have been tried and or are in the process of being tried by the International Criminal Court – one particular court that has been seen with negativity because it is seen as meant for and only targeting African leaders and not the likes Bush and Blair – like Tutu, we do not expect Blair and or Bush to talk about leadership which they have dismally failed to demonstrate.

Incoming ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda flatly denied that the court was biased against Africa and or its leaders in an interview with the African Business journal in this year. Bensouda said “I don’t agree with that [view that ICC is targeting Africa or African leaders”. She said the international court was working for Africa and for African victims, that she “don’t think any of us can deny that the atrocities that are happening in Africa are crimes and therefore within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

Although at the time of writing (Sept. 2) there was no clear indication on the ICC website whether the US was a signatory to the international court and thereby having jurisdiction to arresting and trialling Bush, there were, however, strong calls by Amnesty International and International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group made last year for Canada to arrest him as he was due to attend an economic summit a couple of days later (see also here). The followed a Malaysian court ruling which found both he and Blair guilty of “crime against peace” (and humanity) during the Iraq war, according to The National Post report on 22 November 2011. The seven-member panel chaired by former Malaysian Federal Court judge Abdul Kadir Sulaiman, according to the report, tried and found guilty the pair in absentia. The tribunal, known as Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, reportedly said: “The evidence showed that the drums of wars were being beaten long before the invasion. The accused [Bush and Blair] in their own memoirs have admitted their own intention to invade Iraq regardless of international law”.

Besides calls this week for him to be arrested, there was reward, too, of R3000 000, as reported by Mail & Guardian, to be awarded to whoever will lead to the successful arrest of Blair from the Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who founded the arrestblair.org website. According to the Times Online report Society for the Protection of our Constitution (Spoc)on Tuesday filed a complaint with the South African Police Service in which a docket of “crime against the state” was opened. The case was to be submitted to the now controversial National Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision. There were further media reports that a protest outside the summit venue would ensue.

According to Bensouda the ICC is a “voluntary organisation” whose member countries “have not been forced to ratify the Rome Statute” but that they have “done that with their eyes open”, and that “it is a legal obligation that rises as a result of that action you take by signing and ratifying the Rome Statute”. She said it is only when you cannot try a case locally that the ICC “comes in”. She said people “misunderstand the jurisdiction of the ICC and human rights”.

Clarifying what the ICC does, the incoming chief prosecutor said the international court was “not a human rights court” but a “court that has been set up to deal with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity”. “[Therefore] every time people say the ICC is targeting Africa, it saddens me, especially as an African woman, and knowing that most of these conflicts are happening on the continent of Africa. All the victims in our cases are Africans. They are not from another continent.”

That the two leaders should face the ICC for their (leaderless) actions in Iraq which resulted in loss of lives of thousands of innocent people – or crime against humanity, if you will – should not come as a shock. It has always been privately believed it should happen. Pity no leader has shown any leadership qualities in admitting publicly as Tutu did today – or except maybe Mugabe himself that – that Blair and Bush should receive their day in the ICC for the shit they have done at Iraq. And it is indeed leaders like Tutu that we really need, leaders whose courage and guts we now wish our currents leaders had.

But for Bush it seems very unlikely that he’d have his day before the ICC for the US is not – as mentioned earlier – a member signatory to it…

8 thoughts on “Should Tony Blair & George W. Bush account to the ICC over Iraq invasion?

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