Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that Tony Blair and George W. Bush should be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the Iraq war.
Writing in the UK’s Observer newspaper, Desmond Tutu accused the former leaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction.
The Iraq military campaign had made the world more unstable “than any other conflict in history”, he said.
Tony Blair responded by saying “this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say”.
Earlier this week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a veteran peace campaigner who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his campaign against apartheid, pulled out of a leadership summit in Johannesburg because he refused to share a platform with Tony Blair.
The former Archbishop of Cape Town said the US- and UK-led action launched against Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 had brought about conditions for the civil war in Syria and a possible Middle East conflict involving Iran.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that Tony Blair and George W. Bush should be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the Iraq war
“The then leaders of the United States [George Bush] and Great Britain [Tony Blair] fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the specter of Syria and Iran before us,” he said.
He added: “The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the death toll as a result of military action in Iraq since 2003 was grounds for Tony Blair and George Bush to be tried in The Hague.
But he said different standards appeared to be applied to Western leaders.
He said: “On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible 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.”
In response to Sunday’s article, Tony Blair issued a strongly worded defence of his decisions.
Tony Blair said: “To repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence [on weapons of mass destruction] is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.
“And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre.
“We have just had the memorials both of the Halabja massacre, where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam’s use of chemical weapons, and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million, including many killed by chemical weapons.
“In addition, his slaughter of his political opponents, the treatment of the Marsh Arabs and the systematic torture of his people make the case for removing him morally strong. But the basis of action was as stated at the time.”
He added: “In short this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say. But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree.
“I would also point out that despite the problems, Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size, with child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places like Basra.”
Crowds of nearly 100,000 in St. Louis honored Iraq war veterans in the first big welcome-home parade since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December.
The moving St. Louis event brought tears to the eyes of Army Major Rich Radford.
“It’s not necessarily overdue, it’s just the right thing,” said Rich Radford, a Army veteran who served 23 years in the force and walked in the parade alongside his 8-year-old daughter, Aimee, and 12-year-old son, Warren.
Rich Radford was among about 600 veterans, many dressed in camouflage, who walked along downtown streets lined with rows of people clapping and holding signs with messages including “Welcome Home” and “Thanks to our Service Men and Women”.
Fire trucks with aerial ladders hoisted huge American flags in three different places along the route, with politicians, marching bands – even the Budweiser Clydesdales – joining in.
The large crowd was clearly there to salute men and women in the military, and people cheered wildly as groups of veterans walked by.
That was the hope of organizers Craig Schneider and Tom Appelbaum.
Neither man has served in the military but came up with the idea after noticing there had been little fanfare for returning Iraq War veterans aside from gatherings at airports and military bases. No ticker-tape parades or large public celebrations.
Crowds of nearly 100,000 in St. Louis honored Iraq war veterans in the first big welcome-home parade since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December
Tom Appelbaum, an attorney, and Craig Schneider, a school district technical coordinator, decided something needed to be done.
So they sought donations, launched a Facebook page, met with the mayor and mapped a route. The grassroots effort resulted in a huge turnout despite raising only about $35,000 and limited marketing.
Veterans came from around the country, and more than 100 entries – including marching bands, motorcycle groups and military units – signed up ahead of the event, Tom Appelbaum said.
Craig Schneider said he was amazed how everyone, from city officials to military organizations to the media, embraced the parade.
“It was an idea that nobody said no to,” Craig Schneider said.
“America was ready for this.”
All that effort by her hometown was especially touching for Gayla Gibson, a 38-year-old Air Force master sergeant who said she spent four months in Iraq – seeing “amputations, broken bones, severe burns from IEDs” – as a medical technician in 2003.
“I think it’s great when people come out to support those who gave their lives and put their lives on the line for this country,” Gayla Gibson said.
With 91,000 troops still fighting in Afghanistan, many Iraq veterans could be redeployed – suggesting to some that it’s premature to celebrate their homecoming.
In New York, for example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said there would be no city parade for Iraq War veterans in the foreseeable future because of objections voiced by military officials.
In St. Louis, there was clearly a mood to thank the troops with something big, even among those opposed to the war.
“Most of us were not in favor of the war in Iraq, but the soldiers who fought did the right thing and we support them,” said 72-year-old Susan Cunningham, who attended the parade.
“I’m glad the war is over and I’m glad they’re home.”
Several veterans of the Vietnam War turned out to show support for the younger troops.
Among them was Don Jackson, 63, of Edwardsville, Illionis, who said he was thrilled to see the parade honoring Iraq War veterans like his son, Kevin, who joined him at the parade.
Kevin Jackson, 33, an Air Force staff sergeant said he’d lost track of how many times he had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a flying mechanic.
“I hope this snowballs,” Kevin Jackson said of the parade. “I hope it goes all across the country. I only wish my friends who I served with were here to see this.”
Looking at all the people around him in camouflage, 29-year-old veteran Matt Wood said he felt honored. He served a year in Iraq with the Illinois National Guard.
“It’s extremely humbling, it’s amazing, to be part of something like this with all of these people who served their country with such honor,” Matt Wood said.
The American flag has been lowered in Baghdad, bringing nearly nine years of US military operations in Iraq to a formal end.
Leon Panetta, the US Defence Secretary, told troops the mission had been worth the cost in blood and dollars.
Leon Panetta said the years of war in Iraq had yielded to an era of opportunity in which the US was a committed partner.
Only about 4,000 US soldiers now remain in Iraq, but they are due to leave in the next two weeks.
At the peak of the operation, US forces there numbered 170,000.
The American flag has been lowered in Baghdad, bringing nearly nine years of US military operations in Iraq to a formal end (photo Getty Images)
The symbolic ceremony in Baghdad officially “cased” (retired) the US forces flag, according to army tradition.
It will now be taken back to the USA.
Leon Panetta told US soldiers they could leave Iraq with great pride.
“After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real,” he said.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said Iraqis were glad the US troops were leaving.
“They have been difficult years,” he told the BBC.
“We have had some successes together. We had some failures. We have some mishaps.
“I think we are all happy that the American soldiers are returning home safely to their families and we are also confident that the Iraqi people and their armed forces, police, are in a position now to take care of their own security.”
Some 4,500 US soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war.
The conflict, launched by the Bush administration in March 2003, soon became hugely unpopular as claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction and supporting al-Qaeda militants turned out to be untrue.
Iraq war has cost the US some $1trillion.
Republicans have criticized the pullout citing concerns over Iraq’s stability, but a recent poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 75% of Americans backed the troop withdrawal.
President Barack Obama, who came to office pledging to bring troops home, said on Wednesday that the US left behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq”.
In a speech in North Carolina to troops who have just returned, Barack Obama hailed the “extraordinary achievement” of the military and said they were leaving with “heads held high”.
“Everything that American troops have done in Iraq, all the fighting and dying, bleeding and building, training and partnering, has led us to this moment of success,” President Obama said.
“The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages.”
Barack Obama said the war had been “a source of great controversy” but that they had helped to build “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”.
He announced in October that all US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, a date previously agreed by former President George W. Bush in 2008.
Some 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003. In addition to those who died, nearly 30,000 have been wounded.
Troop numbers peaked during the height of the so-called surge strategy in 2007, but the last combat troops left Iraq in August last year.
A small contingent of some 200 soldiers will remain in Iraq as advisers, while some 15,000 US personnel are now based at the US embassy in Baghdad – by far the world’s largest.
Some Iraqis have said they fear the consequences of being left to manage their own security.
Baghdad trader Malik Abed said he was grateful to the Americans for ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein, but added: “I think now we are going to be in trouble. Maybe the terrorists will start attacking us again.”
But in the city of Falluja, a former insurgent stronghold which was the scene of major US offensives in 2004, people burned US flags on Wednesday in celebration at the withdrawal.
“No-one trusted their promises, but they said when they came to Iraq they would bring security, stability and would build our country,” Ahmed Aied, a grocer, told Reuters news agency.
“Now they are walking out, leaving behind killings, ruin and mess.”
Concerns have also been voiced in Washington that Iraq lacks robust political structures or an ability to defend its borders.
There are also fears that Iraq could be plunged back into sectarian bloodletting, or be unduly influenced by Iran.