Tutu conversation worth a listen

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, will speak tonight at Northrop Auditorium as part of the University’s “Great Conversations” series. By channeling the philosophy and ethic of international peace leaders – including Nelson Mandela – Tutu disputes the United States’ claim that the pending war on Iraq is for the liberation of the Iraqi people. He has also raised serious questions about the role of race in world politics. His critique is worth a listen.

Tutu questions the United States’ claim of fighting on behalf of oppressed people around the globe. He points out that U.S. foreign policy, including military efforts in Vietnam, Somalia and Cuba, has not helped the troubled international situation. While he does see a role for multilateral action in troubled spots across the globe – he understands that when conducted in a judicious and careful manner, international intervention supported by arms might work – he remains frustrated by the inconsistent application of U.S.-led international intervention. Why Kosovo but not Rwanda? Why Iraq but not Israel-Palestine? Or why no U.S.-led intervention in India or Pakistan, countries that have weapons of mass destruction as well?

Tutu has come to believe the decision of intervention has little to do with the interests of the suffering inhabitants, but is instead based largely on the interests of the United States.

While some might say the interests of the United States and the Iraqi citizens are aligned at this point, this alignment could very easily suffer once the war is over. As the United States attempts to minimize postwar costs and occupation time, it remains to be seen whether the United States will be committed to the idea of a democratic Iraq after the military war is won. As Tutu has warned, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”