The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who is losing the battle to keep the Anglican Communion together, ventures outside his field of competence in an interview with Emel, a Muslim magazine in the UK. Among his observations:
I ask him if America has lost the moral high ground since September 11th, and his answer is simple: “Yes.” There is no mitigation. He has obviously thought through what he feels the US should do now to recover, “A generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence. All these things would help.”
He apparently is unaware of the billions of dollars that have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 and 2002, respectively. He doesn’t specify what he means by “economic exploitation,” but I would guess he means we should stop buying $100 a barrel oil from Iraq–how that would improve that nation’s economy is a mystery to me (and I have no earthly idea what he’s talking about regarding Afghanistan). As for demilitarization, once he persuades al-Qaeda and the Taliban to lay down their arms, I have no doubt that we will be happy to leave. In the meantime, I can’t help but ask whether he thinks that Afghans would be better off under the Taliban, or if he thinks Iraqis are ready to handle their own security, and if he would be willing to put his opinion up against that of David Petraeus.
He describes violence as “a quick discharge of frustration. It serves you. It does not serve the situation. Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else.”
I’m sure the peoples of Europe freed by the violence of the British and American armies in World War II would have a nit to pick with this. For that matter, does he really think that the Afghan and Iraqi actions were really just about “temporary release” (we’re still there, after all)? Does he really think that these subject people would have been better off in the long run with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and his Baathist thugs in charge? Is he really that fatuous?
On the Iraq war he wants to “keep before government and others the great question of how you can actually contribute to a responsible civil society in a context where you’ve undermined most of the foundations on which that society can be built.”
Let’s see: what has been done just in Iraq to rebuild a “responsible civil society”? 1) A murderous, totalitarian regime that invaded two other countries–resulting in over a million deaths–squandered billions on arms and luxuries for elites, used chemical weapons and environmental destruction against the ethnic minority Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and killed hundreds of thousands of its own citizens in a 20+ year reign of terror was overthrown. 2) Elections have been held, an ethnically representative government elected, and a constitution written. 3) Large areas of the country have been pacified and democratic local government instituted. 4) Billions have been poured into rebuilding an infrastructure shattered by decades of war and neglect. 5) Put military and police forces on a footing where they protect rather than terrorize the population. There are others, and none of these are finished by any means, but has Rowan Williams been in a coma for the last several years, and just completely unaware of these efforts? Or is he playing the utopian game of claiming that US and UK efforts have been worthless because they didn’t turn Iraq into paradise overnight and with no cost?
His attention next moves to the Holy Land:
He condemns the wall which cuts in half that most special of places where the Christian narrative says Christ was born. “Whatever justification given for the existence of the wall, the human cost is colossal. We saw that for ourselves.”
“Whatever the justification.” Savor that for a moment. The justification is that terrorists were using Bethlehem as one of the staging points for attacks into Israel, particularly Jerusalem, that killed hundreds of Israelis, Jews and Arabs, before the wall was built. The wall separates, but it hurts no one, unlike suicide bombs. But the cost in lives in Israel is nothing compared to some Palestinians losing access to their olive trees. I wish the latter were not effected in that way, but comparing their economic hardship to the lives that the wall unquestionably saves is profoundly immoral.
I ask the Archbishop about the relationship of modern Christians to the Holy Land and he paints a complex picture. “At one end of the spectrum you have Christian Zionism which is very interested in the Holy Land in ways which I find very strange, and not at all easy to accept. At the other end of the spectrum you have Christians for whom the Holy Land is some distant theme park.” He does however feel that a “growing number of Christians have become aware of the reality of the situation on the ground” and journeys there have helped “expose their minds and hearts to the realities.”
So, you have loony apocalypticists, religious tourists, and those who are pro-Palestinian. In the Archbishop’s world, there’s apparently no room for those who support Israel because 1) it’s a Western democracy; 2) it’s a staunch all of the US and UK; 3) it’s a haven of safety for people whom many nations have oppressed and expelled, including Britain; 4) it’s home to the freest Arab population in the Middle East; 5) it’s been the object of multiple invasions and is the object of continuing attacks; 6) insert your favorite reason.
Williams then moves to America:
“We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment.” But, he propounds, “It is not accumulating territory; it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” Far from seeing this positively, he describes it as “the worst of all worlds,” saying, “it is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly that’s what the British Empire did – in India for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together –Iraq for example.”
Earlier in the article he was complaining because America is still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here he contends that we blew things up in those countries and then moved on and left the locals to fix things. Aside from the colossal ignorance of such a statement, one has to wonder if he’s even listening to himself. And someone who will attack America’s conduct in the Middle East on the grounds that the British Empire–with its centuries-long subjugation of the Irish; its treatment of aborigines in Australia; its exploitation of African natural resources; its oppression of India; its artificial carving up of the Middle East and Africa into states without cohesion or even rational basis; its legacy of failed states, military dictatorships and assorted tyrannies in its former imperial possessions, etc.–was preferable because it “poured energy and resources” into its colonialist possessions has got brass so shiny as to be blinding.
There’s more, but that’s really all I feel like getting into. Read it all, if you dare.
(Via Stand Firm.)
UPDATE: The U.S. Embassy in London has responded to Williams’ diatribe, according to the BBC:
But, in a statement, the US Embassy in London rejected the archbishop’s claims that the US did not help rebuild countries with extra resources.
It said the US was “the largest donor of aid of any country in the world” and that “billions of dollars of financial, technical, and medical assistance” had been given to the people of Iraq.
“In addition, President Bush has doubled US overseas development assistance and almost tripled our aid to Africa,” the statement continued.
“We have given $15 billion (£7.3 billion) over the last five years to prevent and treat HIV/Aids in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.”
It added that the US was also the “largest single donor to the welfare of Palestinian refugees”.
I don’t suppose that will pass muster at Lambeth Palace, but it’s OK for a start.