It was not so long ago that the international community was misled into a war that United States chose to wage on Iraq. The world is yet to recover from the misadventure of U.S. president George W. Bush and his front row supporter, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Both Bush and Blair are out of office, but like them, other Western leaders have grown used to sitting in judgment over the affairs of other countries and their governments. They hector and lecture others on democracy, good governance, human rights and corruption. They have sought to paint Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and others in the devil's colours, even though some Western leaders are more deserving in them. But not many on the African continent are willing, or have the moral stature, to point out these contradictions.
One of the few in that category is the retired South African Anglican Archbishop of Johannesburg, Desmond Tutu, who last week called Blair out as a war criminal for his government's role in procuring dubious intelligence to provide the excuse for Bush to invade Iraq in 2003.
Tutu had turned down an invitation to attend a conference on leadership in Johannesburg in which he would have shared the same platform as Blair.
Tutu, in rejecting the offer, said he could not bring himself in clear conscience to sit with Blair for aiding and abetting the U.S. in the war on Iraq on the strength of intelligence that turned out to be false. Tutu rightly noted that the Iraq war "has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history".
The archbishop is known for consistently telling it like it is. But his continuing denunciation of the 2003 episode and its aftermath is a reminder that the world must not forget to insist on holding the pair of Bush and Blair responsible and bringing them to account.
Tutu's pedigree is unquestionable, given his antecedents as a leading anti-apartheid campaigner, chairman of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. He occupies a moral high ground to speak out, perhaps second only to his compatriot Nelson Mandela.
As long as Blair and Bush remain free, Tutu's charge that the International Criminal Court (ICC) operates a system of double standards and selective prosecutions and persecutions by targeting African leaders remains incontrovertible. These "playground bullies", as Tutu called Bush and Blair, should be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC.
Since he was forced out of office, Blair has cultivated the image of an international statesman, gallivanting across the world earning huge lecture fees from corrupt governments that his government riled against when he was in office; he has been lecturing such foreign leaders on good governance.
Instead of shunning Blair, and putting him is his place, for the moral burden he bears on Iraq, the U.S. leaned on other members of the so-called quartet on the Middle East - UN, EU and Russia and got Blair appointed as their special envoy to the region, charged with the responsibility of finding a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, conferring on him an international respectability he does not deserve.
Bush on the other hand, perhaps mindful of his low approval rating among Americans, has kept a low profile, holed up in his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and making unannounced and discreet appearances in other counties. It is a measure of Bush's standing in the U.S. that his Republican Party, still smarting from the Iraqi debacle, refused him invitation to its recent Convention in Tampa, Florida.
The horrendous consequences of the invasion of Iraq are still being felt to this day. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and hundreds of thousands more injured. Suicide bombings have become the order of the day, a far cry from a stable pre-war era under Saddam Hussein. The war also unleashed the demons of sectarian strife between Shia and Sunni and fuelled separatism among the Kurds. There are international conventions to warrant the committal of Bush and Blair to trial; the world should listen-and act-to the pleas of people like Archbishop Tutu. It is because Bush and Blair are yet to be bought to account that the danger remains of the potential of such catastrophic adventures by their successors.