Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Archdruid of Canterbury: Ahead of the Curve

...the curve in this case measuring the increasing irrelevance of the Church of England.

In a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair coinciding with the originally planned date for the transfer of Iraqi sovereignty, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, on behalf of the 114 bishops of the C of E, have issued ... wait for it ... their criticism of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse! According to the BBC:

The Times said the letter was sent after a meeting of all the Anglican archbishops and bishops in Liverpool.

The letter reads: "It is clear that the apparent breach of international law in relation to the treatment of Iraqi detainees has been deeply damaging.

"The appearance of double standards inevitably diminishes the credibility of western governments with the people of Iraq and of the Islamic world more generally.

"The credibility of coalition partners in advocating respect for the law and the peaceful resolution of disputes will, we fear, be undermined unless the necessary moral authority is clearly demonstrated at every level."

The archbishops also urged for progress in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Not bad, really. It only took them two months and they got nearly half the story right. It is certainly true that this fiasco has been deeply damaging to Western credibility and integrity, but there is also the little fact, conveniently unmentioned, that those responsible have been punished. And inquiries are still being made to determine exactly what responsibility the Bush administration's policies had for the abuse. As I noted when this first hit the fan:
It appears that the US is treating this appropriately by putting a stop to the abuse and investigating those responsible. These people, if guilty, must be publicly seen to be punished. The evidence that we are not on the same level of Saddam and his torture state must be clearly shown. Of course, the damage has been done and much of the Arab world will still see this as evidence of American corruption, no matter what we do to rectify the situation. But that does not release us from the responsibility of making the case.

Is it too much to ask that the titular head of the Anglican communion have a similarly balanced response?

And the timing is awful. Of course, I realize that speaking prophetically cannot always mean getting the facts before they occur. Short of Divine revelation, this isn't usually even possible. But couldn't we have gotten this message a little closer to the time when everyone was still talking about it? Or, having waited this long, couldn't it have waited just a bit longer so as not to piss on the sovereignty parade? Just a thought.

UPDATE: ITV posts the same story with an additional snippet from the letter:
"More fundamentally still, there is a wider risk to our own integrity if we no longer experience a sense of moral shock at the enormity of what appears to have been inflicted on those who were in the custody of western security forces."

This would be a good point if it weren't for the fact that everyone on the f-ing planet has expressed "moral shock", including Mr. Blair. And ITV's comment that this letter
"followed the publication of shocking photographs showing mistreatment of detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison."
"Followed" is a good word...

UPDATE: Melanie Phillips has more criticism of the letter, specifically focused on the Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel aspects. I picked up on this in the "progress in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute" meme quoted in the BBC article, but couldn't find a link to the whole letter so I couldn't comment. The link Ms. Phillips provides is only available to subscribers of the London Times, which I have no intention of becoming. Read her whole post, it is too long to quote here, but here is the conclusion:
The Archbishops are effectively saying that the perpetrators of this war against Israel should be given an equal right to lay down terms for a settlement. What astonishing moral bankruptcy from religious leaders. The Church of England is now squarely supporting the enemies of the west. It is high time other Christians rose up to denounce it and reclaim their religion for truth and moral decency.


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