Williams should have helped indict Saddam to avert war, says MP

By staff writers
January 1, 2007

Welsh Labour MP Ann Clwyd, a long-term campaigner for human rights in Iraq, has said that Dr Rowan Williams did not do enough to get Saddam Hussein indicted for mass murder before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – when he was Archbishop of Wales.

The Cynon Valley Member of Parliament, who is now PM Tony Blair's personal envoy to Iraq, said that she had asked the man who is now Archbishop of Canterbury to play a leading role in her campaign to prosecute the dictator in 2002, but he made only one public statement as a result, in spite of apparent enthusiasm at the time.

She said today: "I wish he, and others, had pursued the matter more vigorously. If Saddam had been indicted, he would have lost a lot of credibility in the Arab world and it may have been possible to avoid invasion."

Ms Clwyd has continued to defend Britain’s role in militarily overthrowing the Saddam regime, in spite of chaos and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Her comments came after Dr Williams renewed his criticism of war and occupation in Iraq last week.

The Archbishop of Canterbury described the decision to go to war in Iraq as morally flawed and said he had been torn over whether or not to provide stronger backing for the anti-war movement.

American church leaders had joined their British counterparts to lobby the Archbishop, along with Mr Blair, to promote nonviolent alternatives to tackling Iraq.

But a senior Church of England adviser, who supported the war, opposed such moves at the time and worked to thwart ecumenical attempt to strengthen the anti-war consensus in the churches.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Dr Rowan Williams also went on to criticise the implementation of the policy, saying practical mistakes had been made that put British troops "increasingly at risk".

"I am wholly prepared to believe that those who made the decisions made them in good faith - but I think those decisions were flawed," he declared. "And I think the moral and the practical flaws have emerged as time has gone on - very painfully - and they have put our own troops increasingly at risk in ways that I find deeply disturbing."

The Archbishop had accepted an invitation to 'guest edit' an edition of Today – Britain’s prominent news and current affairs programme - which was broadcast on 29 December 2006.

He asked the programme's producers to look at issues around the morality of possessing Trident missiles, credit and finance for the very poor, the phenomena of 'invisible homelessness', the environment, the contribution of Christian values in public life, Christianity in the Middle East and the challenges to a happy and balanced childhood posed by the modern world.

He also asked the presenters to choose sound and music which helped them slow down, as an antidote to the hectic pace of modern life - including a favourite piece by Bach.

Interviewer Edward Stourton asked him: “Do you think, looking back then over the three years, you could have been stronger in what you said on that subject and it might have made a difference?”

Dr Williams replied: “It’s a good question and I don’t know the answer – I don’t know the answer. I can’t easily balance for myself the pros and cons of thinking, well, putting yourself at the head of a popular movement and resisting and that might be effective or that just becomes words, that just becomes noise. I said what I believed I needed to say; I shall need to think quite a long time about whether I ought to have said more or less for that matter.”

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.