The Curmudgeon


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Worm Dieth Not

And, speaking of moral courage, the Archbishop of Canterbury stood under the same roof with Tony Blair yesterday, doing something the former referred to as "reflecting on the human cost of seeking for justice". The quest to which Dr Williams referred was the war in Iraq; the human cost was the cost to members of the British armed services. Dr Williams gave two readings. The first was from a prophet of the god of Joshua, Jephthah and Ariel Sharon: "A time to kill and a time to heal ... a time to break down and a time to build up." The healing and the building up, said Dr Williams, have been at the heart of the efforts of our brave boys and girls. Why, after all, would a soldier want to kill anybody or destroy anything? The second reading was from a deutero-Pauline epistle about jihad and women's rights. Dr Williams noted that "there are visible enemies - a dictator, a terrorist", as Tony would agree; and that "we cannot say that no mistakes were ever made", with which Baha Mousa would undoubtedly concur; and that "it would be a very rash person who would feel able to say without hesitation, this was absolutely the right or the wrong thing to do, the right or the wrong place to be". It would certainly be too bad if the followers of a man who allowed himself to be crucified in the name of principle were to do anything rash. Observing that "the moral credibility of any country (sic) engaged in war" depends less on people who talk than on people who have guns, Dr Williams noted the virtue of obedience: "obedience that comes from recognising that others have been given a clear responsibility for certain difficult decisions"; which indicates that, should his Church still be in one piece when the Daveybloke administration reaches power, Dr Williams should have little difficulty in accommodating himself to Daveybloke's chums in the Latvian Waffen-SS fan club. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time for obeying orders and a time for self-exculpation. Dr Williams warned against "letting ends justify means, letting others rather than oneself carry the cost, denying the difficulties or the failures so as to present a good public face"; following which he again referred to the Iraq campaign as having something to do with healing, with building, with justice and with "seeking a better and more secure life for people who have suffered outrageously". It is, of course, quite true that for much of the Iraq campaign the Vicar of Downing Street had Gordon Brown for a next-door neighbour, and was subjected to some very uncharitable comments by some very rash people. Dr Williams equated the invasion of Iraq to "taking the world a little further out of barbarity and violence", and compared to Christ's "love and openness to the stranger" the business of a hired hand with a gun obeying orders for pay. Dr Williams ended on the possibility that there is "a time to let go of the satisfyingly overblown language that is so tempting for human beings when war is in the air", which was "perhaps" one of the lessons his own generation learned from past conflicts. Perhaps.


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