War should cost Bush presidency - Bishop

THE war in Iraq should cost George W. Bush his presidency, Suffolk's leading clergyman said last night.The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, was speaking out as part of his Easter message.

By Jonathan Barnes

THE war in Iraq should cost George W. Bush his presidency, Suffolk's leading clergyman said last night.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, was speaking out as part of his Easter message.

The bishop fears President Bush could become a modern day Pontius Pilate - the Judean governor in the Bible - washing his hands of the real questions in Iraq, many of them religious.


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He also believes Prime Minister Tony Blair found it difficult to get out of going to war with the Americans and the conflict should cost the president his position.

Bishop Richard said he was saddened by the way the United Nations had been undermined, and described British and American forces as "invaders".

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"I have been reflecting on the Easter story and holy week. The Roman governor was not terribly keen to get involved with the religious arguments. The parallels with Iraq are fascinating.

"We have got American and British invaders trying to sort things out in a country they are occupying at the moment, not terribly keen to get involved with the religious argument. The thought is, what has changed in a couple of thousand years?

"In the same way Pontius Pilate had a go at washing his hands of religious problems, I rather hope President Bush in setting a date for extracting himself from Iraq will not wash himself from the real questions in Iraq, quite a lot of them religious.

"This country was drawn in to something which Tony Blair found very difficult to get out of. I think the sense of responsibility lies pretty solidly across the Atlantic. It should cost President Bush his leadership, but probably won't.

"The argument now in the shop window is that it was about getting rid of a dictator. You have to say, if that was the first one, who will be dealt with next? There are an awful lot.

"A leader can get out of domestic difficulties by sacrificing people without any choice on the other side of the world. The weak are sacrificed on the altar. Terrorists do not come out of the blue, they are not people who like explosives, they are people who feel this is the only way they can express themselves.''

However, Bishop Richard saw hope for the future, saying people could strive to build trust.

He said: "It's to do with the way everyone treats others. It sounds simplistic and pious, but the implications are pretty considerable.''

The bishop's comments come amid a dramatic upsurge in violence in Iraq.

It was confirmed yesterday a former British soldier had been shot dead in Iraq, which is gripped by bloody turmoil on the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's downfall.

Michael Bloss, 38, who had served with the Parachute Regiment, was working for an American company as a security guard, protecting civilian contractors, when he was killed.

BISHOP RICHARD'S EASTER MESSAGE

One of the lessons of history is that human beings do not learn lessons from history. If we did, America and Britain would not now be trying to extract themselves from Iraq and we would not be looking over our shoulders to spot any suspicious packages.

The bottom line is not complicated. If you run your life on the basis that you have a divine right to be selfish and you are prepared to use force to get what you want, then you will be a thoroughly unpleasant person. If you try to run the world like that then you are a menace to civilisation.

Although terrorism has taken on a new and sinister form, it is bred by the same instinct as war – the belief that the only way to achieve anything is by force.

The first Easter was about politics not religion. A group of religious leaders needed to solve a little local difficulty and they needed the help of the occupying coalition forces. The military governor was not interested in religion but he was interested in avoiding attacks on his troops, so he washed his hands of what was actually at stake, and blew away the wrong man. It solved a short term difficulty but it triggered a long term revolution.

Easter is not about chocolate. Easter is a clue about hope in a post 9/11 world.

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