The Other I

January 29, 2010

Courage

Filed under: Political thoughts,The English,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 5:32 pm

I don’t know what other title to give to this post but Courage.   We’ve been watching the Chilcot Inquiry which is examining the process by which Britain became committed to the war in Iraq.

Up until now, the usual suspects have been interviewed, and have not said anything particularly new.  Most have been well-prepared and smooth, some alternately humorous, aggressive, evasive, and that old faithful standby, forgetful.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst was different.  She’d been one of the attorneys in the British foreign office asked to advise on the possible legality of a military invasion to unseat Saddam Hussein, and had been the only one to resign as a matter of principle:  she thought the war was illiegal.

At the time it looked like a self-defeating gesture.  None of the other 56 attorneys in the foreign office who also thought the war was illegal resigned.  Nor were they ethically required to do so.

But Elizabeth Wilmshurst could not be silent and if she did not resign, she was required to support government policy by keeping her personal views private.  She felt that under the circumstances she could not even appear to be supporting such a war.

Her testimonyto the Chilcot Inquiry was riveting.  It was quiet, understated, without rancor or hyperbole or accusation.  It was tremendously powerful.

When she stood up after completing hours of questioning by the committee and as she was gathering her papers, the “ordinary people” sitting in the public gallery broke out in spontaneous applause.  That has never happened before.  Admiration for a woman who stood her ground with such dignity and courage was universal.

I think the biggest challenges life offers most of us are like that.  The moment doesn’t come with a big sign saying “This is the Moment of Great Testing.”  If anybody is noticing at all, they very well may think one a fool or unnecessarily moralistic.

But every once in a while – maybe not more than once or twice in a lifetime – those moments come when one can either simply go with the flow, or stand up and say, whatever the cost, I will not be moved.

Tony Blair is testifying to the committee today.

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