In an interview with a British Muslim publication, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, a longstanding opponent of the Iraq war, has taken his criticism of U.S. foreign policy to a new level.
The U.S. has lost the moral high ground since 9/11, he told Emel, a Muslim "lifestyle" magazine edited by a former Catholic convert to Islam. As a result, he said, it should launch a "generous and intelligent program of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarization of their presence."
Williams called the U.S. the world's only "global hegemonic power," and suggested that its policies in Iraq were worse than British colonialism.
"It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalizing it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did -- in India, for example," he was quoted as saying.
"It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together -- Iraq, for example."
Williams also attacked Christian Zionism -- active support for Israel based on the belief that its re-establishment in 1948 was in line with biblical prophecy.
The archbishop said he found Christian Zionists' views "very strange, and not at all easy to accept."
Williams said they were connected to "the chosen-nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God's purpose for humanity."
Elsewhere in the 2,000 plus-word article, Williams criticized Israel for erecting a security barrier along the perimeter of Palestinian Authority-ruled Bethlehem, a move Israel says is aimed at keeping terrorists out. "Whatever justification given for the existence of the wall, the human cost is colossal," he said, expressing concern about the plight of "our Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem."
On Islamic maltreatment of Christians, Williams said only that in Pakistan he was "surprised by how the extremely small Christian minority there is perceived as so deeply threatening by an overwhelming Muslim majority, which ought to be more confident and generous about its identity."
British media called Williams' remarks a "stinging attack" on the U.S., saying the church leader had "plunged into political controversy." Several newspapers described his criticism of Islam as "muted."
"Christians in Indonesia, Africa and the Middle East are being beaten, imprisoned, tortured and killed in the name of Allah," Damian Thompson, editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald wrote in a Daily Telegraph column. "Moderate Muslims in Britain desperately need to be made aware of this situation.
"And what has the Archbishop of Canterbury given them? Yet another sermon on the evils of Yankee imperialism."
The Archbishop of Canterbury heads the 77 million-strong Anglican Communion, which has been roiled in recent years over the 2003 ordination by its U.S. affiliate, the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. (ECUSA), of an openly homosexual bishop; and the blessing of same-sex unions by some dioceses in Canada.