The Rt. Hon. Baroness Shirley Williams of Crosby of the British House of Lords spoke on the history of human rights in the context of the current international climate in Riggs Library yesterday.

Williams, who delivered the first speech of the Pacem in Terris lecture series, said another 10 years of conflict are probable in Iraq.

After discussing the concept of human rights throughout history, Williams turned to America’s war on terrorism. She called the events of Sept. 11, 2001, a “terrible crime” that not only drastically altered the American attitude toward international relations but also prompted the U.S. government to declare war too quickly.

“I’ve always been very troubled by the concept of the war on terrorism,” Williams said. “What it was, I think, was an international crime against humanity.”

Williams said that if the United States had termed its war on terror an international crime against humanity, America would have been met with more international support.

“There is a real problem about the concept of terrorism, and that is because it is a subjective noun,” Williams said. “Those secessionists we approve of we call freedom fighters. Those we disapprove of we call terrorists.”

Williams went on to say that the movements into Afghanistan following Sept. 11 only aggravated the problem. She compared American military operations in that country to “kicking a hornet’s nest.”

Williams denied that the U.S.-led war on terrorism was connected to the war in Iraq, saying that there is “no evidence whatsoever” linking Iraq with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Though she described the war in Iraq as illegal, Williams said it could have been legitimized if the subsequent behavior of those involved had been appropriate and in keeping with the Geneva Convention.

“We haven’t actually handled it very well,” she said. “The world now sees the Iraq war as not only illegal but also illegitimate.”

Responding to a question from the audience, Williams said that there is a high probability that the war in Iraq will last for several years to come.

She said that if the country is stable enough to hold legal and legitimate elections soon, things may improve, but if it does not work out, the war will last at least another 10 years.

Williams said current congressional discussions about reinstating the draft suggest that the administration expects the war to continue.

Another member of the audience asked Williams her views on current discussions about the possible impeachment of British Prime inister Tony Blair. She said that while she believed Blair needs to admit the Iraq campaign was a mistake, the prime minister should not be impeached.

“I would not like to see him impeached,” she said. “I would like to see him say `I’m sorry we got it wrong.’ What he did say was `I’m sorry we relied on information that was wrong.'”

Tim Casey (COL ’07) said he was pleased with Williams’ responses to questions.

“I was impressed with all of her answers,” he said. “I was especially impressed that she didn’t make something up, but said she didn’t know the answer to one question.”

Williams leads the Liberal Democrats in the British House of Lords. She also serves on the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of directors of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. She has previously served in the House of Commons, as a Minister of Education and Science and as Public Service Professor of Elective Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

The next lecture in the Pacem in Terris series will be October 5 at 5 p.m. in ICC Auditorium by Dr. Miroslav Volf of Yale University Divinity School.

The lecture series commemorates Pope John XXIII’s 1963 call for a dialogue on the quest for peace and human fulfillment. The series is co-sponsored by Catholic Studies, the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, the Office of ission and Ministry, the Woodstock Theological Center and the Office of the President.

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