Richard Ingrams' Week: Valuable lessons to learn from failure

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The truth of the maxim that, in the modern world, nothing succeeds like failure was proved yet again by this week's announcement that Commander Cressida Dick, the police officer in charge when Jean Charles de Menezes was shot at Stockwell station, is to be promoted to Deputy Assistant Commissioner. This despite the fact that she is still under investigation for her role in the Stockwell fiasco.

Also in the limelight was another notable failure, Mr Paul Wolfowitz, formerly Deputy Defence Secretary under Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and one of those primarily responsible for the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Instead of being cast into the dustbin of history, Wolfowitz is now the president of the World Bank.

He was once again in the news because his policy of withholding financial aid to corrupt governments - mainly in Africa - had been called into question by the British Government. The reason Wolfowitz is so keen on such an approach could well have something to do with his own experiences in this field.

After all, it was Wolfowitz who, more than anyone, was responsible in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq for handing out millions of US dollars to the Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqi exiles who were urging him to go to war with the help of information most of which turned out later to have been made up.

The leader of this gang was the notorious Ahmed Chalabi, a smooth-spoken conman who was on the run from the authorities in Jordan where he had been sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for bank fraud. The terrible consequences of Wolfowitz's naiveté are still being felt, not only in Iraq, but the whole of the Middle East.

But it is perhaps possible that he has learned a valuable lesson - that it is advisable to check out political organisations before you give them loads of your money.

Fair play: the second casualty of war

Israel's Fifth Column to which I recently referred has achieved another little victory in its propaganda war.

Channel Five is currently showing a series called Don't Get Me Started, the point of which is to give somebody half an hour in which to put forward a radical view of some political or religious issue without the customary obligation to provide a counter argument. Speakers in the current series include Ann Widdecombe, Michael Buerk and Tory MP Michael Gove.

Next Tuesday the speaker is Ted Honderich, Emeritus Professor of Logic at University College London and chairman of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. Honderich, pictured, is the author of several books, the latest of which is about terrorism: Is it ever morally justified and are the governments of America, UK and Israel responsible for the growth of terrorism in the Middle East?

The professor obviously thinks so and his arguments will be supported on the programme by the likes of Tony Benn, the Liberal Democrat spokesman Baroness Tonge and Reg Keys, whose soldier son Tom was killed in Iraq.

There is nothing particularly controversial about such a programme and plenty of viewers will agree with the opinions expressed.

But at the last minute Channel Five have decided that Honderich's programme will be given "balance" by another programme answering his arguments, to be shown the following week. This will be hosted by that staunch defender of Israel, the journalist David Aaronovitch who writes columns for The Times and the Jewish Chronicle.

Of course, this balancing' programme contradicts the thinking behind Don't Get Me Started, the whole point of which is to be one-sided. But why should Honderich's be the only one of seven programmes that will be challenged?

* "Getting phone calls can make you feel better about yourself - give you greater self-esteem."

Such is the opinion of Dr David Sheffield, a psychologist at the University of Staffordshire who addressed the British Psychological Society's annual health conference yesterday.

Not for the first time, I find myself at odds with a psychologist. Because to me, the ringing of a phone invariably causes irritation, anxiety and alarm. One reason I have never used a mobile is that I like there to be long periods in the day when I cannot be contacted.

I have no wish, however, to quarrel with Dr Sheffield's main point - that young people can become addicted to mobile phones, displaying symptoms similar to those of compulsive gamblers.

Ninety per cent of those he interviewed said they took their mobiles with them wherever they went. One in seven admitted to becoming irritable and depressed when they couldn't make calls. High blood pressure was shown to be another symptom.

All this in addition to the known health risks of mobiles where young people are concerned. And the Government's scientific adviser Sir William Stewart has repeatedly warned that because of the possible risks of brain damage, young people should not use mobiles except in emergencies.

No one has taken a blind bit of notice. The authorities will take steps to stop children smoking or eating junk food but will completely ignore something that might be far more dangerous.

Comments