Butler report, wind power and others

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Case for Iraq war may be flawed, but the alternative was worse

Case for Iraq war may be flawed, but the alternative was worse

Sir: I am reassured by the findings of the Butler report. I am dismayed at the treatment of suspects at Guantanamo Bay and the fact that the "roadmap for peace" has been locked away in the glove box. I am saddened by the plight of many in Iraq, regardless of who causes their death and suffering. I am, however, still glad that Saddam Hussein was removed, by force, from office. The hard part is working out whether the ends justify the means.

There are some of us who thought Saddam had enough of a case to answer because of his use of WMD against defenceless people. Perhaps others believe instead that the lives of humble Iraqis do not measure up to those of people in the West.

What will future generations think of us? That we had the means to help those less fortunate than ourselves, but for the most part we were more interested in banning fox hunting?

Blair had to pull the wool over our eyes because he is a weak leader who could not carry the argument alone. Oil was a huge factor, maybe the biggest (why not admit it?), but I am still glad the war happened. The thought of Saddam remaining to this day in power with his sadistic sons ready to carry on the family business is too dire to contemplate.

Godalming, Surrey

Blair's good faith is no excuse

Sir: Let's grant, with Lord Butler, John Rentoul (Opinion, 16 July) and others, that there was no deliberate deception, and the Prime Minister acted in good faith. Barring culpable carelessness or neglect of duty, errors are made by people who honestly believe that what they do is the right course of action. Mistakes are based on genuine misapprehensions. Good faith and sincerity are never considered an excuse and it is difficult to see why they should be in this case.


Sir: The minimum I expect of the intelligence services which I fund from my taxes is that they gather reliable evidence. The Butler report makes it clear that they failed me.

The least I expect of the JIC and its chair, which I also fund from my taxes, is that they resolutely resist political interference. It is now clear that they too failed me.

Of my government, I expect that in times of crisis they act on the basis of solid evidence and not of gut feeling. They also failed me.

I then expect of a supposedly independent inquiry into this fiasco that they identify those responsible for these failures and bring them to book. But Butler's committee also failed me.

From start to finish, we have paid for these people to fail us. No one has resigned, no resignations have even been sought. One has been promoted, the rest are smug. All are still pocketing our money. So as Iraq struggles towards democratic accountability, may I suggest that they do not follow the British model?


Sir: So now we know after four investigations, either by internal government departments or officials appointed by Blair and given their remit by Blair that no one was responsible for the flouting of international law, the overthrow of a sovereign country, the deaths of thousands of civilians, the use of WMD in the guise of depleted uranium shells, the death of over 1,000 military personnel, the expansion of terrorism and the deception of the British people and their Parliament. Maybe it was a freak accident.

Ball Hill, Hampshire

Sir: Mr Blair has often championed the private sector as a model for public-sector policy. When a large company, such as Enron, is found to have published accounts containing false information, influencing the decisions of investors and others, then those responsible for producing the false accounts are liable to prosecution and the chief executive and board may themselves face legal action for not ensuring that the accounts were accurate.

Yet in response to the Butler report, we have another shameful display of weasel words from Blair, Straw, Beckett and the rest of this shabby crew as they seek to evade any real responsibility for publishing false accounts of Iraqi WMDs, accounts that influenced politicians and voters to support a controversial war of doubtful legality that has killed hundreds of British citizens and thousands of Iraqis.

It seems corporate responsibility is more demanding than political responsibility, even in matters of life and death. But then the law has always valued property over humanity, and Blair and Straw are lawyers after all.

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir: So the Butler report is out. What is the outcome? They are still claiming that they are right, despite the facts revealed in the report. They still want to pursue their war on people who they say are a danger to the world. Despite independent scrutiny, they refuse to accept that they were wrong.

I'm talking about the media, not Bush and Blair. We have now seen the fourth independent report and all say that Tony Blair acted in good faith on the facts as presented to him. Yet the media reporting, even now, is trying to get their man.

A murderous dictator responsible for a million or more deaths is about to go to trial, and it is time to focus on the real crimes that Saddam Hussein committed, not imagined offences in No 10.

Guildford, Surrey

Sir: "... a question of his integrity ... intention to mislead ... gave undue prominence to ..." A great deal of verbal strain is being put upon those who wish to ensure that Mr Blair's pants remain visibly smouldering while not actually breaking into flames.

Happily the man himself has provided us with some helpful phrases. Thus I can honestly say that the intelligence shows beyond doubt that he has lied in the past, has stockpiles of lies and is currently developing programmes of lies, some of which could be activated within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

If, in the future, anyone asks me to justify these statements, I need merely say that I was misinformed but that, anyway, it doesn't matter because I was motivated by the higher cause of trying to remove a dangerous man from power.


Need for wind power

Sir: Professor Bullough (letter 28th June), commenting on wind farms, is incorrect in stating that "all those polluting furnaces must be kept burning". He fails to understand that failures of our 500 and 660 MW generating sets occur already for which spare capacity has to be available.

Wind may be unpredictable, but it certainly does not stop suddenly in all locations simultaneously. Even if in freak weather it did, the effect would still be only half the effect of a single generating set failing. In normal operation any slow run-down of wind turbines is well within the capability of our generating sets, which can each pick up the equivalent of six large wind turbines each minute, and thus no extra fuel is burnt until it is actually required.

Professor Bullough fails to appreciate that local turbines avoid the 8 per cent losses associated with the distribution of electricity, nor does he provide a rational alternative for solving the looming electricity generation gap which is also compatible with achieving CO 2 emission reduction. Significant energy conservation could avoid the need for wind turbines, but how to persuade individuals to do this is a key question. To save the same amount of CO 2 as a single turbine would require 12,500 individuals to drive 500 miles less each year.

We need to have a common sense approach to energy and not to relegate it to single-issue debates. A discussion including the merits of conservation, nuclear and renewables and the risks of over-reliance on imported gas is needed.

Energy Science Director, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Heroic hormone

Sir: I am increasingly concerned over the now widespread use of the word "testosterone" in a pejorative sense. Though it sometimes may have its wild side, testosterone is nonetheless a very fine hormone, on which the entire future of all vertebrate species, including the human, depends.

Not only does it support, in men, the wherewithal for procreation, it also provides the motivation to use it, in both sexes. Furthermore, it is absolutely critical for the generation of male germ cells. If all this simply confirms your prejudice, let me remind you that testosterone is also essential for a strong bass line in Handel's Messiah, and other pious choral works.

Professor of Biochemistry,
Queen Mary, University of London

Dig for fitness

Sir: Ken Campbell (letters, 15 July) is right to be concerned about the scarcity of GPs' time, but he is wrong to imply that getting fit and healthy eating are commodities that only the well-off can afford.

Jogging costs nothing, and a second-hand bicycle next to nothing. Most councils still have a supply of allotments, where the old hands readily give advice to newcomers on growing vegetables. If you have even a small garden you can choose to grow things you can eat as well as, or instead of, flowers and shrubs. Some vegetables such as rainbow chard are as beautiful as they are nourishing and very easy to grow.

And if all you have is a window sill, buy a packet of little gem lettuce seed for 99p and you can eat fresh lettuce every day from May to November.


BBC's global strategy

Sir: Your coverage of the BBC's annual report and accounts (14 July) makes mention of the BBC's international television news channel, BBC World.

BBC World is a commercially funded service which made a loss of £16.4m in 2003-04. As the chairman made clear during evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, every effort is being made to ensure that it can reach its goal to reach break-even. But there are no plans to sell BBC World and it is not part of the BBC's recently announced review of commercial operations.

BBC World is a fundamental part of the BBC's global news strategy. The importance of the channel has been emphasised in the BBC's charter renewal document Building Public Value, and our priority is to ensure it has a firm financial foundation for the long term.

Deputy Director-General, BBC
London W12

Disabled children

Sir: If the Government's new efficiency drive, underpinned by Sir Peter Gershon's review, proves to be not just about cutting jobs but about making local services work better, disabled children and their families will welcome it ("Brown's blueprint", 13 July 2004).

Parents of disabled children can face a daily battle with multiple health, social services and education providers. For example, their child may undergo as many as 32 assessments before his or her eighth birthday. Only a fifth of local authorities offer a care co-ordination point to help parents through the maze.

Better integration of local services would ease the lives of disabled children and their families. It would also free up providers to focus on frontline care, leading to more productive outcomes: in Gershon-speak, delivering "an enhanced quality or quantity of service for the same level of inputs".

Chief Executive, Contact a Family

Head of External Relations, Mencap
London EC1

False hopes  

Sir: Thursday night's election results prove once and for all that Britain did go to war on a false prospectus. Far from improving Tony Blair's chances of re-election, the war has significantly damaged them.

Truro, Cornwall

Racist attacks

Sir: Nick Griffin's disgusting remarks about Islam and the Koran in the BBC's programme The Secret Agent are no different from what imams in this country and all over the world say routinely about Judaism and the Torah. If action is to be taken against Mr Griffin, should not similar action be taken against Muslim leaders?

London NW9

Olympic ideals

Sir: With so many athletes worldwide being banned from the Athens Olympics surely it's time for there to be a Chemically Assisted Olympics. This would only be open to those who use chemicals to improve their performance. I am sure there would not be any problem in finding sponsors from pharmaceutical companies.

Punchbowl, New South Wales, Australia

Take no notice

Sir: At our out-of-town Sainsbury's supermarket I dutifully wheeled our trolley back to where a notice above the trolley return bay said "Trolleys Thank You". Well, I waited for a while in hope and expectation, but mine sat there silently and showed me no thanks whatsoever, not even a nod of appreciation.

Maidstone, Kent