Did flawed British intelligence lead to resolution 1441?
Sir: I have received a parliamentary reply from Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane responding to my written question asking the Foreign Secretary what information was provided by the United Kingdom to United Nations Security Council members on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction prior to the vote on UNSC Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002.
Dr MacShane's reply stated: "The Government made available its September 2002 dossier to members of the Security Council to inform them of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes prior to the vote on UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The dossier was compiled by the Joint Intelligence Committee following analysis of intelligence available to it at the time." He added something we now know, that Jack Straw had announced in a written statement to the House of Commons on 12 October this year the formal withdrawal of the lines of intelligence relating to the "45-minute claim" and Iraqi production of biological agent.
The Prime Minister has retreated from his original insistence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction being a legal justification for invading, to an arcane one that the invasion was legally justified on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions. In his statement after the publication of the Butler report in July he said to MPs: "UN resolution 1441, in November 2002, was passed unanimously by the whole Security Council, including Syria, on the basis that Iraq was a WMD threat." It would seem to be a reasonable conclusion that a significant contributory reason for the unanimity of the 15 member states on the Security Council, who met momentously two years ago this week to agree on UNSC resolution 1441 which led to war, was the provision by the UK to each delegation of the chilling information - claimed to be based on the best UK intelligence evidence - on Iraq's alleged WMD, as contained in the now notorious dubious dossier.
It is now possible to say that the UK provided deeply flawed information, which added up to flagrant misrepresentation of the truth, to the UN Security Council in furtherance of securing support for the resolution that took us to war; while Iraq's response to the demands in the resolution was to provide an accurate description of what it did possess in terms of WMD - nothing.
As a result of this shameful act at the United Nations, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and countless additional military conscripts are now dead. And still nobody in Government is seemingly prepared to take the blame.
LLEW SMITH MP
(Blaenau Gwent, Lab)
House of Commons
America's empire is a historical reality
Sir: While E W Cramer (letter, 10 November) makes a good defence of rural America's decision to re-elect the President, he demonstrates also a profound and unfortunate misunderstanding of America's history and its position in the world. He claims that the United States "has made the mistake of dabbling in empire-building only once - in the Philippines in the 1890s".
Firstly, the Philippines were a US colony for more than 40 years, until the Second World War demonstrated that such direct rule was both untenable and unnecessary. Secondly, it is wrong to suggest that the expansion into the Pacific and the Caribbean following the War of 1898 was an aberration of American policy. It came on the cusp of a century's worth of often aggressive continental expansion, and at the beginning of a century that would see the United States flex its muscles and extend its reach across the globe.
The American empire has grown over the decades through a mixture of economic weight, political influence and the ready acquisition of military bases stretching from Cuba to Britain, from Diego Garcia to Japan. More and more, America relies on the latter to realise its ever more ambitious plans. People like Mr Cramer need to accept the realities of their nation's position and powers. If his and Middle America's values do not correspond with these realities, then he must reconsider either his values or his vote.
Sir: E W Cramer seems to think that European disapproval of the "red states" springs from a lack of understanding. On the contrary, we have had many newspaper articles and television programmes devoted to explaining to us the attitudes that resulted in the re-election of George Bush.
The problem, I fear, lies not in lack of understanding, but in understanding only too well. No amount of explanation will make it comprehensible to us that it seems to matter nothing to the red state voters that the regime they voted for has endorsed torture and has abolished the basis of a free society by reintroducing detention without charge and the presumption of innocence. No amount of explanation will make it seem sensible to allow everyone to carry guns, or the obsession with a religious fundamentalism that seems to contradict Christian values. These things seem like a regression to the 19th century.
Least impressive of all, the mighty USA has allowed itself to be terrified by the flea of al-Qa'ida, and so played right into their hands.
Professor DAVID COLQUHOUN
Sir: Europeans may well be ignorant of why E W Cramer's home state of Missouri voted for Bush, but not as ignorant as he is of history.
America fighting back "when its friends are attacked"? The first American shots from the trenches of the First World War weren't fired until October 1917. This tardiness is reflected in 50,000 US military deaths compared to two million French and British dead. And rather than rush to Britain's aid in 1939 it took a declaration of war on the US by Germany to bring her in.
Sir: I am a big supporter of many American virtues and values. But I have to wonder how E W Cramer of Missouri can square Middle America's natural "suspicion of those who come from outside, offering 'help' " with Dubya's war in Iraq?
Scottish smoking ban
Sir: Is it any wonder the British Government opposes a complete ban on smoking in all public places whereas the Scottish Executive seems to have no qualms at all about driving it forward in Scotland (report, 11 November)?
It is simply a question of economics: if a ban results in even a small percentage of smokers giving up their habit (as has happened in New York), that will make a significant dent in the income for the Inland Revenue. However, tobacco duty raised in Scotland does not go straight to the Scottish Executive, so it would not be directly affected by any losses such a ban might entail.
If the Government really cared about the health - rather than the wealth - of the nation, they would hike tobacco duty in the next and each consecutive budget to such a level that the majority of smokers would be forced to give up or buy all their supplies abroad. That would mean a large loss of revenue, which is precisely why the Government does not dare to take too much action all at once.
PHIL J DURDEN
Steyning, West Sussex
Sir: There is a simple solution to the vexatious and contentious banning policy. Given that many pub managers and bar staff smoke themselves, and taking the smoking population to constitute a quarter of the population as a whole, offer the public three smoke-free pubs to one smoker-friendly. Everybody would have a choice, which is how it should be.
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
Sir: As an employer, I do not think it has anything to do with the Government whether or not I put my staff at risk by subjecting them to other people's cigarette smoke. It is, however, the business of the insurance company that supplies me with (compulsory) employers' liability insurance and which would, eventually, have to meet the costs of any action brought against me for causing my staff to get cancer.
All that is required to enforce a nationwide ban of smoking is for the insurance companies to refuse to cover any employer who permits smoking in the workplace - without such cover the employer cannot operate and the issue would be resolved without any need for legislation.
Sir: As a non-smoker who would merely like to see better ventilation, the ban won't inconvenience me directly; but it isn't going to do a lot of good for the financial viability of many of the pubs I frequent.
Perhaps the Scottish Licensed Trade Association could encourage its members to refuse to sell alcohol to any MSPs who actually vote for this misguided legislation? Tell them to drink lemonade for the good of their livers and see how they like others taking it upon themselves to look out for their health!
Business in Ambridge
Sir: I read with amazement the story about Michael Grade, the BBC chairman, coming under fire from the CBI's director general Digby Jones (9 November). Jones was angry that the only crook on Radio 4's The Archers is a businessman, and taxed Grade with giving business a bad name. Grade was, apparently, lost for words.
This proves that neither of them actually listens to The Archers; everyone on the programme is a businessman. Brian is very successful at farming and diversification; Jack Woolley made his money in Birmingham before retiring to Ambridge and becoming the venture capitalist for Sid's garage and, subsequently, Sid's pub; Sid has all the publican's current problems making a profit in the licensed trade; Kenton has a café in Borchester; Tony and Pat have made a success of their organic farm and farm shop and their son Tom looks likely to become the sausage king of Borsetshire.
If real-life businessmen were as interesting as those in the world's longest-running radio serial, Digby Jones would have no problems at all.
Sir: It is not only "intensive EU farming" that threatens our bird species (report, 8 November). My farm is managed under an Environmentally Sensitive Area Plan and I was obliged to watch areas with grazing restrictions deteriorate during its first five years. Being a genuine conservationist rather than a money-grabber I had no option but to forego £2,000 a year when my plan came up for renewal, by withdrawing a particular area where choughs breed and bring up their young. Rank grasses had taken over and smothered the eyebrights, wild thyme and orchids, and were destroying a habitat rather than perpetuating it.
Thankfully, both the choughs and short herbs have returned again, but that £2,000 could have gone towards giving someone part-time employment.
Portnahaven, Isle of Islay
Sir: It's gratifying to be mentioned in a leading article ("Culture shock", 9 November) but I have to correct your reference to the golden era of cultural television. I did indeed invent the titles of both Omnibus and Arena when serving as a departmental head. I also edited LWT's Aquarius (predecessor of The South Bank Show) in the 1970s. But Monitor was not my baby. I learnt my trade in its team but it was very much the brainchild of Huw Wheldon, who is probably roaring with laughter up there in the Welsh pantheon at the very idea of somebody else being given the credit.
Meanwhile, good luck to George Entwistle and The Culture Show. To judge from your photograph, they have more presenters than the entire production team of Monitor back in the Fifties, but maybe that's the difference between today's show and yesterday's cultural magazine.
Sir: The responses to your interviews ("Will you be wearing a poppy?", 11 November) miss the point. The buying of a red poppy puts money into ex-servicemen's associations, to help those who have fought for this country and their families. It does not mean that you approve of the current war, or any war. It is an act of charity. If you chose not to buy a red poppy you are not protesting against the Government, you are denying support to people who need it.
Sir: I was disappointed to see that on the front page of your newspaper (11 November) you had incorrectly identified two members of my Corps. Corporal Richard Ivell and Corporal Marc Taylor were both loyal and proud members of the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. On Remembrance Day of all days, when these soldiers are uppermost in the minds of their families and of the serving and past members of the Corps, it is absolutely inexcusable that such an error should have been made.
Colonel N MOORE
Regimental Colonel, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Sir: In his report on Sotheby's New York record-breaking auction, James Burleigh refers to Piet Mondrian as "the French modernist" (6 November). He was as French as Vincent van Gogh.
PETER VAN DEN DUNGEN
Hipperholme, West Yorkshire
Bean there, done that
Sir: Gosh, when my husband blithely hurled a cupful of espresso into the risotto he was in charge of, in the erroneous belief that it was mushroom stock, there were terse words, the kitchen bin was quickly filled with hot grains, the room with a nasty smell, and dinner was delayed. I see now ("Chef's award for appliance of culinary science", 10 November) that he was actually practising "molecular gastronomy".