Gaddafi, 'Euro-myths' and others

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Blair the master of spin repositions Gaddafi as our new ally

Blair the master of spin repositions Gaddafi as our new ally

Sir: I find laughable the way the likes of Bush and Blair are presenting, re-presenting, positioning and re-positioning to the eyes of the public the various leaders of the "rogue" or "trouble" states. The likes of Milosevic, Gaddafi, Saddam and Bin Laden turn from "allies" into "public enemies" in the blink of an eye.

With more and more unpleasant questions arising about the reasons he took us to war in Iraq, Blair rushes to Libya to re-position into the eyes of the public our former enemy and new friend Gaddafi, relying once again on his well-known spin skills and hoping that this time Iraq - his biggest nightmare - will finally disappear from the news headlines.

Like any other speculator, Blair should know that the more you try to hide your losses, the more they hunt you down.

London N3

Sir: As Mr Gaddafi is welcomed in from the cold, my heart goes out to dictators like Robert Mugabe who have no oil or international terrorism or even the faintest WMD aspirations to trade for Mr Blair's handshake. Oh for a Zimbabwe oil strike before Christmas - in time for Mugabe's retirement and Blair's general election.

London E4

Sir: "Brave Step or a cynical ploy?" asks your headline (26 March). I heard it said on the radio that if Tony Blair were to defuse a bomb with his own bare hands, somebody would find fault. I take it that would include The Independent!

Barlborough, Derbyshire

We foiled EU attack on brandy butter

Sir: Your report on "Euro-myths" (25 March) sets out what purports to be the truth behind all those tabloid scare stories about Brussels trying to impose straight bananas and banning car boot sales. But I'm afraid you are mistaken about brandy butter.

The European Commission may find it uncomfortable to be reminded of the fact but it did indeed issue a directive seeking to regulate the milk-fat content of alcoholic butters, the effect of which was to prohibit the production of brandy and rum butters to the traditional recipe.

On behalf of Gordons Fine Foods, Britain's leading producer of brandy butter, and other manufacturers from around the country, I organised a nationwide publicity and lobbying campaign to bring pressure to bear on the Commission to reverse its policy, which, thanks to our efforts, it subsequently did.

What is so ridiculous is not just the fact that the Commission proposed such an absurd and unnecessary regulation, but that it was prepared to push it through as a directive (making it law, rather than simply a recommendation) without actually consulting the food manufacturers who would be directly affected by it.

Partner, Anthony Gilsenan & Associates (Marketing Communications)
Epsom, Surrey

Sir: On the question of the EU arrest warrant, you say that "criminals will be removed from Britain to face charges". In fact people who are totally innocent of any offence, but who are suspected of an activity which may be an offence, can be removed to another country where the legal system may assume that a charged person is guilty until proved innocent. There is no safety net in the form of habeas corpus; they can be carried off to spend years in a foreign jail awaiting trial, and if eventually proved innocent have no right of recompense.

London NW7

Sir: It may be that myths circulate in Britain about the EU and its activities, as your analysis suggests, but this is because many British people are uncomfortable about them and are therefore inclined to believe the worst. If we had a clear and straightforward understanding of what the EU is for, what it is trying to achieve, and what its powers are, these misgivings might be allayed. But we do not.

All other international organisations have a clear remit. There is no such clarity concerning the EU, and never has been, and its representatives often speak as though they want its powers to increase indefinitely. The proposed constitution, whose repetitive and convoluted terms will be opaque to almost all members of the public, actually makes things worse and will increase the suspicion.

If you want to promote the cause of the EU in Britain, you should consider a little more deeply why it is distrusted (or even despised) and not put that down solely to rumour and superstition.

Newbury, Berkshire

Sir: I would much rather a diet of Brussells than a diet of Stars and Stripes. Now that the European Constitution is back on the rails, perhaps Michael Howard could outline to us the alternative to closer European integration, as he seems so opposed to this notion.

I assume this would be closer US integration, which would mean yet more Iraq-style wars, more GM food, more partisan support for Israel, fewer holidays and fewer rights for workers. Old Europe may be old, but at least it is civilised.

London SW4

Bush and terrorism

Sir: The US ambassador in London, William S Farish, quoting Groucho, asks, "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?" (Opinion, 25 March). Some may ask for more details than Groucho provides, and here are a few facts.

The US will spend about $50m-70m in Iraq, for each person killed in 9/11; $200bn or more in total. President Bush's budget for port security in the coming year in the US is $46m. Most intelligence services did not believe Saddam supported the 9/11 attacks, while Mr Bush and the people that surround him did imply that or say it, time and again. We can judge Mr Bush by where he spends our money, and what he says, just as Mr Farish advises us to do, and find him wanting.

If we look at what Bush, Blair, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell said during the run-up to the invasion, most of it was not true and misled the British and American people; we can judge Bush on that and agree that much of what all the above are saying now is also self-serving.

Haymarket, Virginia, USA

Sir: James Gradisher (Letters, 18 March) systematically misses the anti-war activist point about how to deal with terrorism of the non-state variety. We of course do not believe that radically changing Western foreign policy (eg not launching unnecessary wars like that against Iraq) will put an end to all support for al-Qa'ida (or Islamic Jihad, etc.). Rather, it will drastically reduce support for them.

This is plain common sense: when state terror against the Palestinians is ended, when America and Britain stop routinely violating international law (eg by undermining UN resolutions that attempt to rein Israel in), when US bases are removed from the Middle East, when we stop propping up disgraceful undemocratic regimes of torturers there, when we stop funding and aiding insurgencies when it suits us (as we aided - as we birthed - bin Laden), when we stop threatening those who do not fall into line with nuclear annihilation or otherwise terrifying them into submission, then we in "the coalition" may finally stop being (not the sole, but) the best recruiting-agents for desperate and violent nihilists like al-Qa'ida.

The main weapon against the cancer of non-state terrorism is intelligence. Not garbage "intelligence", like that which supposedly motivated the attack on Iraq, but good, cautious, non-politicised intelligence. Meanwhile, each one of us should use our own intelligence - and reject the disastrously faulty reasoning that claims, as Gradisher (like New Labour) does, that there is no correlation between the reduction of the causes of non-state terrorism and the reduction of non-state terrorism.

Let's be tough on the causes of non-state terrorist crime. That means, above all ending the malignancy that is our own outlaw-state-terrorism.

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
University of East Anglia

Cut-throat market

Sir: I left estate agency in 1988, having become sick of the lying, cheating and greed involved in the business ("OFT report accused of bottling out over rogue estate agents", 24 March).

But it was the great buying and selling public who were by far the worst offenders. Most agents were paragons of virtue by comparison with their customers, who if they were buyers would tell you the most outrageous lies about their ability to buy and as sellers would as a matter of course renege on a solemn promise if a better offer came along.

Estate agency is, however, an easy business to be a crook in and as long as the Government allows anyone to open up as an agent, without qualification or ethics, then so it will remain.

It will also always be difficult for the public to receive an honest service so long as chains of estate agents are owned by lending institutions or brokers, whose only real interest lies in the sale of their much more rewarding financial products rather than merely selling your house to your best advantage.

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Offroad destruction

Sir: Ross Moutell's selfishness is breathtaking (letter, 19 March). Offroading, an activity engaged in by a minority wealthy enough to afford the vehicles, is antisocial (the noise generated by a 4x4 in a low gear grind up a hillside can be heard for miles around in a quiet landscape) and incredibly destructive of the environment. An array of walkers passing over the same ground many times would be needed to cause the same damage to an unmetalled surface that offroading can achieve in a day.

Rights of way are our common heritage that a majority of people visiting the countryside wish to enjoy in peace and tranquillity. If legislation is necessary to prevent the activities of a minority spoiling that heritage then so be it. That is democracy in action.

Brecon, Powys

On yer bike

Sir: It is so unfortunate that a few cyclists are giving cycling a bad name ("Can anything stop the new breed of boy-racer cyclists?", 23 March).

In the news we are continually discussing three topics: obesity, traffic congestion and global warming. Cycling provides a solution to all three, but never seems to be realistically considered as such, as it is in, say, Holland.

If you cycle, people automatically think you are left wing/reactionary/anti-establishment. All we are is people who have discovered there is this amazing money and time saving device called cycling. No gym fees; no commuter costs.

Summer is coming, give it a go.

London SW18

All Greek to him  

Sir: Anthony Quinn is partially wrong to say that The Passion of the Christ offers "authentic spoken languages" in his otherwise excellent review (26 March). Eastern Romans would have spoken the Greek of the New Testament, not Latin; Mel Gibson's choice is an anachronistic nod to pre-Vatican II Catholicism: another little ideological twist in an already contorted film.

Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Religious wars

Sir: Miles Kington's Jewish God ("It's not every god that gets their own planet", 24 March) has got to be joking: "had he or Allah ever ordered people to kill each other? Where was it written...?" In Deuteronomy 7.2 - "Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them"; in I Samuel 15.3 - "slay man and woman, infant and suckling..."; in Surah Muhammad, 47.4 - "smite their necks, then, when you have made wide slaughter among them"; in Surah al-Nisa' 4:89 - "if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them". And so the smiting and slaying never stops.


Multilingual TV

Sir: I share David Nowell's desire to watch European television (letter, 22 March), but suggest he explore the many channels provided by Sky first. TV5 Europe shows a selection of French language programmes (from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada etc) on channel 825, Deutche-Welle give the German perspective on channel 834, TVEi transmit popular Spanish programmes on channel 835 and Euronews give detailed European news on channel 528. If this is not enough, he also has S4C on channel 184 broadcasting in Welsh. (Their classical music programmes are universal, and the rugby is quite understandable after a little while.)

Stone, Staffordshire

Take no notice

Sir: London Underground (letter, 24 March) also attempt to wring the heartstrings of passengers with messages such as "When exit is closed, these gates are alarmed."

London EC1