It's an interesting idea put forward by Crispin Black, that the British people, rather than a few politicians, should decide whether the nation should fight a war ("Voters must decide when we go to war", 29 November). He suggests that the public debate would elucidate the most important principle of war: selection and maintenance of the aim.
Desirable as this might seem, I should like to ask what aim could possibly justify the means. Modern warfare inevitably involves killing, maiming and devastating the lives of vast numbers of people, mostly non-combatants, many of them children. It also damages, rather than enhances, the prospects for a genuine peace.
It is high time that the "just war" was acknowledged to be impossible, and its doctrine discarded in favour of the many other methods of settling disputes. The answer a civilised population should give when asked under what circumstances we should make war ought to be the same as when asked under what circumstances we should use torture: "Never".
In "The really disturbing question about Iraq" (29 November), John Rentoul writes of "the deaths of perhaps 150,000 Iraqis" during the Iraq war. Three years ago, The Lancet informed us that about 600,000 Iraqis had died. The website Information Clearing House continuously updates that figure, which now stands at 1,339,771. The vast majority of these deaths are civilians and many are children. The number of injured will be much higher and millions have been driven from their homes. There are many disturbing questions concerning the Iraq war and one of these is the failure of the British media to inform the public about the suffering of the Iraqi people.
They still don't get it! I refer to the Iraq inquiry and the constant refrain that the invasion was successful and it was the post-event planning that was found wanting.
Surely the point is that, over many years, Saddam had contained a myriad of conflicting interests by severe repression and that, once that cork was out of the bottle, no one knew what would happen and/or how it could be contained. This obvious unpredictability was why the invasion should never have happened, as the number of post-invasion scenarios was infinite.
Easingwold, North Yorkshire
Some of the online comments on "New poll says Labour has closed the gap on Tories" (22 November) attack Gordon Brown as a member of "the party that took us into an illegal war". There was a principled parliamentary opposition to the war, and on 22 January 2003, 44 Labour MPs forced a vote on a technicality. Without the near 100 per cent support for the war from the Tory MPs, this hard-fought-for vote against the war would have succeeded. Anyone for whom Iraq is a major factor in determining their voting intentions should reflect on the fact that the consistent and sizeable opposition to the Iraq war-crime came from those courageous Labour MPs.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
You report that the falling value of the pound against the euro has not only enabled UK drug manufacturers and dealers to make more profit by exporting than by selling to the NHS, but has also made once cheap drugs from Spain and Greece too expensive ("The £360m trade that robs British patients of their life-saving drugs", 29 November).
The pharmaceutical industry has to be profitable, or there will be no drugs, and free-market principles apply at all times in the EU, not only when it suits us. Also, if you have a trade deficit and a falling currency, and we have both, manufacturers must be encouraged to take advantage and export. Finally, if NHS drugs are expensive, that is an unavoidable consequence of a weak currency. UK drugs manufacturers cannot fairly be blamed for not meeting NHS needs at below free-market prices. Free markets and Stalinism do not mix.
There must be many thousands of retired insurance claims personnel, like me, with a vast degree of knowledge built up over the past 40 years or so ("Lost or missing insurance policies leave asbestos victims without compensation", 29 November). Have they been asked to help these victims of mesothelioma? I can remember most of the firms I visited in dealing with employer claims, and I feel sure that, given some memory-jogging, some of the missing pieces of the jigsaw could be discovered.
My response to reports of a print by Warhol fetching a vast sum: Warhol's works of arts are not by Warhol. They are prints of photos taken by others, run through printing presses by others. One may as well pay $30m for a printed T-shirt.
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