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Saturday 22 January 2011
Letters: Blair and the Iraq War Inquiry
Blair's delusion about Iraq
Those seeking an act of contrition from Tony Blair will have been disappointed by his repeat performance before the Iraq inquiry. What is frequently overlooked is that at the time of the atrocities of 11 September 2001, he had been in office for less than four years and had had a reasonably comfortable ride, made easier by a like-minded Bill Clinton in the US.
Blair and his team had never come up against a clique of very powerful, driven, US politicians with a radical agenda for the Middle East, for whom the terrorist actions in 2001 provided a galvanising excuse for action.
Bush had never made any secret of the wish to depose Saddam. However Mr Blair, in his fawning subservience, underestimated the determination of the Bush administration and rashly committed the UK to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the US regardless. He deluded himself that he could influence the events that were to follow. Clearly from his own evidence to this inquiry and his reiterated views on Iran he remains as dangerously deluded as ever.
Almost eight years since the Iraq war and 10 years since 9/11 we remain under serious threat of terrorist attack. This is a shocking state of affairs, given that the aim of Bush and Blair was to make us all safer by removing an unstable despot from power.
The world axis is tilted so ridiculously in favour of the white Judeo-Christian West that it provides constant and highly flammable fuel to the radicalised, male Muslims who – not unreasonably – perceive oppression, poverty and injustice as results of our policies.
The Bush-Blair line is that Iraq was attacked because of Saddam Hussein's failure to comply with UN resolutions. Compare that response to our actions towards Israel, which has failed to comply with countless UN resolutions. So far from taking military action against Israel, the West sends billions of dollars a year to enable Israel to arm itself to the teeth. This mind boggling hypocrisy fuels the current security threat.
Until the international community can establish a single standard for all and implement it with equity this threat will never go away
Steve Richards in his "Heirs to Blair" article (20 January) has missed an important point. Blair was a persuasive lawyer, but profoundly ignorant about the Middle East.
If he had known a bit more history (and read some of Robert Fisk's excellent articles) he would not have made the crass decision to take us into the Iraq war on Bush's coat tails. Are our current leaders more knowledgeable? Probably not. Are they more likely to take advice from those who do understand? Well, let's hope so.
Last of the real politicians
I can't claim to be a natural fan of Alan Johnson. He represents that bourgeois-mimicking part of working-class culture that is so hard-wired towards compromise that it gets nothing done. However, as one of the last senior politicians to have had a real job prior to entering Parliament, his resignation from the Shadow Cabinet is a symbolic loss.
A large number of Labour voters – and non-Labour voters – are nostalgic for the days when they could have voted for a representative who'd once lived in the real world, and, ideally, had a background in service to society, such as a former fireman, teacher or social worker.
Contrast that with Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet: such a small, posh, specialised, technocratically indoctrinated, post-baby boomer demographic that they've all been virtually together since nursery school.
"Stannah have invented a new express stair-lift – it gets you upstairs so fast that you don't have time to forget what you went up for!"
That was typical of the jokes Alan Johnson told. I shall miss him.
St Ives, Cornwall
No reason to cull badgers
To portray the issue over bovine TB as being cows versus badgers is naive (Anna Pavord, 15 January). Whether you like cows more than badgers, because they have big eyes and walk in a sexy way is neither here nor there.
The badger is a wild creature that was an important part of this landscape long before humans walked across the North Sea land bridge. Modern cattle are a product of breeding and genetic manipulation by man, valued only for their ability to produce unnatural quantities of milk, and as dead meat. To promote the widespread destruction of a native mammal, integral to the natural ecosystem of our countryside, for the selfish, flippant reason that Anna Pavord's "life without lashings of butter, cheese and cream would be a miserable travesty" is silly.
The statement "some badgers are carriers of tuberculosis and can pass it on to cows" is disingenuous. Bovine TB is the problem, and the name gives one a clue where the problem originates from.
Badgers are hugely territorial and will only venture out of their area under abnormal circumstances, such as family structures being disrupted (this would happen with a cull involving trapping) or fear and disturbance (this would happen with a cull involving shooting). Cattle on the other hand are bought and sold and moved the length and breadth of the country constantly, coming into contact with other (possibly infected) cattle. So who is infecting whom and where does the blame lie? There is no scientific evidence to show that killing badgers will have any effect on the prevalence of bovine TB in cattle. Why should we kill badgers and cattle instead of using a vaccine?
I write as a person who was born and brought up on a dairy farm. I know the killing of our badgers is not the solution to this problem.
Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria
NHS needs its administrators
I am writing to explode the myth that people who work for primary care trusts have no day-to-day involvement in patient care ("Cameron's 'massive gamble' ", 20 January).
The PCT I recently worked for directly employs health visitors, district nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists and dietitians, all of whom spend a large part of their day seeing patients.
I resent the implication that, because the administrative staff who work for the PCT do not have direct patient contact, their work is of no value. The admin staff free the professionals' time to see more patients, rather than spend it on paperwork.
Now let's get this straight. Currently there are 150 administrative units known as primary care trusts (PCTs), consisting of "bureaucrats", whose major function is to administer the "market model" in health: commissioning services, negotiating contracts with health provider units (aka hospitals).
These are being replaced by 300 GP consortiums, each of which will need to have its own administrative unit, employing bureaucrats, to carry out these tasks, as hopefully most of the GPs' time will be spent on patients.
Only way to win justice
Not all success fees in civil law are "disproportionate" ("Landmark for privacy laws as Mirror wins Campbell case", 19 January). It is impossible to compare the case of a wealthy celebrity suing for libel or breach of privacy and a seriously injured person whose life has been shattered by negligence.
An injured person may be desperate for justice, with "no win, no fee" his only option of obtaining it, especially if his injuries have prevented him from ever returning to work.
Recoverable success fees play an important role in providing access to fair compensation for many who otherwise might have missed out on getting the justice to which they are entitled.
Chief executive, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
All hands to make sail
The tale of the "mutiny" on board the Gorch Fock (21 January) is disturbing, and it is to be hoped that the German navy deals firmly with the mutineers to ensure that naval recruits continue to climb the rigging to take in and set sails.
Wind power costs nothing and naval architects should be designing sailing merchant vessels as a counter to global warming, and in readiness for the day when fossil fuels run out. Even if a lot of the sail setting can be mechanised there will still be the need to go aloft.
John E Orton
I wonder if Andy Coulson might be persuaded to withdraw his resignation if he was made aware that it is impossible to put "110 per cent effort" into any job.
Perspectives on Islamophobia
Price of rejecting British ways
Baroness Warsi says that "anti-Muslim prejudice has now passed the dinner table-test and is seen by many Britons as normal and uncontroversial". Clearly bigotry is unacceptable. However, Baroness Warsi might do well to ponder why it is that Muslims appear to be so slighted.
For centuries Britain has been the melting-pot for successive waves of immigrants: Jews, Flemish, Poles, Czechs, Irish, Jamaicans, Chinese, Sikhs. With varying degrees of difficulty these immigrant groups have settled into Britain to become valuable members of the community; and they, in turn, have valued and defended (by arms when called to do so) the way of life that they came here to find – democracy, equal civil rights regardless of gender, class or ethnicity, respect for the individual and freedom of speech, religion, culture and sexuality.
However, Britain has seen innocent blood split on its streets by members of the Muslim community who violently reject the principles of democratic rule where this results in a foreign policy that they oppose.
We also see female members of the Muslim community who choose to adopt a form of self-imposed apartheid by wearing a full-face niqab. To choose to dress in this way is their entitlement, but this chosen self-exclusion from mainstream British society causes sadness among those of us who seek mutual understanding between communities.
Finally, in those countries where Islam has the upper-hand, for example Iran and Pakistan, we witness the savagery of the punishment and the degradation of women that is enforced by sharia law. We are persuaded that Islam isn't simply a personal religious belief, but a political and cultural movement that, in its most fully developed form, imposes a totalitarian theocracy harsh and unforgiving to any who offend its tender religious sensitivities. So who is to actually to be blamed for Islamophobia?
They think I am an abomination
I have not read such desperate political correctness for a long time as I found in your leading article of 21 January.
In your mad rush to appease Baroness Warsi's whining, you ignore any faults on the side of her community. As a gay man, I can assure you that there is plenty of prejudice out there towards me, but I fail to see why when I am considered by the Muslim community as an abomination to be eliminated, I should in any way turn the other cheek to their faults.
Muslim attitudes to gay people like me, to gender equality and to community integration are woefully inadequate. Their lack of control of their extremist elements is pitiful and telling. There will always be tolerance problems here while fundamental issues like these remain unaddressed, even unacknowledged by the likes of Lady Warsi.
The UK is not a Muslim country, and hopefully never will be. The onus is on Muslims to fit in with local customs and standards, not the other way around.
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