Letters: Blair's war

A prime minister who sends other people's sons off to fight
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The Independent Online

Sir: Your article concerning Mrs Hamilton-Bing and her son serving in Iraq (2 September) highlights again the difference between the present prime minister and his predecessors leading war-time administrations.

The sons of both Asquith and Churchill served in the armed forces, Raymond Asquith losing his life. Blair Jnr serves his country in Washington while his father expends other mothers' sons' lives. British armed forces will not receive the equipment they need until Mr Blair has a personal interest in so doing.

ROBERT BRYANT

BROMLEY, KENT

Sir: Dani Hamilton-Bing whinges on about her son being in Iraq and it being an "illegal" war , but her son is 18. He joined up after the invasion in March 2003. Moreover, as he was only 16 at the time, she and her husband would have had to sign his application - all she had to do was refuse to sign and he would have had to wait until he came of age.

K MILLS

PLYMOUTH

Sir: Given the news from Iraq and Afghanistan over the last few days, Mr Blair must be very concerned at the way his "legacy" is maturing.

TIM FRANCIS

ST LEONARDS-ON-SEA, EAST SUSSEX

Perils of government by precognition

Sir: The Prime Minister's latest pronouncement should set every alarm bell ringing: "If we are not prepared to predict and intervene far more early then there are children that are going to grow up in families that we know perfectly well are completely dysfunctional, and the kids a few years down the line are going to be a menace ..."

Government by divination has become the norm. It isn't just that we have been down this precognitive path before, but it takes only a few moments to work out what such "intervention" must entail and how impossible it is for parents to defend themselves against the irrational charge of their children's future misconduct. With each step this increasingly dysfunctional government takes the prospect of violent resistance draws closer.

STEPHEN JACKSON

BEXHILL ON SEA, EAST SUSSEX

Sir: Tony Blair's announcement on juvenile delinquency bears a striking resemblance to John Calvin's doctrine of the predestination of souls. But where for Calvin's the pre-birth judgement over salvation or damnation is taken by an unknowable God, in Blair's doctrine the place of God is taken by Blair himself and those authorities that he directs.

While I find both doctrines disturbing, the former at least allows the individual the freedom to ignore his supposed damnation. In Blair's world the judgement is forced upon the damned individual with the overwhelming power of the state before he has even learned to talk.

GEORGE HOSKIN

CAMBRIDGE

Sir: An irony increasingly strikes me as I read your letters page and witness the growing (many would say justified ) demonisation of Tony Blair. All the outrage and disgust being hurled at the flawed incumbent by one strand of the liberal left recalls the Tories' mask with demonic eyes poster of 1997, greeted by the same liberal left with, of course, outrage and disgust

HUGH HETHERINGTON

SANDWICH, KENT

Sir: The greatest danger to the country in Gordon Brown becoming the next prime minister is the apparent ease with which the present incumbent has run rings round him over the succession for almost 10 years. Can we really afford to have a potential leader who is so easily duped?

TRISTAN YORK

NORWICH

Short list of targets for terrorism

Sir: Yesterday I made my first international flight since the recent UK security alert. I flew from Lyon, France to Budapest, Hungary. At the check-in desk was a notice to passengers giving a list of things which cannot be carried in cabin baggage for those flying to the USA, Britain or Israel.

The conjunction of those three nations, with the implicit exclusion of all others, led me to reflect on the foreign policy pit into which we have fallen and to a realisation of the extent to which we have become imprisoned in a cage of our own fears. The rhetoric which we are accustomed to hear from these same three governments does little but provide encouragement to our putative enemies and strengthen the bars of the prison we have constructed for ourselves.

We are accustomed to hear recently that Iran and Syria have become isolated in the Middle East (no doubt prior to our deciding to smite them). I also wondered who are the isolated ones.

DAVID LARTER

GAUJAC FRANCE

Sir: Martin Copsey (letter, 1 September) criticises Michael Ancram for suggesting that we negotiate with al-Qa'ida. His basis for this appears to be his own appreciation of how all al-Qa'ida affiliates think. It seems apparent to me that there are, and were, hardcore members of the IRA who would never consider surrendering their arms (the Real IRA et al) but it was also possible to find important members of the IRA with whom the government could engage in a dialogue.

Is it beyond imagining that al-Qa'ida might be an organisation composed of a varied group of individuals; amongst whom there may be some who simply seek glorious immolation and others who are open to dialogue?

GERAINT HARRIES

NOTTINGHAM

Sir: With reference to the expression "terrorism" as used by Martin Copsey, I wonder how many people surveying the rubble in Lebanon were reminded of Bruce Kent's definition of a terrorist: "a person with a bomb, but no air force".

COLUM GALLIVAN

LONDON SW17

Set an example on emissions control

Sir: John Baillot (letter, 2 September) says the closure of Drax power station would influence global emissions by only 0.3 per cent. The climate camp at Drax merely aimed to open our eyes to new technologies, available today, which will allow our societies to progress sustainably.

A new Drax is being built each week in India and China, so to define Drax as 0.3 per cent of global emissions is short-sighted. Simple maths sees five years of new builds increasing global emissions by 80 per cent. It is our duty as a developed nation to grasp the new renewable technologies and show developing nations that we have learnt from our polluted past and have an environmental and economic answer.

Sustainable houses and communities exist in this country. The vast majority of their power is supplied by wind, solar, biomass and geothermal sources. If it can be done in a house, or community, why not a nation?

MARK PUNTON

EAST RIDING ALLIANCE FOR WIND SNAITH, EAST RIDING OF YORKSHIRE

Why Betjeman condemned Slough

Sir: In his review of A N Wilson's Betjeman (1 September), D J Taylor writes, in a reference to Slough, that "it isn't the suburbanite's fault that he has to live in a suburb".

Mid-twentieth century Slough was not a suburb, but a new industrial town on the edge of London. The difference is important; few Slough people then commuted to central London; most worked in the local factories. It was not mainly the appearance of the town that Betjeman hated, but the associations of modern industry - "the air-conditioned bright canteens ... tinned beans" - and the brash people connected with it, like the man with double chin "who'll always cheat and always win".

These contrasted with the genuine commuters from, say, Ruislip or Pinner - with whom Betjeman had a close affinity, with his background in Edwardian Highgate.

DAVID W LLOYD

HARLOW, ESSEX

We need a single equality body

Sir: Your editorial on equality bodies (4 Sept 2006) misses the point. Currently there exist three commissions, the CRE dealing with race issues, EOC dealing with sex discrimination and the DRC dealing with disability. And yet there exist myriad ways in which people are discriminated against, many of which fall into the cracks of bureaucracy.

A united Commission for Equality and Human Rights will be charged with dealing with all types of discrimination. This gives us the chance to respond to individuals in their many different combinations of disadvantage.

We want to see a chair appointed to the CEHR with utmost urgency and to begin uniting those organisations campaigning for equality. Paramount among the new chair's priorities must be a firm commitment to tackling the deep-seated age discrimination which pervades much of society. Prejudice based on age should have no place in a modern society, especially one where our future success as a nation depends on our growing-older population.

The new Commission must ensure that all strands of discrimination are given an equal footing in its work.

PAUL CANN

DIRECTOR OF POLICY HELP THE AGED, LONDON N1

New threats to British science

Sir: The letter by Dr Johnson concerning language teaching in universities and its demise in the Thatcher years (30 August) gives the impression that this occurred in the 1980s as a result of a resource switch to "sciences particularly". This is completely misleading.

As a university teacher of science in the 1980s I can categorically assure Dr Johnson that science in universities suffered every bit as much as languages during the Thatcher era. Indeed the Save British Science Society (now the Campaign for Science and Engineering) was established at that time with the primary purpose of campaigning to maintain top-class scientific research.

Of course the difference today is that at least there is now an increase in research funding for science and a partial reversal of the downward trend of the 1980s. The main issues facing science and particularly physics today lie in the schools, with a lack of properly qualified teachers and the availability of many more A-level options which are perceived to be easier. This leads to a reduction in the number of undergraduates capable of continuing to research with many postgraduate, post-doctoral and academic staff positions being filled by highly motivated applicants from eastern Europe and China.

ROGER SMITH

LOUGHBOROUGH, LEICESTERSHIRE

Where household rubbish comes from

Sir: Your leading article of 28 August welcomes the idea of householders being charged directly for what they throw out, suggesting that it is they who are responsible for waste. This places responsibility and costs in the wrong place.

The waste is created earlier in the supply chain and needs to be tackled there. Simply unpacking the supermarket shopping can fill half the kitchen bin with discarded packaging. Toothpaste comes in a robust tube; why the need for a carton as well? Why do tomatoes need to come in a plastic tray sealed within a polythene bag? Protection? Bread comes in the flimsiest of wrapping but we don't complain; we handle with care.

Charge manufacturers for packaging licences, priced according to how much they use, and this will promote innovative thinking. Also legislate that manufacturers of cars, electric, electronic and white goods must accept returns for recycling. They will pass on the cost to the buyer; but if we don't pay at the time of purchase we will pay later, through increased council tax or wheelie bin taxes.

Polluter pays? No - producer pays.

GRAHAM BAKER

STOCKPORT, CHESHIRE

Sparrows are back

Sir: With advice and assistance from the the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, we now have at least 50 sparrows (letter, 1 September) making a regular appearance in our garden every day - many of them fledglings, having been bred this year in our area of south Fulham.

R MARDELL

LONDON SW6

Violent pornography

Sir: Jemima Lewis is spot on in "Sadism, masochism and misogyny" (2 September). Consensual S&M enjoyed by thousands is a world away from non-consensual violent pornography, which eroticises representations of rape, strangulation, necrophilia etc. I checked thousands of illegal tapes, sent from trading standards officers over many years, while working at the BBFC; the truth is that gross images infiltrated one's imagination, and one felt abjection that humans could "enjoy" such debasement. That had no connection with light S&M consensual fun.

MICHAEL BOR

LONDON W2 THE WRITER WAS PRINCIPAL EXAMINER AT THE BRITISH BOARD OF FILM CLASSIFICATION, 1993-2000

Marmite technique

Sir: I also love Marmite on toast for breakfast (and occasionally as a late night snack). But I must take issue with both your article and Nick Kelly (letter, 1 September). Marmite is best liberally spread, but on top of butter which is only applied when the toast has cooled. It is much easier to apply the Marmite that way, because it doesn't spread evenly when the toast is warm.

MORRIS GRAHAM

SUTTON COLDFIELD, WEST MIDLANDS

Diamonds and rights

Sir: To suggest that De Beers is guilty of "human rights abuses" in Botswana is absurd ("Beauty and brains", 19 August). It is true that the London-based NGO Survival International has sought to establish a link between De Beers Group prospecting activity in an area known as Gope, and the relocation of the San, but third parties including European Union Heads of Mission in Botswana and delegations of Parliamentarians from the UK, as well as the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, have dismissed Survival's accusations against De Beers.

RORY MORE O'FERRALL

DIRECTOR, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS DE BEERS GROUP LONDON EC1

Honoured by mistake

Sir: The compilers of the Science Citation Index, based at the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia, had an experience some years ago analogous to that of Mr Holcombe (letter, 1 September). They found they had accumulated a worrisome list of research workers with the initials PHD.

DR BERNARD DIXON OBE

RUISLIP MANOR, MIDDLESEX

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