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Tuesday 21 March 2006
Letters: Cash for peerages
Buy a hospital for the nation, then you can lord it over us
Sir: The controversy over election funding can be solved at a stroke. Sell knighthoods for the price of one school (say a million quid or so) and peerages for the price of one hospital (a good few million quid). The money saved will more than compensate for fair public election funding, and the problem of sleaze disappears, since these honours will go only to public benefactors.
Sir: Labour's loans-for-peerages scandal is not only sleazy, it is very poor value for money. If we accept (somewhat charitably) that the loans were going to be repaid with interest, as has been claimed, then Labour was effectively paying people to accept a peerage. Perhaps this explains why Tony Blair thinks PFI is also such good value for the taxpayer's money.
Sir: A little Rumsfeldian analysis will help to clarify what happened with the loans made to the Labour Party. Jack Dromey did not know about them (a "plain unknown" or Rumsfeld category 2). But did he know he didn't know (a "known unknown" in category 3) or did he not know that he didn't know (category 4, unknown unknown)? Harriet Harman's position is simpler. She didn't know whether Jack knew, or didn't know, whether he didn't know. A saying of another famous American also throws more light. Mark Twain observed that it's not the things you don't know that cause trouble, but the "things you know that ain't so".
Sir: The large loans made by millionaires to Tony Blair's New Labour party, which run neck and neck to those given to the Tories, say it all about the policies of his government. Quite understandably, no businessman will ever see the support of socialism as being in his or her own self-interest.
CRAYS HILL, ESSEX
Vietnam repeats itself in Iraq
Sir: Your various polemics (20 March) against American interventionism omitted to mention that Harold Macmillan had warned John Kennedy not to intervene in Vietnam.
A decade elapsed before we cleared communism from Malaysia, even with control of the administration and the armed forces. With none of these advantages in Vietnam, Mr Macmillan told Mr Kennedy, the US would lose.
Tony Blair was warned not to get into Iraq by everyone who had seen or heard a shot fired in anger, by the armed services chiefs, by Denis Healey and by The Independent's Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk. Americans do not listen. Neither does Mr Blair.
W R HAINES
Sir: Your main news stories on Iraq (20 March) have left me confused. Robert Fisk claims there is no civil war in Iraq, but that talk of a civil war is all a plot by the occupying powers to frighten Iraqis. Patrick Cockburn says the civil war has already begun. Rupert Cornwell reports Dick Cheney's denial of a civil war and Andrew Grice reports Iyad Allawi saying that there is a civil war and that this is "the Blair Iraq nightmare".
And your leading article says that a state of civil war "has been obvious to all but the most blinkered of international observers for some weeks now".
Which suggests all you actually have to report is opinion, not fact. If you cannot decide what is going on, what hope have we?
Sir: I felt I must write to congratulate all your reporters who have worked so hard, and in dangerous situations, to bring us the full and accurate news about the war in Iraq and the so-called war on terrorism in Afghanistan.
Their honest reporting is a beacon of light in our country, which, if it does not change direction very soon, is on a slippery slope towards a dictatorship. Keep up the good work.
Sir: Tony Blair has said "I'd do it all again" in the full knowledge that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.
So those of us who guessed that the alleged existence of these weapons was just an excuse for war have been vindicated.
DR ROB LUCAS
Sir: Hilary Benn's letter on the use of private contractors in Iraq (18 March) implies British firms are benefiting the Iraqi people. The benefits cited by Mr Benn have nothing to do with UK firms, but rather are the effects of UK aid, funded not by British firms but by the UK public. The most he can say for British firms is that their presence is necessary for their "varied skills and expertise" and that they will provide "jobs for local people and food for their families".
If the presence of foreign companies is necessary for skills and expertise, why did the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) refuse to award contracts to state-owned companies in Iraq and award only 2 per cent of the contracts to the Iraqi private sector? Are we to assume that Iraqi companies lacked the necessary skills to reconstruct the very industries they had created and which the US and UK destroyed?
As for the benefits of employment opportunities for ordinary Iraqis, are we supposed to take it on trust that these firms will respect the rights of Iraqi workers? The track record of large companies operating in developing countries has not been reassuring.
NEW MALDEN, SURREY
Sir: For once, Robert Fisk disappoints me (20 March), because his condemnation of Tony Blair is most unfair. We all went to war on the basis of secret intelligence - from both sides of the Atlantic - which later proved to be unsound. The present condemnation of Mr Blair is mean-spirited, or worse.
Sir: As a former British doctor, I am writing to give what little support I can to Flight-Lieutenant Dr Malcolm Kendall-Smith who seems to be one of the few British subjects who have demonstrated the moral courage to stand by their convictions and suffer the consequences rather than descend into moral turpitude ("RAF doctor may face Iraq court martial", 16 March).
Three years ago, on the morning Britain started its illegal attack on Iraq, I wrote to the authorities stating I no longer wished to be part of a criminal country. My wish was granted and I am no longer British, but I still experience a feeling of guilt when I see each day the men women and children of Iraq slaughtered as a consequence of what my then country did three years ago.
Since that time, your country seems to have mentally detached itself from its responsibility for the massacres that it has provoked and there seems very little sense of shame.
Flt-Lt Kendall-Smith belongs to the Britain of the values of my youth of 60 years ago. The Britain of that era would have been proud of him, and in that era I was proud to be part of Britain.
DR JOHN BROOKE
MÉDECINE GÉNÉRALE, DIPLOMÉ DE LA FACULTÉ DE MÉDECINE D'EDIMBOURG, NICE, FRANCE
Sir: The US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, says pulling out of Iraq would be the equivalent of giving Germany back to the Nazis at the end of the Second World War. Would it not be more like giving Poland back to the Poles?
SUMMERLAND, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Now we can dry up about dishwashers
Sir: "No one in their right mind", to use Gill Boyle's expression, turns on a dishwasher to wash three plates, three bowls, three knives and three spoons. Mine takes 12 large plates, 16 medium plates or bowls and 12 small plates, a dozen glasses, several cups or mugs and saucers, and a great deal of cutlery.
It is also an "intelligent" machine which measures the amount of water needed and uses one (ecological) dishwasher tablet to do the lot. I turn it on, on average, once every two days. Surely no one leaves that amount of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, and I think six or so bowls of washing-up would use a lot more water. Case, I hope, closed.
Death must be run as a proper business
Sir: Roger Hedley's letter concerning the cost of fatalities (20 March) displays ignorance of modern business practices. To glibly talk of £41,000 per life ignores basic corporate etiquette. Is this £41,000 per fatality plus VAT? Indeed, would the VAT be reclaimable as a legitimate business expense?
No mention has been made of bulk discounts or loyalty bonuses for regular consignments, and would the same tariff apply for a US soldier as a much smaller Iraqi child? What about buy-one-get-one-free options?
Unless your contributor can come up with comprehensive pricing structure I can foresee this harebrained scheme causing nothing but inconvenience for big business and government accountants the world over.
DOWNHAM MARKET, NORFOLK
Sir: Drug companies which develop new drugs will need to test those drugs on humans at some stage. I propose that the humans who are to undergo such testing be selected exclusively from members of the boards of those companies, or from their families. This way, people will be assured the companies are acting responsibly.
Duty of care
Sir: Your leading article of 16 March, commenting on the baby MB case, says that "there is a difference between refraining from taking action and actively withdrawing the means to live". That depends entirely upon whether the life in question is that of one to whom a duty of care is owed. If such a duty exists between you and the baby then neither ethics, nor logic, nor the law will recognise the difference you claim.
R J CLOTHIER
Science and Christianity
Sir: Anyone reading Philip Hensher's "What's faith got to do with teaching science?" (15 March) would think Christian schools were producing murderers and paedophiles rather than those who hold a different world view to his own. Many professionals, including doctors, have no problem reconciling their Christian faith with science. Mr Hensher is perfectly entitled to refuse treatment from a Bible-believing consultant if he feels this offends his world view.
BARRY, VALE OF GLAMORGAN
Veganism isn't green
Sir: Nick Hewitt and Jennifer Hutton ("Go vegan and help save the planet", letter, 18 March) quote an American study by Eshel and Martin in support of their claims for the environmental benefits of veganism. But results from the study, based on American diet, American agriculture and American motoring, cannot be transferred to the UK situation. We are not major producers of the principal protein sources of a vegan diet. Such a lifestyle choice in the UK usually includes significant amounts of imported of soya, legumes, and nuts, with an attendant environmental cost.
Spot the rabbit
Sir: I was interested to read, in the Food and Drink section (18 March) that Mark Hix's recipe for a "proper Welsh rabbit" omitted any rabbit, proper or otherwise, from the list of ingredients. Mark may well be the Guild of Food Writers Cookery Journalist of the Year, but that does not necessarily mean he knows his rarebit from his elbow.
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