Letters: Iraq - here comes the establishment stitch-up

These letters appear in the Monday 2nd June edition of the Independent

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The argument made by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, that the details of the exchanges between Tony Blair and George W Bush in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 cannot be disclosed, because to do so would undermine future confidentiality of US-UK high-level diplomatic exchanges, is deeply unconvincing. (Andreas Whittam Smith: “The political establishment is on the run. But it can't hide forever,” 31 May).

It has even less credibility in the light of Sir Jeremy's role as Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair at No 10 at the time of the build- up and execution of the war against Saddam in 2002-03. He is hardly an independent party.

Retired senior US politicians have no problem in recounting their experiences in negotiating with the UK government when in office. President Bill Clinton in his memoir, My Life (2004), records that in December 1998: “My national security team was unanimous in the belief that we should hit Saddam. . . . To minimize the chances Iraq could disperse its forces and protect its biological and chemical stocks. Tony Blair and his advisors agreed.” (p833)

Clinton' Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, in her own memoir, Madame Secretary (2003), records: “During our joint tenure, British foreign secretary [Robin] Cook helped ensure Great Britain's position as a stalwart ally in backing an appropriately tough line towards Iraq. We were both determined to keep up the pressure until Iraq met its obligations to disarm.” (p277)

When Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, announced the scope of the Chilcot inquiry to Parliament on 15 June 2009, Mr Brown told MPs and the country: “The inquiry will receive the full co-operation of the Government.”

What we are now seeing is a dangerous establishment stitch-up. Parliament's collective voice of opposition needs to be heard this week.

Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey

Until we know one way or the other whether Tony Blair gave George W Bush his unconditional support on the basis that he would “sell” any intervention in Iraq to Parliament and the British public, there can be no satisfactory resolution of the Iraq saga. All attempts to suppress and limit information available to the public can only strengthen the impression that this is in fact exactly what transcripts of the conversations between Blair and Bush would reveal.

David Barker, Surbiton, Surrey

Is a free society one where there are no consequences for illegal wars, where there are no punitive outcomes for bankers who come near to bankrupting the country, one where there are few punishments for politicians who make false claims?

It seems that our society is penalty-free for the powerful and benefits-free for the poorest. All inconvenient details will be redacted to suit. Is this the gist of our free society?

Lee Dalton, Weymouth, Dorset

Politicians must learn to listen

How amazing that so many politicians are surprised by the message that there is dissatisfaction with the political status quo and that this finds expression through rejection of the established political players. There were few local government elections last week in the rural districts or the message would have been even worse.

Since the inception of the National Planning Policy Framework there has been a relentless attack upon the integrity of market towns and villages, on the green belt, and on the fabric of the English countryside. Democracy has been trampled on by an unholy alliance between the vested interests of some politicians and the mammoths of the construction industry. This has not resulted in affordable housing for the young rural dispossessed, but with disfiguring rashes of identikit houses and endless ruinous squabbles between the construction industry and local communities.

Our advice to politicians of every hue is to listen to us. Don't pretend to give us localism and democracy and then trample all over us and our opinions. Don't call us names and condescend to us. We gave you power and through the ballot box we can take it away. If you learn nothing else from the experience of the elections of 2014, then learn this.

Jenny Unsworth, Community Voice on Planning, Congleton, Cheshire

Let police officers speak out in public

Perhaps the image of our police service would not be suffering the damage it is currently experiencing if officers were encouraged to debate in public prints the pros and cons of legislative issues affecting policing which gradually arise over the years, and to come up with viable solutions themselves rather than waiting for outsiders to point out the answers.

For example, before Sir Robert Mark became the Metropolitan Police Commissioner he was a regular subscriber to the correspondence columns of the national press, outlining his own ideas for reform and inspiring his subordinates to follow suit. How many of our current crop of police chiefs have track records of bravely voicing criticism of current practices as they rose through the ranks?

It is a sad fact that young officers are discouraged from pointing out in print the failings of the service which they have witnessed from the inside, for fear of the damage it can do to their careers. Until this mindset is radically changed there seems little hope for the future of this country's police service.

John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk

Why women's sport is little reported

Jane Gandee's laments over the lack of coverage of women's sport (letter, 29 May). I would ask, is it not that the market has concluded that women's sport is inferior to men's? And the media, while it can and does influence the “market”, has also to voice public opinion.

Men's professional sport is superior in terms of skill, strength, power and entertainment value to women's sport.

That is reflected not least by the vastly higher attendances at men's sporting events.

This does not devalue or detract from women's and girls' participation at a recreational or competitive level in sports, but does offer a context as to why women's elite sport is so poorly covered by media outlets including The Independent.

John Moore, Northampton

I don't believe that “girls are put off sport” by the lack of media coverage.

I have played skittles in a team for over 20 years despite there being no newspaper or website, either locally or nationally, that has ever reported on us at all.

It's about wanting to do it, or not.

Colin Jones, Bedford

Royal Mail made a deal

A few months ago a package of services called Royal Mail was sold to investors at a knock-down price (“Regulator at odds with Royal Mail over warning on universal service”, 23 May). These same investors are now returning to the vendor's agent to complain that the terms of that sale (at a knock-down price) are too onerous, making it difficult for them to further increase the profits they have already accumulated on the original purchase.

They bought the package with their eyes wide open, so let them stick to the terms on which they did so and use their purchase price profit to prop up the parts of the service they do not like.

We taxpayers should not be bailing them out of a deal they freely entered. Should they fail to honour the deal they should be penalised.

John Laird, Harrogate

Still no land fit for heroes

Mark Carney pledges to help build a “more trustworthy” capitalism“, with ”equality of outcomes, opportunity and fairness across generations“.

Christine Lagarde states: “The bad news is that progress is far too slow, and the finish line is too far off”, and she calls on “capitalism to become more representative, including expanding access to education and healthcare”.

In 1918, when my war-weary grandfather returned home to the Rhondda, he was promised “a land fit for heroes”. A century later he and we are still waiting to get to this promised land.

I conclude that there really has been no such overall intent and universal ambition in the words and deeds of our leaders, politicians and bankers. After all, they are all right, Jack.

Paul Middleton, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

How about banning my book too, Mr Gove?

Apparently, since Michael Gove threatened to ban certain American books from the English curriculum, sales of those books have skyrocketed. I wonder if Mr Gove would be so kind as to threaten to ban my new first novel, The Crossover, from the curriculum, as it could do with a bit of a boost.

John Westbrook, Manchester

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